Friday Faves: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

…in which I invite someone bookish to share one of their all-time favourite works of fiction and what it means to them. This week’s Friday Fave comes from writer Eva Lomski:

Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

The street lights were fuzzy from the fine rain that was falling. As I made my way home, I felt very old, but when I looked at the tip of my nose I could see fine misty beads, but looking cross-eyed made me dizzy so I quit. As I made my way home, I thought what a thing to tell Jem tomorrow. He’d be so mad he missed it, he wouldn’t speak to me for days. As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

There can’t be anything that hasn’t already been written or said since 1960 about Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, except perhaps why I’ve chosen it as my Friday Fave. The heart of that goes back years.

My copy’s pages are not so much yellowed, as browned; the cover shows its original retail price –  back then, 70 cents. (I bought it second-hand for 40 cents.) Inside, the stamp of the Adelaide bookshop where I bought it, and someone else’s name, which I can’t quite read, and, emanating from the pages, that fustiness of age not quite mould.

I can’t remember exactly when it was I resolved that if I had only one book to recommend to any child of mine, then it would be this one. I must have been in my late teens or early twenties, when a career was a far higher priority than family life. But now I have a teenager who is just about old enough to read my copy and extend its 40 cent value across a few more decades. One of the joys of parenthood has been sharing the things I love, and I wonder if To Kill A Mockingbird might also be treasured, though its school curriculum status gives it a touch of poison.


Why this book above all others?

Harper Lee has captured the essence of real life issues that affect us all, set in a time and place, which, even after all these years, seems not so foreign and not so far away.

It’s a deeply moral book through which Scout and Jem transition from innocence to experience through events which highlight the fight between good and bad, justice and injustice, empathy and ignorance, equality and inequality. Reading it for the first time in high school, it was a coming of age for me too.

And Atticus;  the father, the voice of reason, a man who had not lost faith in humanity, who lived by example, the lone figure of justice making his way through the courtroom, a crowd standing with respect. Isn’t Atticus what we wanted to grow up to be?

As has been written many times before, there’s the language, the strong characterizations, the descriptions of small-town life, the symbolism, and the beautifully innocent voice of Scout.

Knowing I’d be writing this, I recently re-watched the 1962 film too, and, from that brilliantly symbolic opening title, was fully hooked, again. Harper Lee has said that in the film Gregory Peck was in effect playing himself. Pulitzer-prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those rare stories that floors me each and every single time. It’s a novel that makes you want to be a writer.

“Here,” I will say to my daughter when the time comes, “is a book pretty much about everything. Except algebra.”

eva3Eva Lomski‘s work has appeared in The Best Australian Stories, The Sleepers Almanac, Kill Your Darlings, Griffith Review, Adelaide Review and Island, and online at Cleaver Magazine. She placed third in the 2013 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, has been a finalist in several Glimmer Train short story competitions and has been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. She is a past recipient of the Grace Marion Wilson Mentorship for Fiction from Writers Victoria. An historical novel is next on the agenda.

You can follow Eva on twitter: @EvaLomski

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