Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Reviews #11

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This was another book group read & amazingly I finished it with 2 days to spare and this despite it being Christmas and having a houseful of guests. Someone came up with the idea that we should read more classics & this is definitely a classic, most of us had read it for school (which doesn't necessarily make for good memories!) and I think it's probably still on the curriculum...

I have to admit that when I started the book I couldn't remember the plot (not too surprising as I was 16 when I last read it) and the main plot line, that of the defending of a Negro on a charge of rape, by the father doesn't kick in until about a third of the way into the story.

The storyteller is 9 year old Scout who lives with her 13 year old brother Jem and her lawyer father Atticus in a one horse town in deepest Alabama. It's the 1930's and segregation and the Great Depression play a huge part in this story. The novel kicks off with the siblings plotting with a friend how to get the mysterious guy (Boo Radley) next door, out. It never happens but they do enough to bring themselves to his attention and after that they start finding little, insignificant gifts in the hollow of the tree in front of the Radley house until they find it filled up with cement.

This novel is a truly great period piece, undated and still with an important story to tell, what is more amazing is that this was the first novel by Harper Lee.

At book group last night we actually managed a decent discussion about the book, despite the fact that only a few of us had read it, I think for some it still holds too many school time memories for them to contemplate re-reading it. We were agreed that the story has a valuable message even today and personally I feel that any book that has me reaching for Google to continue research is good for me, with my poor knowledge of both history and geography!
It's also a book that clearly impacts on many people, since I first read it Bruce Willis named one of his daughters Scout and in the 80's there was a moderately successful pop band called the Boo Radleys.

Book group was busy last night, 15 of us, 6 male (shock, horror - the normal male quota is 1) so the conversations were well spread and diverse, from the joys of Colin Firth films to the film Animal House, which only the Americans in the group had seen, Chilean erotic poetry got a look in as did the subject of hairs styles & cutting hair to donate to cancer charities for wig making purposes, which led seamlessly onto John's new wig (he's a barrister or something). We had an interesting chat about nicknames or rather terms of endearment and the fact that in Germany they all seem to be animal based (mouse and snail being popular) while in Spain they're food based and England they tend to be adjectival, Michelle gets upset by her boyfriend calling her little fat mouse and insisting that he doesn't mean that she's fat, but that's not the way she sees it, Felix (German) agreed with us that it wasn't nice and that he would never dare to use it as an endearment for his wife (who was sat right next to him). I managed to leave before the end of the evening (although it was after 11:30) having drunk enough Sauvignon blanc to give me a fuzzy head this morning, I shall have to make enquiries as to when the last diehards left the bar.

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