Hard to believe I got through high school and even University and never had this book as required reading. Probably just as well – as a matter of principal I tended to dislike any book that was forced upon me by teachers intent on testing me to see whether I had “grasped” the central themes.
So here I am, 34 years old, rather guiltily – though at least entirely independently – reading “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Once I got over the slight embarrassment of admitting to my friends this was the first time I’d read it and not the fourth or fifth (the second-hand dog-eared 1976 edition I have belies this fact) then I got to sit around and discuss it with people who still love it, and can recall Scout’s one-liners like they’d just read them yesterday.
I loved the depiction of childhood – not as some precocious child narrator with an implausible wisdom and vocabulary for their years, but as an adult looking back with a clear and unimpeded gaze. I also loved the sibling bond between Scout and Jem; an affection I’m only too familiar with having grown up with two older brothers of my own. I especially identified with Scout in feeling that there could be no higher insult aged 8, than to be called a “girl”.
The fact that I seize on the idiosyncratic rather than the political only goes to highlight what is so poignant about this novel; it’s moving in the ways you expect, but also in ways you least expect.