Book reviews

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields was written without the permission of or with any input from Nelle Harper Lee, yet still managed to present an in-depth, respectful view of the life of the famously private author.

The biography talks about the author’s life, providing details about her upbringing, family, friends and her writing, using anecdotes sourced from written materials along with personal ones from those who were willing to speak to Charles J. Shields, knowing that Harper Lee would not approve of their doing so.

The stories about Harper Lee’s upbringing were fascinating, even to how she fit into her family. I was very interested to learn about her childhood friendship with Truman Capote and of the enormous amount of assistance she gave him while they carried out research in Kansas for his book, In Cold Blood.

I was unaware that so much of To Kill a Mockingbird was based on what Harper Lee actually knew and experienced. Interestingly, she called her father by his first name, just as Scout and Jem called their father Atticus. Similarly, Harper Lee’s mother was mentally ill and was emotionally and physically unavailable to her children, so it made sense for the children in her book to be motherless.

The biggest question of all for most readers, of why she never write another book was fully addressed, too.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee provides an interesting view of Harper Lee’s personality, influences and values without feeling intrusive.

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Comments on: "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields" (5)

  1. It’s only recently I became aware of her involvement in In Cold Blood too. It would be interesting to compare this one to Casey Cep’s book Furious Hours which talks about Lee’s attempt to write her own true crime novel years later, and also gives quite a lot of biographical info. Must get around to writing my review before I forget everything it said!

  2. I’m hanging out for your review of Furious Hours as put it on my list after you mentioned it previously (no pressure)! I’m still hopeful that some of what Harper Lee wrote for her own true crime novel might turn up in the future, no one ever expected Go Set a Watchman.

  3. I had planned to rr-read Mockingbird in readiness for Watchman this summer. Neither happened but I’m glad: now I can add this one along with Cep’s book and have a Harper Lee extravaganza! One Day! 🙄

  4. I’m hanging out for Furious Hours too (also FictionFan’s review). In Cold Blood, too.

  5. Yup. In Cold Blood was on my classics club list. It may still be – I change the list so often I can’t remember! 😀

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