To Kill a Mockingbird
With To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, the author of the book, obtained the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
She never again wrote another novel.
The novel is semi autobiographical, a portrait of herself and her father. She was also famously a participant in the interviews of the Kansas killers, accompanying Truman Capote, as preparation for his novel In Cold Blood.
Back to the novel though, I must say that I hold it in such high regard, that whenever someone who is not a big reader, asks me to recommend them a good book, so that they may grow fond of reading, the first book that comes to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird; this recommendation, I feel, has the best chance to get it right, and get a new convert with whom later to discuss books with.
There are two key themes in the book. One is the issue of racial segregation, which is touched in a central way; the novel pivots on that issue throughout. Prejudice against blacks and racial intolerance seed the injustice, giving rise to the intervention of the lawyer Atticus Finch. Here arises the other central theme, the scrupulous and incorruptible exercise of the legal profession, which the father practices so spotlessly and somewhat heroically, making an effort in addition, to constantly transmit a message of moral integrity to his children. This is the subject matter of the novel, but just as important or even more so, is the environment in which the action develops, and the tone of the story.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the deep south of America, with its stifling humidity, with its racial and social prejudice, with the whimsicality of its more modest people and with the intolerance of the most powerful. You almost expect to see Huck Finn around the corner. It is curious that such an atmosphere, which coincides with the novels of Mark Twain, with carefree children playing in the warm afternoon sun, also serves as a stage, for William Faulkner’s stories so loaded with drama, and bad blood.
But, the most impactful thing about the book, is the exquisite sensitivity with which the author permeates the relationship of Scout Finch with Atticus, her father, with her brother, with the mysterious neighbor, and with Calpurnia, the black maid… It creates an atmosphere of tenderness, of camaraderie, of complicity, and also of moral rectitude. An idyllic atmosphere that we all would like to exist in our lives.