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.