To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most loved books of all time, and the death of its author, the near recluse Harper Lee, will come as very unwelcome news this morning.
Many people, let’s be plain, many millions of people have an attachment to the book, its characters and its author which goes deeper than some of the most important relationships in their lives.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a very rare thing, a truly life changing book. Many readers really get to understand big ideas like justice, truth and goodness for the very first time when they read To Kill a Mockingbird.
From what is ostensibly a fictionalised memoir of Harper Lee’s own childhood out bursts a book which changed the moral landscape of first America and then the world.
What does it mean to be a good person? Harper Lee gives us Atticus Finch.
Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, a fictionalised version of Harper Lee’s own father, is a man we would all want in our lives. In the novel, set in the south, he takes on a case no one would take on, he defends a black man. Against great odds, knowing what is right, he stands firm.
Then, having given the world To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee published no more. The book went on to be a set text in schools all over the world, was made into a memorable film staring Gregory Peck, and regularly tops lists of the greatest books of all time.
The world has lost an author who achieved more in one book than most do after publishing small libraries of books.
The question most readers will come to over the next few days is…
Are there forty or fifty manuscripts left to the world in her will, she died at eighty nine, it is possible, or in writing To Kill a Mockingbird, did she say what she needed to say, did she give us a lesson in how best to live, and having done that decided she had nothing further to share?
Time will tell.
I’m off to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird.
Relive the brilliant To Kill a Mockingbird here
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.