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Book Review: A must-read piece that is both great and important

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Jakarta | Wed, November 2, 2016 | 02:44 pm
Book Review: A must-read piece that is both great and important

Harper Lee apparently wrote about her personal experiences in "To Kill a Mockingbird", but the issues raised are so universal that the story continues to resonate with many readers today. (Shutterstock/File)

A great story isn’t too hard to come by. Every year, millions of new books are published, so new favorites are discovered all the time. But “great” is subjective. An “important” story, however, is different. 

Think of books as if they were movies; just for a second. The “great” film is a summer blockbuster: a big budget movie that everyone sees at the theater. The “important” film is the low budget indie film that gets a big cultural following over time because it holds meaning for a lot of people. Important stories relate to the bigger picture, capturing something that affects a wider community.

But sometimes, very occasionally, something comes along, be it a book or a film, that does both. It’s “great” and “important”. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one such story. Set between 1933 and 1935 in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, US, we see life through the eyes of 8-year-old protagonist, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, whose father (Atticus Finch) is a lawyer appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman.   

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Together with her brother Jem, Scout finds herself not only following the case’s twists and turns, navigating through the cruelty of racial discrimination and learning of the unjust ways of the world around her but also discovering kindness along the way. 

The book calls us to question the way we perceive and treat others around us, a point that serves as an important reminder of the simple, most basic lessons about life in a world as diverse as the one we live in. Do we put ourselves in other people’s shoes? Have we been too fast to judge, or too slow to understand?

It may have been published 56 years ago, but it’s easy to see why To Kill a Mockingbird has been so widely acclaimed. Harper Lee apparently wrote about her personal experiences, but the issues raised are so universal that the story continues to resonate with many readers today. In the US, it brings to mind #BlackLivesMatter, a movement formed following the shooting of African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin. Elsewhere around the world, issues of racial, gender, sexual orientation,and religious discrimination remain sadly prevalent. 

It really should be required reading everywhere. (kes)

Click here to read the book.

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Category: Novel

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: William Heinemann

Published: 2015

ISBN: 9781785150289

Reviewer: Christabelle Adeline Palar

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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