To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Voted by the reading public as the most popular title to be given away as part of World Book Night 2012.

Chosen by April 2011 Guest Editor Sharon Dogar: "A master class in how to write fictionalised memoir. Place, time and character are all brilliantly put together to make a story that grips, entertains and gently informs. I was completely at one with Scout in not seeing the point of going to school. I could already read, so what else would I ever need? I first read it when I was about twelve. As I grow and re-read it, so my love and understanding of each character changes. It has my favourite piece of dialogue ever. When Jem offers old Mrs Maud a piece of gum, she gently refuses, with the words : ‘I won’t thank you very much Jem Finch, I find it cleaves to my palette and renders me speechless.’ Wonderful."


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird'. A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much. To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

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About the Author

Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28 1926 in Monroeville Alabama, a city of about 7,000 people in Monroe County, which has about 24,000 people. Monroeville is in southwest Alabama, about halfway between Montgomery and Mobile.

She is the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Finch Lee. Harper Lee attended Huntingdon College 1944-45, studied law at University of Alabama 1945-49, and studied one year at Oxford University. In the 1950s she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC in New York City.

In order to concentrate on writing Harper Lee gave up her position with the airline and moved into a cold-water apartment with makeshift furniture. Her father's sudden illness forced her to divide her time between New York and Monroeville, a practice she has continued.

In 1957 Miss Lee submitted the manuscript of her novel to the J. B. Lippincott Company. She was told that her novel consisted of a series of short stories strung together, and she was urged to re-write it. For the next two and a half years she re-worked the manuscript with the help of her editor, Tay Hohoff, and in 1960 To Kill a Mockingbird was published, her only published book. On May 29 1961 the Alabama Legislature passed a resolution to congratulate Miss Lee on her success. That year she had two articles published: Love--In Other Words in Vogue, and Christmas To Me in McCalls. "Christmas To Me" is the story of Harper Lee receiving the gift of a year's time for writing from friends. When Children Discover America was published in 1965.

In June of 1966, Harper Lee was one of two persons named by President Johnson to the National Council of Arts. Also named to the 26 member council was artist Richard Diebenkorn Jr.

In the same year, on November 28th, Truman Capote held his fabulous and flawless Black and White Dance in honour of Katherine Graham. In Cold Blood had been published in January, with its dedication to Jack Dunphy and Harper Lee. The 480 invitations included one to her.

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Harper Lee
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Publication date

30th November 1999




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