Back-of-the-book blurb: To mark the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mary McDonagh Murphy reviews its history and examines how the novel has left its mark on a broad range of novelists, historians, journalists, and artists.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: This collection of interviews includes thoughts from authors (Anna Quindlen, Wally Lamb, Richard Russo, and Adriana Trigiani among many), reporters-turned-celebrities such as Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey, Monroeville locals, and several people affiliated with the film based on Harper Lee’s classic novel.
Each interviewee discusses some aspect of the novel (or film), and how it impacted them upon a first reading, or a tenth re-reading. In his foreword, Wally Lamb places To Kill a Mockingbird on this personal timeline:
In terms of literary heritage, I think of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as Mockingbird‘s older brother and Huckleberry Finn as the father of both books. All three novels, each a product of its era, give voice to outsider American kids trying to negotiate an adult world full of hypocrites. All three counterbalance the pain of human failings with the healing balm of humor.
I enjoyed reading the various perspectives and personal stories and connections that were shared in the interviews. I only wish that they were organized in a more linear fashion, grouping all contemporary authors together, for example, rather than interspersing their essays among those of Mary Badham (“Scout”) and others affiliated with the film, and Alice Finch Lee, the author’s own sister. As much as I enjoy the film, I almost wish this book had incorporated only thoughts about the novel; but maybe the two can’t be separated?
Perhaps my favorite part of Scout, Atticus & Boo is Mary McDonagh Murphy’s 40-page essay that synthesizes the feelings of the interviewees, and supports the assertion of Oprah Winfrey that To Kill a Mockingbird is “our national novel.”
I recommend Scout, Atticus & Boo for those who love Harper Lee’s novel; it is these readers who will most benefit (and nod their heads in agreement) at many of the sentiments expressed. It will also be useful as secondary sources for others (students?) discussing the long-standing impact of the novel over time.