To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

I've always loved this story and this movie, so it was a pleasure to go back and re-read it to do a review as part of my quest to read all top selling books. I think I love just about everything about it. The atmosphere is gorgeous, the characters are all great, and the plot is gripping.

First, the atmosphere. You've got a small town that is dealing with a lot of change. Blacks are free but are not treated very well. The lead character, Scout, is a young girl living with her lawyer dad and her brother. She's quite a tom-boy and wise, but of course young. She tends to speak her mind quite promptly, which gives you a nice insight into what "modern day people" would think of situations as she hasn't yet been indoctrinated into the racist environment in which she lives.

You can really see the dirt roads, the quiet daily life, the slow way of the town. You can hear the voices of the townsfolk, and when there is tension forming, it is almost visceral.

The characters involved all have a wealth of motivations. None are cardboard in any sense. They have their worries, their fears, their strong points. There's an extremely well done "mob scene" where the group begins as a faceless group of men set on an action. As Scout begins to talk to them, she humanizes them one by one, draws them out into being people again. It is quite stunning.

The plot involves the father defending a black man who is accused of rape. As you might imagine, this stirs up all of the worst fears and biases of the community and sets the town in general against the lawyer and his defendant. Soon it is the lawyer's two young children who are at risk as a result - and an unlikely friend appears to bail them out. There are many images of fragility here - just how fragile that hold on truth and honor can be. But for those who hold on and make the stand, the rewards are well worth it.

This is really a book to read. Highly recommended.

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