'Atticus Finch is the father we all wanted': Telegraph readers review To Kill a Mockingbird

Film To Kill a Mockingbird Gregory Peck - Kobal Collection
Film To Kill a Mockingbird Gregory Peck - Kobal Collection

Finding your next read isn’t always a simple task, but sometimes all it takes to discover your perfect book match is a riveting review from a fellow book-lover.

This month, our readers voted to celebrate Harper Lee’s birthday by reviewing her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. First published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has become a classic of modern American literature, which views the brutality of racism in the Deep South through the eyes of the child narrator, Scout.

Despite being loved by many all over the world, Harper Lee’s novel is a victim of our times, argues Ben Lawrence: it's a work that has been criticised for various reasons, with many US schools becoming increasingly nervous about teaching it. Our readers maintain, however, that its power remains undiminished and its ideas still resonate today. We’ve rounded up this month’s best reader reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Why do you think To Kill a Mockingbird still resonates today? Read on to see what your fellow readers have to say and join the conversation in the comments section below.

To have your say on next month’s topic, come and join us at the Telegraph Book Club to cast your vote. You can also get involved with our monthly book club virtual event.

'It should be read by everyone'

@Stu Johnson:

"I thoroughly enjoyed every page, every sub-story in this book. I first read it as a 14 year old back in the 1970s and the themes have stayed with me. I liked the narrative approach, it made me feel I was there within the story. But it became more than a story, it became a whole learning experience for me. It opened my eyes to a world that a young boy from North East England had never experienced or even considered possible. It should be read by everyone, discussed openly and without reservation, so that everyone can see through the eyes of Scout.

"It illustrates a society of contradictions, blind unkindness towards anyone who looks or behaves differently, seen through innocent eyes, where questions are asked and answers given. The main character, Scout, is growing up and seeing things in a new light, an innocent light. Its main lesson for me was, regardless of who we are, what we look like or how we behave, we are all equal and should be seen and treated that way, that there can be no space for intolerance. And don’t judge a book by its cover, Boo Radley was not to be feared.

"It still resonates today perhaps because not everyone has read it and benefited by it. It helped me grow up. The world has changed somewhat but not enough, there’s a way to go. It can be seen from an historical perspective too, it illustrates what a society was like then and we can look at differences now and comment upon where we need to go. It’s not a book simply about race, it’s deeper than that. We need to understand and accept that and talk about it in a calm, balanced and considered way. Secondary school is a perfect vehicle for that when used carefully by a skilled practitioner."

Star rating: 5/5

'Atticus Finch is the father we all wanted'

@Iain Allan:

"When Harper Lee was asked why she’d never written another book, she replied, 'What else was there to say…'. This so aptly sums up this spectacular book. It is fresh, innocent, and completely nails American southern racism. It is the ultimate ‘coming of age story’ and so much more. Atticus Finch is one of the grand characters of American literature, he is the father we all wanted, and this wondrous book says it all.

"Racism, and how thought and understanding can transform it, stands out as the key theme and lesson to me. This book still resonates today because the problems it addresses still exist."

Star rating: 5/5

'A number of the major lessons are cleverly accentuated with symbolism'

@Mike Brunsberg:

"It is essentially a 'growing-up' story, and therefore radiates universal appeal. Maturity matters and it is required of every entity in this novel, at every level: children, adults, county, country. Everyone has challenges to face, lessons to learn, and opportunities to claim, even those across the sea dealing with ol' Hitler. And ironically, Atticus himself, the source of much of the novel's 'higher law' wisdom, learns something in the end: to have a deeper appreciation for his children's innocence (whilst they are still entranced in the special wonder and fun of 'playing' their way toward adulthood!). All of which is presented with Southern wit and charm, the subtlety of which is rewarding, even upon repeat 'visits'.

"In addition to the big 'golden rule' theme presented in the title, a number of the other major lessons are cleverly accentuated with symbolism: 1.) 'It's time for a black person to receive a fair trial' (Atticus's pocket watch); 2.) 'You can't judge a book by its cover' ('The Gray Ghost'/Boo Radley); 3.) 'Sometimes it's better to bend the rules' (the pounding 'porch justice gavel' of sheriff Heck Tate's boots); 4.) 'Taking aim at justice is sometimes unpopular, often unpleasant, largely a matter of courage, and most plausibly portrayed as... ungainly!' (Atticus, adjusting and fumbling with his glasses before shooting the mad dog and 'shooting down' Mayella's testimony); 5.) 'Just when it seems hopelessly cracked and incompetent, community works in mysterious ways' (the life-saving buffer of Scout's pageant-issued ham costume). There are others!

"Civil unrest and politics is why the book still resonates today! The 'mad dog' menace of Putin, etc.! And on a different plane: the joy of imagination and storytelling."

Star rating: 5/5

'Everyone can relate to at least one of the characters'

@Janet Nelson:

"The book appeals to a range of people because of the wide range and varied backgrounds and circumstances of persons involved in the events. Everyone can relate to at least one of the characters in it.

"It's about standing up for what is right in the face of censure and bullying. It's also about treating others as equals even when their life circumstances dictate otherwise.

"Today, we still have many issues of inequality, but with our 'cancel culture' there is a danger that only the 'approved voices and opinions' are going to be heard. Free speech and the ability to sometimes offend has to remain as part of the backbone of our society in order for us to remain a free society."

Star rating: 5/5

'The heartbreaking consequences of racial prejudice are completely contemporary'

@George Francis:

"The book is beautifully written, it deals with eternal themes such as: justice, kindness, the importance of living your principles even though they may cause you social pain; the power of innocence; the value of friendship. Its message on racial injustice and the difficulty of achieving unprejudiced legal proceedings is as relevant today as when it was written.

"The book has a number of themes; racial inequality; injustice; childhood curiosity; the value of kindness; the damage caused to humans who are lonely and unloved; the value of standing by your principles. All of its themes are eternal, thus still relevant; but its heartbreaking portrayal of the consequences of racial prejudice – particularly today – are completely contemporary."

Star rating: 5/5

'On every read you discover something new'

@Henry Catt:

"I first read this book when I was 12 and I don't think there has been a year in the intervening 48 years when I haven't re-read it. It's primarily a story of childhood, long summers and companionship, but it's also about seeing and trying to understand weighty events through the eyes of that child. Events that the adults struggle to comprehend but are viewed with more clarity when viewed through the innocence of a child. It's so beautifully written. Life in the Southern States in the earlier part of the 20th century is detailed in observation, as are the characters who populate this small town."

"It depends how old you are as a reader, but what you take away is what you bring to the story. On every read you discover something new.

"The bigotry that existed in this period is still very much alive and well today; that to some people a person's worth is dependent on the colour of their skin."

Star rating: 5/5

'It feels like a compelling story of growing up during the early 20th century'

@Diane Huff:

"The book felt so real to me. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a sense of the American semi-rural south during the early 20th century. The story does not feel like a textbook, rather it feels like a compelling story of growing up during that time period and seeing all of the bad but also all of the good.

"The book shows very real, horrifying racial prejudice by otherwise good men. It also shows how strong, thoughtful people could fight such prejudice and how children were impacted by this.

"I still think about To Kill a Mockingbird when I think of the South during that time period. It is such a serious subject but lightened through a child's viewpoint."

Star rating: 5/5

Why do you think To Kill a Mockingbird still resonates today? Let us know in the comments below