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Harper Lee: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960)

An idealistic white lawyer is asked to defend a black man accused of the ultimate taboo; the rape of a white girl.

Set in 1930’s Deep South America, this book questions attitudes to race, gender, class and a whole myriad of prejudices which are still as relevant today as they were when Lee penned this classic in the early ‘sixties.

I spied it in Tescos and it registered as one of those all time “Great” books, but one I had shamefully never read.

The first twenty pages introduce us to the main protagonists and the story is related through the eyes of Scout Finch, a touchingly innocent thirteen year old girl brought up with her brother by lone father, the distantly heroic Atticus and Lee describes the pettiness of a somewhat isolated and introspective community riven with racist and sexist attitudes, any eccentricity is seen as obdurate non conformity.

The story then moves on swiftly and I would say it’s one of the best books I have ever read. Important, challenging but so simple in it’s style and questioning as Scout shames the adults with her straight forward “Why?” when confronted with the deep seated, regressive attitudes of her elders.

Some things are so obviously wrong, and Lee’s stroke of genius is to use the voice of a child not only to shame a whole generation, but to empower a new age of white people to realise that America had to move on and that Martin Luther King was merely stating the Bleedin Obvious when he said; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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