The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee (Mills)

Why do we read biographies? Why do I read biographies of authors? Why did I read Charles Shields’ bio of Lee, one that I now know Lee had no interest in? Why would I read this one and have no interest in the recent one of Salinger, another favorite author?

I want to know what we all want to know. Why didn’t Lee write (or publish?) more? The amount of scrutiny she received for her book in the early 60s was, by this account, staggering. What would it be like today?

What does this depiction of Lee and her hometown do to my reading of the novel? Can I put together her work on In Cold Blood with To Kill A Mockingbird? To what extent does biography matter?

This is a very readable book – surprisingly thin at times, given all of the information Mills said she gathered. I am aware of the controversy about it ( and find it, along with other pieces I’ve picked up from Lee’s small corner of Alabama, to be sad.

The book has insights, anecdotes and interviews. Part of it is Mills’ story, particularly her struggles with lupus. I appreciated her candor about it.

Next time, I’ll just read To Kill A Mockingbird again.


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