So I still haven't had to go outside of my own book collection to stick to the Top 100 books list yet. Although To Kill a Mockingbird was an easy choice because I have been brought up to love it. This is one of my Dad's favourite books and he reads it every year at least once. The author Harper Lee grew up in a small Southern town and her father was a lawyer but she never said that the book was autobiographical. One of her childhood friends was the author Truman Capote who wrote classics like Breakfast at Tiffany's and the first non fiction novel In Cold Blood. Harper Lee never wrote another novel after this one and mores the pity because it was an instant hit and I understand why. There is conspiracy theories that Truman Capote wrote or shadow wrote the book but I think it's more likely that some people just have one great book in them and this was her book.
The story of Atticus Finch a lawyer in a small Southern town, widowed and left with his two kids Scout and Jem. The story is told from Scouts point of view and she is only about 8 or 9 in the story. Atticus is from an old money family and is doing the best to bring up his children to be moral and upstanding members of the community. No nonsense tough love is handed out by Calpurnia, the negro maid at the house who takes care of the children. Atticus respects and likes Calpurnia and has brought the children up to do the same. He is a loving father but perhaps has brought the children up a little too fast, talking to them like adults and reading the paper with them. They have turned out really smart but a little precocious.
The first part of the book is all about the kids summer adventures, which made me nostalgic for the days when I used to take off into the bush with my friends and spend hours making camps and tree houses and playing games fuelled by our imaginations. Scout and Jem make the acquaintance of the boy staying with their neighbour the strange little guy called Dill who has an amazing ability to tell fantastical stories. Much of their play centres around the character of Boo Radley, a shut in living across the road with his fanatical religious parents. In the book the children in the town have made up hundreds of myths and stories about the Radley family, like if you eat the pecans that fall from their trees you'll die because they're poisoned. However Boo makes gestures of friendship to the kids by leaving secret presents in the tree that they pass on their way home from school.
Their summer idyll is troubled by a big case that Atticus gets appointed to where a upstanding hard-working young black man Tom Robinson has been accused of raping a white girl. Atticus defends Tom's case passionately in the face of racism and hate from other people in the town who feel his actions are traitorous. One of the main themes of the book is the coming of age of young Jem who is a little older than Scout and feels the injustice strongly. I'm sure you can all remember being young and having to deal with something unfair for the first time, it's a hard lesson to learn as a child and one that you can't ever reverse.
This is a classic for a good reason and number 4 on the top 100 books as voted by the Australian public. If you haven't read it then do so! you won't be disappointed.