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RMS Book Club: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author: Miranda Eason

With the imminent release of Go Set A Watchman, the sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird and possibly the most debated and anticipated book launch EVER, reader Kitty suggested we read TKAM for this month’s book club.

For those who haven’t read it TKAM is a coming-of-age story by Harper Lee set in 1930s Southern America (it’s the only book by Lee ever published, until GSAW, which comes out in July). The story takes place over three years and is told through the eyes of Scout Finch, a not-quite six year old tomboy who lives with her older brother Jem and their lawyer father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. The summer the novel begins Scout, Jem and their friend Dill are obsessed with their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley, coming up with endless schemes to lure him out of his house. At the heart of the book is a trial in which Atticus is called to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a white woman, a trial which divides the community and has fatal consequences.

When it celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2010 TKAM had sold over 30 million copies worldwide. It won the Pulizter Prize. It’s been endlessly studied by school children for decades. It’s hard to know where to start with discussing a book with that kind of history, it doesn’t feel like you can say anything that hasn’t already been said.

The story, which takes place over three years of Scout’s life, made me laugh out loud, gasp in horror and punch the air along the way. The characters are so well written I feel that if any one of them was to walk up to me right now and say hello I would know exactly who they were. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the entire Finch family but especially Scout, and I’m curious to find out what kind of woman she turned into in GSAW which was written before TKAM but is set 20 years later.

The language simultaneously makes me want to be a better writer and to just stop writing right now because I will never come as close to putting a bunch of words together in an order so well. Take, for example, this sentence, one of my favourites: “There are no clearly defined seasons in Alabama; summer drifts into autumn, and autumn is sometimes never followed by winter, but turns to a days-old spring that melts into summer.” See? Perfection.

I didn’t study the book at school and I’m kind of glad about that. I mostly grew to loathe the books, plays and poems we analysed, dissected and pulled apart in English Literature lessons. I’ve never been able to bring myself to read Wuthering Heights again having studied it as a teenager and I fear doing so would cause some kind of horrific flashback. I have a feeling I would still have loved TKAM but I’m happy that I’ve been able to read it purely for pleasure, as opposed to an exam grade, although I wish I’d discovered it as a child – I read it for the first time in my 20s and this was the first time I’d picked it up since – I’m sure it would have been added to the list of my favourite childhood books that I reread every now and again (and which I wrote about here if you missed it). A huge thanks to Kitty for suggesting it as a book club read.

I can’t wait to hear what you thought of To Kill A Mockingbird. Did you read it as a child, either at school or for pleasure? Have you reread it recently? How did it compare to the first time you picked it up? Were you reading it for the first time for the RMS book club? How did you find it? Are you excited about Go Set A Watchman? Do share below!

For next month’s read I’m nominating The Girl on the Train a book that’s being hailed as this year’s Gone Girl. I just started it and I have a feeling it’s one of those books that’s going to make me skip exercise classes, miss tube stops and make excuses to get out of social engagements. You have been warned.

Born in Yorkshire. Lives in East London. California girl at heart.

13 thoughts on “RMS Book Club: To Kill A Mockingbird

  1. Ohh I loved this book! So beautifully written and I really enjoyed the fact that it was told from the perspective of an eight year old. I honestly couldn’t put it down for it’s twists and turns were so shocking, yet so gripping! THANK YOU rock my style for this book club! I am loving the fact that I’m reading a book every month and I look forward to the end of the month for discussions plus the reveal of the next one… in fact, I’m off to order it right now…

    1. Pleasure Sophie! Totally agree, very much enjoyed seeing the story through Scout’s eyes. I’m loving that the RMS book clubs means that I’m reading at least one book a month too!

  2. I read TKAM when I was in school and I think it was for GCSE? I remember thinking it was a good book at the time and I kept my copy of the book. I then leant it to my mum and never got it back! So I had to buy it again for this – not complaining though, glad to have it back on my bookshelves.

    I think when I first read it, I didn’t ‘get’ everything – by that I mean the little comments here and there. But I think that just shows that even at 15/16 there was still a sense of innocence. The trial too – when Atticus walks out and the reverend tells Scout to stand as he passes them, I started to feel quite emotional and overwhelmed.

    The whole book is beautifully written and such a powerful read. It was such a good tool to write from Scout’s perspective and I too am looking forward to sequel to see how her world views develop.

    1. I think I would have missed a lot if I’d read it for GCSE too Jo. You’re right, the trial was such an emotional read, Dill and Jem’s reactions really got to me. I can’t wait to meet Scout as an adult!

  3. Morning!

    Having just had a baby (3 and a half weeks old now..) I’ve not been joining in the book club yet. But I did read this at school and enjoyed it.

    It wasn’t until I re-read it some years later that I fell in love with it! There’s something about reading a book a chapter at a time and then dissecting it that ruins the flow of the story so reading it in its entirety completely changed the book for me.

    You’re 100% right about the characters. It’s years since I read the book and I still feel I know the Finch family so well. In fact, I even tried to put Atticus on the short list for potential boys names for the baby but my husband couldn’t get on board with it!

    For me, the things I remember most are the brilliant descriptions of events – particularly Scout dressed as a ham and Atticus shooting the dog – and the simplicity of heartbreaking and unjust situations being told through the eye of a small child.

    Excellent book! And I shall do my best to order the book for next month and find time to read it!

    1. Congratulations on the new arrival to your family Jennifer! I really do think studying books takes something of the enjoyment away, but good to hear that you could reread TKAM and fall in love, I’m not sure that would happen with Wuthering Heights! Atticus is an excellent name! Also Scout! You’re right, the descriptions of events are brilliant and Scout as a ham and Atticus shooting the dog such great examples. The various moments when Scout, Jem and Dill come face-to-face with the unfairness of the adult world are utterly heartbreaking and make me think that, actually, children would do a lot better running the world than some adults do!

  4. I read TKAM at school and loved it even if we did have to over analyse it a little! I think I may give it another read. I’ve actually just started the girl on the train so this is great timing! I’m already gripped! Hope the weather continues so I can have my first Saturday reading in the garden of the year!

  5. I am clearly alone on this, but I wasn’t a huge fan! I read a lot, but just didn’t really enjoy this. Certainly well written but I found I was waiting for something to happen that just didn’t! REALLY wanted to read girl on a train so very much looking forward to this once i have finished my current book xx

    1. Aw, sorry you didn’t enjoy it Emma. Hope you enjoy The Girl On The Train more. I’m a couple of chapters in and so far so good. I forgot to pop it on my bag this morning, gutted I won’t have it for my commute home tonight! xx

  6. Hi hi! I’m a bit late to this one….! I just finished it last night (would like to add I haven’t been reading it since April I just had something else on the go). I really enjoyed it in the end but I did find it took a bit of getting into. By the end I loved the characters and felt a real warmth to the Finch family. It’s going to be interesting reading GSAW 🙂

    Ok next book is Girl on a Train for me! haha (so behind)

  7. I read this in second form / year seven so a very long time ago! I am contemplating whether a reread may be in order. I am currently reading The Miniaturist which I think was earlier in Book Club. I hope to pick up Girl on the Train after that 🙂

  8. where did you get the mug? i want to give a gift to someone that loves this book, and this pic is what ive been looking for 🙂

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