I was fourteen and studying for my GCSE in English Literature when I discovered To Kill a Mockingbird. My teacher handed out copies of the novel and said we would be spending the next term reading, analysing and studying it. I’d never heard of Harper Lee or To Kill a Mockingbird.
As a difficult-to-please teenager I wondered if the school’s choice of novel would reflect my own reading interests. I presumed they’d deliberately choose something that would bore us. The condition of the books – old hardbacks that were falling apart – didn’t give me much confidence. This was a book that they’d obviously been teaching for years. The school, with its limited budget, obviously couldn’t afford anything better.
As a child I’d always loved books and reading, which is why I’d enrolled on a class in English Literature. But up until then, no book had really made much of an impact. I didn’t think this one would either. As soon as I started reading To Kill a Mockingbird I knew it was special. It was unlike anything I’d read before. It was a grown-up novel with a message about society. I loved the characters. I loved the story. I loved everything about it.
Sitting in my English literature class in 1994 I decided it was my favourite book. Since then I’ve read lots of other books. I’ve read contemporary literature and the classics, but To Kill a Mockingbird still tops my list.
I’ve always wished that Harper Lee had written or would write another novel. I didn’t think it would actually happen. When I heard the news that Go Set a Watchman would be released I couldn’t believe it.
In the build up to the launch I heard the negative reviews about the book. I’d followed the debate about whether or not it should even have been published. I took all this on board, but the comments didn’t stop me wanting to return to the world of Atticus and Scout. On launch day I went straight to my local bookshop to get my hands on a copy.
I wanted to celebrate Harper Lee and a book that changed my life. Go Set a Watchman has been described as a bad book that gave birth to a brilliant book, and that made me want to read it even more.
My review of Go Set a Watchman is coming soon.