Some years ago, I went to this remote cottage near Manali, tucked in the lap of the valley, far from any village. The place was ordinary and the lifestyle simple. As I left the place, I felt a feeling of contentment – a rare satisfaction that only some powerful things have given me. There was this feeling when I left my undergrad college or even when I watched The Shawshank Redemption. ‘To kill a mockingbird’ is one similar masterpiece.
I am not too good at critiquing books but my final opinion of a book (or a movie) is determined by the extent of the feeling mentioned above. There is a reason I am very choosy in reading fiction books. Halfway through the book, the consultant in me wakes up and forms a hypothesis about what is going to happen next. From then on, it’s just a matter of time before my mind gallops hastily to the end pages, scourging for the main plotline and chucking all the surrounding ‘elements’. And hence, I absolutely admire those books in which I haven’t been able to form any hypothesis. TKAM is one; The Great Gatsby, The God of Small Things are some of the others.
There are few things I particularly liked about TKAM. First among them is the character of Atticus Finch. It is one of the most nuanced characters I have seen in literature. The mix of pragmatism and idealism that Harper Lee has injected in him is just right. What also appealed to me is the brilliance with which Atticus’s character is used to explain complex ideas of fairness and courage in a very subtle manner. It also prompted me to think one step further and see if Mr. Tate would have been fair making the same statement that he did even when Jem would have actually killed Mr. Evell.
Secondly, I liked how the narrative has a good mix of main plots and sub-plots. In a mostly linear narrative like this one, I usually get into the hypothesis-forming-mode pretty quickly. But the equally engaging sub-plots prevented my mind on focusing on just one thing, while instilling curiosity for each sub-plot going on. The suspense of Boo Radley was also thorough, giving just enough cues to not let my mind forget him.
A point of contention is the adult wisdom the narrator possesses, even as a nine year old. But that doesn’t itch much when you are deeply engrossed in a story as fine as this!
Harper Lee, your masterpiece has surely etched a place in my life.
Nishad studies at IIMA and is a member of LSD.