To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird, first published in 1960, has been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. I’ve seen the title on lots of “Must Read” lists over the years, but never got round to reading it – until now. Actually I never even really had a clue what it was about. But when it recently turned up for me at Audible, I decided that maybe it was time to find out!
So during the month of September I listened to this book – twice! Because I tend to drift off sometimes, and when I reached the end I felt that I might have missed some bits and pieces. So I gave it one more turn, to fill in the blanks. And I’m glad I did, as it is indeed one of those books where quite a few “clues” kind of lie hidden in things that may not seem all that important until later – when you begin to get the whole picture. Just like Life, really!
The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in a fictional town in Alabama. The story is told from the point of view of a young “tomboy” girl (Jean Louise, but nicknamed Scout); only six years old at the beginning, and living with her older brother Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus, who is a lawyer. One major thing that happens in “the adult world” in the town is that Atticus is appointed to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman. In spite of Atticus (as always!) doing his best to stand up for justice and fight against prejudice, the same cannot be said for all of the town’s inhabitants…
The plot and characters are said to be loosely based on Harper Lee's own observations of her own family and neighbors and an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1936, when she was 10 years old. In her novel, she manages to combine the innocence and misconceptions of childhood with the gradually increased insights of growing up, as well as the adult perspective of looking back at the past from a more mature point of view.
I liked the audio performance by Sissy Spacek (read with a southern accent), I think it helped set the “mood” of the story.
This is not the only book I read/listened to in September, but the others were in Swedish and/or not yet finished.
2/ As daily radio series (38 episodes), I’ve been listening to Swede Hollow, a novel by Swedish author Ola Larsmo (born 1957), published in 2016. It is about Swedish emigrants in the 1800s who settled in Swede Hollow (‘the Swedish valley’), a neighbourhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was one of the oldest settlements in the city, but also the poorest. I don’t know if the novel has been translated into English.
3/ I’m also currently listening to a Swedish crime novel set in the city and province where I live, and written by our district police chief (Lena Matthijs). Her characters and turns of events and details etc are fictional, but the stories inspired by real cases. I think she has written four books so far. I bought one at a local book fair back in the spring (her third), and now I borrowed the first as audio. I was impressed by the one I bought, and I am with this one as well (although not having finished it yet). Alas I don’t think her books have been translated (even though the one I’m listening to now has an English title: Killing your darlings.) Just thought I’d mention it anyway…
4/ On Kindle, I am reading another crime novel: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, alias J.K. Rowling. It’s her fourth about the private detective Cormoran Strike and his (female) assistant Robin. I still have about 25% left to read (and no idea how it’s all going to come together at the end), but can’t resist mentioning one of those extraordinary coincidences that happen sometimes… You know: you happen to read or hear about something, somewhere; and then, just afterwards, it happens to turn up again in a completely different context! In this case: the White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire, a giant prehistoric chalk figure on a hillside. Jenny Woolf recently wrote about it on her blog *An English Travel Writer* (September 12th). The new Galbraith novel was downloaded to my Kindle a week later (I had pre-ordered it, weeks before, knowing no details about the story) – and it turns out to involve the very same chalk horse. No need for me to look it up, as I had the images fresh in my mind already! (Thanks Jenny!)