I have read To Kill A Mockingbird several times.
Like many people my first reading of TKAM was in highschool, and like many, it was a life changing moment.
It was one of my first 'big' classics. By the time I got to the end of the book I remember thinking, "this is it! When people talk about great literature - this - is - what - they - mean!"
I felt my brain stretch and grow to accommodate this story.
My love of history had already given me a basic understanding of the time and place; Lee's story gave it a face and personality.
It was the first time the written word made me swoon with delight. I loved the dry humour, I loved Scout's voice and I loved the cleverly constructed story.
My last rereading was roughly 15 years ago. The story still felt so fresh in my mind that I was surprised by so much passing time.
I was also a little concerned that I might feel let down with this rereading. My memory had TKAM on such a high pedestal that I wasn't sure if it could live up to it. I needn't have worried.
My next surprise was the beginning.
I thought it started with Jem and Scout meeting Dill for the first time. And that the entire story was written in Scout's young voice.
But, of course, the first few pages are devoted to tracing the Finch family history from some future speaking adult Scout.
And the entire first part is about establishing the setting, the tone and the characters. It doesn't launch straight into the courtroom drama that everyone remembers.
I think this is where some of the clever plot construction comes into play. All the little vignettes Lee describes gradually build up the picture so that we (& Scout to a lesser degree) not only accept, but understand what happens in part two.
We see how the community leaves "best alone" in Boo Radley's case, how Atticus is powerless to help Scout when she starts school (and how the school is powerless to help the likes of the Ewells and the Cunninghams). We see how all the various classes and castes of Maycomb county fit together (or not). We feel the power of the church and the confines of county traditions. We thrill to Atticus' heroic killing of a rabid dog and feel grateful when the community fight together to put out the fire in Miss Maudie's house.
Lee delicately highlights the good and bad of Maycomb county. She gives us a chance to walk around inside the skin of this community.
We are now well prepared for the events of book two.
I've included a few snaps of part one from my gorgeous Folio Edition copy of TKAM.
It is illustrated by Aafke Brouwer. I love the creepy edge that Brouwer has given many of the illustrations, especially the walking dead picture to highlight Jem's early description of Boo Radley.
This post is part of the TKAM readalong hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.