3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee.
History: The book was published in 1960, and won the Pullitzer Prize. The theme involves racial injustice and the destruction of innocence, also addressing issues of class and gender roles in the south. To date, it is Lee's only published novel, and although she continues to respond to the book's impact, she has refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964. It is loosely based on the authors childhood experiences and observations growing up in a small town in Alabama. Harper Lee was friends with Truman Capote, who influenced the character Dill, and her father was a lawyer and defended 2 black men in 1919.
Plot: The story takes place in a fictional town in Alabama. Scout, her brother Jem, and Dill are friends, and are fascinated by their neighbor, Boo Radley, who is never seen by the children until the end of the book. He does leave them clues, and little presents. Meanwhile, their father, a lawyer is assigned to a case to defend a black man is accused of raping a white woman. They watch the trial from the balcony, and even though it is evident the black man is innocent from the behavior of the supposed victim, the man is still accused and found guilty. And he tries to escape, and is shot and killed. The father of the supposed victim harasses the kids on the street, and breaks Jem’s arm, and the kids are rescued by Boo Radley, who probably killed Tom Ewell, but Atticus convinces the sheriff that he fell on his own knife.
Review: I read this when I was about twelve, and I loved it. I was fascinated by the mysteriousness of Boo Radley, and because the kids were about my age and attempting to solve a mystery. It was a continuation of the “mystery” kids books I’d been reading; Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys, and the Bobbsey Twins. The kids games with the reclusive neighbor, then the horror of the court drama, racism and violence that bring us to the high point of the novel.
Opening Line: When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
Closing Line: He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Quotes: “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.”
“His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears. “Hey Boo,” I said.
horrible poor boring mediocre okay good very good wonderful superb