05 September, 2014

The Mockingbird next door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (Biddy, Highland Park)

Why did Harper Lee never publish another novel after the outstanding success of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel :”To Kill a Mockingbird”? Was tomboy Scout Finch from the novel based on her character as a child? “The Mockingbird next door: Life with Harper Lee” answers these questions and many more about the intriguing author and her life after “Mockingbird”.

Nelle Harper Lee, known to friends and family as Nelle lives in Monroeville, Alabama, the town Maycomb, home to the Finch family in her bestselling novel, was based on. Nelle Harper resisted the fame thrust upon her by the success of the book and the intrusion that accompanied it. She gave few interviews until she met Marja Mills, the author of this biography. In 2001 Mills was sent on assignment by the editor of the Chicago Tribune to Monroeville to find out what she could about the elusive author and her hometown.

Mills was delighted when, uncharacteristically, she was invited by Nelle’s older sister, Alice, to meet Nelle and then volunteered information for an interview and ultimately, this book. Alice and Nelle trusted and warmed to Marja Mills and she provided them with the opportunity to have their say and put paid to some of the rumours written about them.

The book gives an insight into the quiet and fulfilling lives lived by Alice and Nelle. I was intrigued by the narrative and anecdotes of Alice, the lawyer and keeper of family history and Nelle, whose childhood friend was Truman Capote, and her dedication to her writing  which divided her life between small town Alabama and New York city. A fascinating read especially for those who loved “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Author: Marja Mills
Publisher: Penguin, New York
Date: 2014

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