I remember having to read this book in high school as part of English class. I checked the book out from the library and struggled through the first few pages. In preparation for the exam I read the Sparknotes Study Guide and watched the movie from start to finish (the image of the rabid dog is clear in my mind).
I passed the exam without reading more than 10 pages max.
If only I could go back in time and tell my 14-year-old self to persevere! I’d tell her to fall into the narrative, to let herself get carried away by one of the greatest stories ever written.
But even if she’d read the book from cover to cover I don’t think she would have appreciated it. In my case, I needed a more life experience to understand both the subtle and not-so-subtle themes throughout the book. I needed to enjoy the writing without fighting it, without finding every page a struggle (as I certainly would have with the competing attentions of friends and boys).
Now as an adult, I loved every page of this book. There was no struggle. In fact, I was disappointed as the chapters progressed and I could see the end of the book was near.
Harper Lee’s writing was just as I like it: condensed, action-packed, honest and raw. Young Scout’s perspective is captured perfectly. I didn’t just see her viewpoint, I became an 8-year-old girl. The dialogue was succinct, and conversations were summarised by the author rather than spelled out word for word. This kept the book moving and my attention fully captivated throughout.
Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t waste my time reading in high school and the years that followed. I guess I ‘wasted’ my time experiencing life instead, so now I can go back and read these classics with a new perspective, and truly appreciate what Harper Lee was trying to show.