Thursday, 30 April 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird


To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel of the last century, and the film of the book is equally revered. So it’s quite a confession to say that I’ve never watched the movie – an omission I’ve just repaired.

Gregory Peck is, of course, superb as Atticus Finch, the lawyer who takes on the defence of a young black man charged with raping a poor white girl. The court scene is famous (if, one hopes, improbable) and the fact that the story is told by Atticus’s young daughter Scout adds an extra layer of significance.

As a lawyer, I recognise Atticus as one of the great legal figures of fiction. It’s a wonderful story, and shows how good ‘legal fiction’, or, at least, a story with a legal element, can be.

Famously, Harper Lee has never published another book, and she has long declined to discuss her masterpiece. I have to say I find this baffling – if I wrote a book half as good, I’d find it almost impossible to keep quiet. And I love writing too much to contemplate giving up on it. But each to his or her own. Even with a single book, Harper Lee has achieved something most writers can only dream of. Her writing has helped to shape attitudes – and for the better.

10 comments:

Paul Brazill said...

I'm with you on this a wonderful book and a smashing film. Atticus is a great role model for a kid.

Rod Duncan said...

Talking of legal dramas - Anatomy of a Murder is one that I love from that era. It is still unnerving today - at least, I find it so. The moral ambiguity that remains after the legal case is settled.

Great blog, by the way.

Rod

Cullen Gallagher said...

This reminds me how much I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and that it has been far too long since I revisited them both. It also seems to me one of the rare cases where both the book and movie are both classics in their own right.

Dorte H said...

I can understand Harper Lee if she fears it is impossible to surpass her wonderful mockingbird. I love the book even more than the film, and is so pleased that it is also a favourite of both my daughters. Scout is just unforgettable in both versions.
I have even brought some of my students to enjoy the book (but not the black and white film; that was just too much for them) :)

Nik said...

Small world... I've been remiss in not reading the book but I have started it and I agree that Scout, the narrator, is a brilliant creation; some marvellous humour in there. Then I'll watch the movie and do a blog on the 'book of the film'. I'm also lining up Psycho 'book of the film' too...

Leigh Russell said...

When asked why she hadn't written a second book, I believe Harper Lee asked, 'how do you follow To Kill a Mockingbird'. I'm inclined to agree. It's a masterpiece and a second novel would probably be a huge disappointment. As for wanting to talk about her writing - if my book sold as well as Mockingbird, for years and years, I think I'd probably just sit back and let it happen...

I don't write under my own name. You're welcome to visit my blog if you enjoy crime fiction, and find out about my book that's coming out soon. It's also featured on the Bookroast today where you can read and comment on an extract.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments - just recaived after an interesting couple of days' trips.
Rod and Leigh - good to hear from you.
I have another confession - I've never watched Anatomy of a Murder, either. Another gap I need to fill.
As is the book of Psycho, by Robert Bloch.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maybe she just had one story to tell. Or maybe she was afraid a second book would not be as good.

Rod Duncan said...

A treat awaits you then. It's a great movie.

:-)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

One of the rare films that doesn't pale considerably in comparison to the book. Sublimely acted and the music is just spot on. It sounds like a hot summer in the South.

I have always thought Harper Lee said everything she wanted, or needed, to say in To Kill a Mockingbird which may explain her reticence to say more.