Finished! Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book. Don’t ask me why, but it is. So when I found out about this biography of Harper Lee, I leapt at the chance to read it. I don’t think I’ll ever read To Kill a Mockingbird the same way ever again.

Nelle Harper Lee is Scout Finch in so many ways. TKaM is almost a fictionalized autobiography. She drew a lot on her childhood experiences and upon her hometown on Monroeville, Alabama for the book. She was the youngest of four and quite the little tomboy. She loved reading and later writing stories with her neighbor Truman Capote. Her father, A.C. Lee, was a lawyer and a very respected part of the community.

When she went to college she had the intent of becoming a lawyer like her father and eldest sister. But one semester shy of her degree she decided to quit and move to New York City to be a writer. Her desire to be a lawyer came from pleasing her father and having a substantial job to be able to fall back on while she followed her real passion, writing. In New York she worked a couple of small jobs at airlines while trying to write. She had written a series of short stories that her agent liked, but it wouldn’t work as a novel. Some friends of hers gave her money and a note telling her to take the year off and simply write. The result, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Since then she has attempted to write two more books. But neither one was finished. She was involved in the movie and as a result became good friends with Gregory Peck. She wanted to make sure that the spirit of the book was accurately portrayed. As with all movies based on books, there were changes, but the spirit is definitely in tact.

This is a wonderful insight into the life of a very private woman who has written one of the most influential books in history. A very good read, especially for those who enjoy her book.

4 stars

Summer Book Challenge: Read a Historical Non-Fiction book.


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