This book was published in 1960 but it set in the mid-30s, in the American South. This is an absolute classic, that every single living American has read, or at least that is how it feels. When I go to book clubs everyone knows it well, and it seems to be universally loved. With all the excitement about a possible sequel I felt that it was high time that I read it.
It is hard to talk about this book without spoilers, but I should probably just assume that everyone has read it. Our narrator is a small girl, named Scout, aged from around 5 to 8 years old as the story progresses. She has an older brother, Jem, and a single father, Atticus, who is just about the most perfect person ever.
It is set in the South, in the 30s, so it is about… yes, you got it; race. I am kind of tired of novels about race, but it is an important part of American history, and this is the definitive novel about race in the South. It is also about the danger of prejudiced and slow-witted humans, which is just about the most terrifying thing that I can think of.
Lee writes a whole novel about the injustices of racism. It is set in the 30s so there is an excellent opportunity to draw a parallel between Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and Scout’s fellow townspeople’s persecution of the “Negroes”. Lee also uses the opportunity to get across a few more wise comments, such as “havin’ a gun around’s an invitation to somebody to shoot you.” But when it comes to women serving on a jury? Atticus is amused at the thought; “I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried – the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions,” and they all have a good chuckle at the very idea. Hm, I went off Atticus a bit when he said that.