Monday, February 22, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird

With the news of Harper Lee's death over the weekend, there will be renewed interest in her writing.  Lee's most famous work, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960 and has become a fixture in the reading lives of so many over the years.  The work is still assigned as to high school students as a means to open up a dialogue about race relations in America. Most readers will have some experience with her work and the news of her death has been a topic of conversation amongst many.

In 2015, a new novel by Lee was released, "Go Set a Watchman."  The manuscript is shrouded in mystery and unresolved questions.  After her original book was published, Lee never wrote another work that was released.  Lee was living with age-related health issues when she is supposed to have approve the release of the Watchman manuscript.  Most who read the novel feel that it is only an earlier draft of Mockingbird.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a novel that allows readers to walk through any of Nancy Pearl's doorways to seek enjoyment.  The story is a taut and dimensional thriller with a central courtroom drama and satisfying side plots.  The characters are varied and still relatable nearly 50 years later.  The setting is interested and well drawn with realistic characteristics.  The language is interesting as it features dialect and the complex story is narrated by a child.  This is truly a rare book that can appeal to almost every reader and is thoroughly enjoyed by all who choose to read it.

Research suggests that Mockingbird was a book that was a heavily edited debut novel.  It is quite likely that Lee had several versions of the novel before the final version was released.  I believe Watchman is one of those versions and does not represent a completely new work of note.  As so few books can really straddle all appeal factors, I feel that the book is the genius of more than one writer.

The book remains an important book and a great read no matter how it came to be.  Lee will be forever remembered as the author of a book that taught so much about the history of the American south.

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