I don’t re-read books nearly as much as I used to, but I decided to revisit Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman this summer. I remember reading (and enjoying) Mockingbird in my 9th grade English class but didn’t recall much about it except for the broad plot points. I actually remember more about the movie that all of the freshman English classes saw once we finished the book. This was in the pre-DVD and even the pre-VCR days. We watched the movie on an actual reel-to-reel projector and the film broke right before we were FINALLY going to see Boo Radley. I can still remember my teacher racing up the aisle of the auditorium to fix it as about 100 9th graders groaned in frustration!
Anyway . . . about a week ago I figured it was time to review so I’d be ready for Harper Lee’s new (old?) novel to be released on July 14–and I was amazed on so many levels. My memory of the book was that it was mostly about the trial of Tom Robinson, with the mysterious Boo Radley showing up every so often. I remembered Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Dill—but no real specifics beyond that.
I’m not sure if it’s just because so many years have gone by since my initial reading, or whether much of the greatness of the writing and the depth of the storyline went over my head as a 14-year-old, but I was blown away by how much was packed into this novel. The many plots and subplots (obviously SO MUCH more than a story about a trial!), the nuances of social class, the aspects of racism that are all too true—and relevant–today, the ebb and flow of small town life, the MANY instances of understated humor . . . plus, I had completely forgotten about the “ham incident”. And I’ve got to admit that I teared up at the end.
In retrospect, I’m not really sure that my 9th-grade self was ready to appreciate this book. I’m so glad that the soon to be released Go Set A Watchman gave me the “excuse” to rediscover this American classic. And it makes me wonder . . . how many other books from my past reading lives deserve a second look?
How about you? Have you rediscovered any books lately? Are you planning to read Go Set A Watchman? Please share!