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Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields

Mockingbird (2006)

by Charles J. Shields

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A wonderful, balanced biography of Nelle Harper Lee. I thought the author did a remarkable job of fairly portraying this reclusive author's life. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 28, 2016 |
i read this for a library book club. It is not something I would have picked on my own. It was okay and held my interest, but I don't see the point. Where are all of the stories the author heard? Yes, there are some but there is also too much mundane info about car rides and coffee at McDonalds. On a more positive note, it did get me to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird. ( )
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
I found this an interesting account of the life of the reclusive author Harper Lee. The biographer was not able to interview Ms. Lee directly, so nearly all of the material was obtained from files or interviews with people who had known her or had some measure of contact.

It is also somewhat unusual in that a good deal of the narrative is focused on Lee's association with Truman Capote and their coordinated writing of "In Cold Blood." Nevertheless, it is a fine work of research and an interesting look into the life of an author who was famous for the only book she published. ( )
  mldavis2 | Dec 17, 2014 |
Charles J. Shields is clearly an accomplished biographer, but it seems he must have underestimated the difficulty of the task of taking on a biography of Harper Lee, given the paucity of material available to accomplish that task. Harper Lee, born in 1926, is a reclusive author who never published another book after her best-seller To Kill a Mockingbird. For more than fivedecades, since publication in 1960, Harper Lee has consistently refused to make speeches or give interviews. This lack of material shows in the biography, which is therefore only moderately successful.

However, Mockingbird. A portrait of Harper Lee does still contain some material that make reading it interesting. Firstly, the opening chapters of the book give a wonderful description of the languid lifestyle in the South of the United States. The biography also reveals and describes in detail the longstanding and personal friendship since childhood between Harper Lee and Truman Capote, as they grew up in the same small town. Shields describes numerous influences in the works of Harper Lee and Capote, showing how the figure in each other's works under a thin disguise. The most spectacular contribution are the chapters which describe the help Harper Lee gave Truman Capote in doing research for his seminal non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. In effect, the writing of In Cold Blood would not have been possible in its current form if it had not been for Harper Lee.

Obviously, Mockingbird. A portrait of Harper Lee describes the success of Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the effect it had on its author. However, the biography remains vague as to why Harper Lee decided to withdraw from public life, and one would expect more detailed description of how that situation came about.

According to later chapters in the biography, Harper Lee is known to have worked or been working on further novellistic work, but little is known about it and none has been published so far. The last part of Mockingbird. A portrait of Harper Lee are vague, and all based on speculation, that does not bring anything significant to light. Supposedly, readers and scholars will have to wait till the estate is executed, to discover an personal details about the author and her ideas before long. It is very unlikely that any other biography could offer more insight that this biography, and therefore, despite its necessary short-comings, Mockingbird. A portrait of Harper Lee is probably the best biography around.

Recommended for readers interested in Harper Lee and particularly her relation to Truman Capote. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Dec 7, 2014 |
(Read in 2011.) A so-so book, but I did learn that Harper Lee was very involved in the interviewing for Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." The book painted a mostly unflattering picture of Capote. ( )
  Becky221 | Jan 14, 2014 |
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[Lee] didn't cooperate with this biography, which relies on early interviews and diligent research, but the glimpses we get are tantalizing.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Jul 16, 2006)
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Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That, in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation...Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1
To my mother, Jeanne, and father, Charley, with deepest gratitude
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805083197, Paperback)

"A fine, well-rounded portrait of Harper Lee. Mockingbird is good reading."—Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

To Kill a Mockingbird—the twentieth century's most widely read American novel—has sold thirty million copies and still sells a million yearly. Yet despite her book's perennial popularity, its creator, Harper Lee, has become a somewhat mysterious figure. Now, after years of research, Charles J. Shields brings to life the warmhearted, high-spirited, and occasionally hardheaded woman who gave us two of American literature's most unforgettable characters—Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout.

At the center of Shields's evocative, lively book is the story of Lee's struggle to create her famous novel, but her colorful life contains many highlights—her girlhood as a tomboy in overalls in tiny Monroeville, Alabama; the murder trial that made her beloved father's reputation and inspired her great work; her journey to Kansas as Truman Capote's ally and research assistant to help report the story of In Cold Blood. Mockingbird—unique, highly entertaining, filled with humor and heart—is a wide-ranging, idiosyncratic portrait of a writer, her dream, and the place and people whom she made immortal.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:51 -0400)

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Examines the life of Harper Lee and tells the story of her inspiration and struggle to create her famous novel.

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