To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee ★★★★★
I can’t believe it took me this long to get to this novel. But what more could I possibly say about it that hasn’t been said before? That it’s brilliant? Check. That it surpassed my expectations? Check. That Harper Lee’s insight and keen observations on human nature can be both sublime and painful to read? Check, I’m sure. So I’ll just share a couple of quotes. The first stood out to me because it was so simply expressed, but in that simplicity, all the tension of the moment had great immediacy. It almost felt like a scene from a classic Western movie, as the two opposing factions are about to face off. The second scene, featuring some brilliant dialogue was—on the surface anyway—very funny to me. But I felt I also shared Scout’s bewilderment to be listening to this most Christian of ladies speak so patronizingly of the blacks of Africa and Maycomb alike:
“Nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street. The trees were still, the mockingbirds were silent, the carpenters at Miss Maudie’s house had vanished. I heard Mr. Tate sniff, then blow his nose. I saw him shift his gun to the crook of his arm. I saw Miss Stephanie Crawford’s face framed in the glass window of her front door. Miss Maudie appeared and stood beside her. Atticus put his foot on the rung of a chair and rubbed his hand slowly down the side of his thigh.”
“What did you all study this afternoon?” I asked.
“Oh child, those poor Mrunas,” she said, and was off. Few other questions would be necessary.
Mrs. Merriweather’s large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed. “Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett,” she said. “Not a white person’ll go near ’em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett.”
Mrs. Merriweather played her voice like an organ; every word she said received its full measure: “The poverty…the darkness…the immorality—nobody but J. Grimes Everett knows. You know, when the church gave me that trip to the camp grounds J. Grimes Everett said to me—”
“Was he there, ma’am I thought—”
“Home on leave. J. Grimes Everett said to me, he said, ‘Mrs. Merriweather, you have no conception, no conception of what we are fighting over there.’ That’s what he said to me.”
“I said to him, ‘Mr. Everett,’ I said, ‘the ladies of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South are behind you one hundred per cent.’ That’s what I said to him. And you know, right then and there I made a pledge in my heart. I said to myself, when I go home I’m going to give a course on the Mrunas and bring J. Grimes Everett’s message to Maycomb and that’s just what I’m doing.”
When Mrs. Merriweather shook her head, her black curls jiggled. “Jean Louise,” she said, “you are a fortunate girl. You live in a Christian home with Christian folks in a Christian town. Out there in J. Grimes Everett’s land there’s nothing but sin and squalor.”
Next up: To Kill a Mockingbird, the movie. The great classic starring Gregory Peck of course, which I’ll be borrowing from the library. And since the whole time I was reading it I kept thinking I couldn’t wait to have read it a couple more times to pick up on all the nuances I was surely missing as I was busily taking in the story, I’ve also borrowed the audiobook version, which I’m currently backing up on my hard drive for future use. It’s narrated by Sissy Spacek, and I hear it’s really good too.