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Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

by

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The colorful life of the remarkable woman who created To Kill a Mockingbird — the classic that became a touchstone for generations of Americans

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 the book's perennial popularity, its creator, Harper Lee has become a somewhat mysterious figure. Now, after years of research, Charles J. Shields has brought 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 — and who contributed to the success of her lifelong friend Truman Capote's masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

At the center of Shields's lively book is the story of Lee's struggle to create her famous novel. But her life contains many other highlights as well: 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 Capote's ally and research assistant to help report the story of the Clutter murders; the surrogate family she found in New York City.

Drawing on six hundred interviews and much new information, Mockingbird is the first book ever written about Harper Lee. Highly entertaining, filled with humor and heart, this is an evocative portrait of a writer, her dream, and the place and people whom she made immortal.

Review:

"Few novels are as beloved and acclaimed as To Kill a Mockingbird and even fewer authors have shunned the spotlight as successfully as its author. Although journalist Shields interviewed 600 of Harper Lee's acquaintances and researched the papers of her childhood friend Truman Capote, he is no match for the elusive Lee, who stopped granting interviews in 1965 and wouldn't talk to him. Much of this first full-length biography of Lee is filled with inconsequential anecdotes focusing on the people around her, while the subject remains stubbornly out of focus. Shields enlivens Lee's childhood by pointing out people who were later fictionalized in her novel. The book percolates during her banner year of 1960, when she won the Pulitzer Prize and helped Capote research In Cold Blood. Capote's papers yield some of Lee's fascinating first-person insights on the emotionally troubled Clutter family that were tempered in his book. Shields believes Lee abandoned her second novel when her agents and her editor — her surrogate family in publishing — died or left the business, leaving her with no support system. There's a tantalizing anecdote about a true-crime project Lee was researching in the mid-'80s that faded away. Sputtering to a close, the final chapter covers the last 35 years in 24 pages. It's also baffling that this affectionate biography ends with three paragraphs devoted to someone slamming her classic work. (June 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"There are many pages about Lee's collaboration with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood...with some attention to Capote's jealousy of Lee's success and his petty failure to acknowledge the great contributions she made." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"An informative and genial biography that literary fiction lovers will flock to." Booklist

Review:

"Though the flattering biography is unauthorized...Shields' painstaking research does a great job in bringing out the complexity of Lee's character." Seattle Times

Review:

"Charles Shields is a former English teacher who taught Harper Lee's book, and a scrupulous journalist who respects the lady's privacy even as he opens up her life. This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and the feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself." Garrison Keillor

Review:

"The biography's strengths are all the ways it brings together pieces of Lee's life to form the portrait of its subtitle....The biography may leave readers wanting more, but it conveys a fuller sense of Lee's life and times worth having." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"The best chapter details how Lee and her childhood friend Truman Capote went to Kansas to research the crime and its aftermath that would later become In Cold Blood." Library Journal

Synopsis:

After years of research, Shields has brought to life the warmhearted, high-spirited, and occasionally hardheaded woman who created two of American literature's most unforgettable characters — Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout.

Synopsis:

"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.

Synopsis:

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.

Charles J. Shields, a former English teacher who taught Harper Lee's novel for years, has a BA in English and an MA in American history from the University of Illinois, where he was a James Scholar. He and his wife, Guadalupe, reside in Barboursville, Virginia. 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 the book's perennial popularity, its creator, Harper Lee has become a somewhat mysterious figure. Now, after years of research, Charles J. Shields has brought 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--and who contributed to the success of her lifelong friend Truman Capote's masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

At the center of Shields's lively book is the story of Lee's struggle to create her famous novel. But her life contains many other highlights as well: 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 Capote's ally and research assistant to help report the story of the Clutter murders; the surrogate family she found in New York City.

Drawing on six hundred interviews and much new information, Mockingbird is the first book ever written about Harper Lee, and is an evocative portrait of a writer, her dream, and the place and people whom she made immortal. This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself.--Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself.--Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review Mr. Shields constructs a worthwhile portrait of Harper Lee].--Janet Maslin, The New York Times The biography's strengths are all the ways it brings together pieces of Lee's life to form the portrait of its subtitle. Particularly compelling is its treatment of periods in the writer's life after her childhood in Monroeville . . . It] provides a valuable historical context for events, including Lee's choice of a 'crime that shocked the readers of The Monroe Journal when she was a child' as inspiration for Tom Robinson's rape trial in the novel . . . There are many details to be savored in the accounts of Lee's arrival in New York in 1949, at 23 . . . Shields' account of the filming of To Kill A Mockingbird is a highlight too . . . The book] conveys a fuller sense of Lee's life and times worth having. As a bonus, it will almost certainly make you] want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood.--Lynna Williams, Chicago Tribune

Admirers of Harper Lee] and her masterwork can . . . be grateful to biographer Charles J. Shields for shedding some much-needed light on Miss Lee's family, friends, background and literary accomplishment . . . Mr. Shields has produced a work that all future biographers of Harper Lee will need to consult for its many commendable aspects.--James E. Person, Jr., The Washington Times What can be known about Lee] has been collated and analyzed in Mockingbird, a new biography by Charles Shields that seeks to explain more of Lee's life as a writer and as a person of her times . . . Shields' painstaking research does a great job in bringing out the complexity of Lee's character.--Betsy Aoki, The Seattle Times Shields answers most of my questions, tells me what I wanted to know, fills in blanks I did not even know were there . . . Shields' exhaustive research has enabled him to tell us Lee's] story much as a historian might tell of the life of a great figure recently passed away . . . Shields reveals in a well-paced, cleanly written narrative that brings the reader as close to the subject as the reader needs to be . . . This is a book for anyone who loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Teachers who teach it . . . will find a treasure trove of information to pass onto their students. Writers who admire it will identify with the trials and tribulations of turning blank paper into something someone someday might read. And everyone else, regular readers who discovered something in her book that touched them personally, will find something in the life of Harper Lee that explains why this story moves them so.--Harvey H. Jackson, Anniston Star (Alabama) Researched and written with such painstaking care and dedication, is . . . a readable and useful companion to Lee's one great novel.

About the Author

A former English teacher who taught Harper Lee's novel for years, Charles J. Shields has a BA in English and an MA in American history from the University of Illinois, where he was a James Scholar. The author of many widely praised books for young people, he spent four years researching Mockingbird in Alabama, New York, and Kansas, speaking to hundreds of Lee's neighbors, friends, classmates, and culling facts from the archives of Truman Capote and other collections, as well as papers from the Monroe County (Alabama) courthouse and historical museum. He lives in central Virginia with his wife.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805083194
Author:
Shields, Charles J.
Publisher:
Owl Books (NY)
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 8-pg insert
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.47 x 0.66 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Literary
Biography » Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee Used Trade Paper
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$3.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Owl Books (NY) - English 9780805083194 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Few novels are as beloved and acclaimed as To Kill a Mockingbird and even fewer authors have shunned the spotlight as successfully as its author. Although journalist Shields interviewed 600 of Harper Lee's acquaintances and researched the papers of her childhood friend Truman Capote, he is no match for the elusive Lee, who stopped granting interviews in 1965 and wouldn't talk to him. Much of this first full-length biography of Lee is filled with inconsequential anecdotes focusing on the people around her, while the subject remains stubbornly out of focus. Shields enlivens Lee's childhood by pointing out people who were later fictionalized in her novel. The book percolates during her banner year of 1960, when she won the Pulitzer Prize and helped Capote research In Cold Blood. Capote's papers yield some of Lee's fascinating first-person insights on the emotionally troubled Clutter family that were tempered in his book. Shields believes Lee abandoned her second novel when her agents and her editor — her surrogate family in publishing — died or left the business, leaving her with no support system. There's a tantalizing anecdote about a true-crime project Lee was researching in the mid-'80s that faded away. Sputtering to a close, the final chapter covers the last 35 years in 24 pages. It's also baffling that this affectionate biography ends with three paragraphs devoted to someone slamming her classic work. (June 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "There are many pages about Lee's collaboration with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood...with some attention to Capote's jealousy of Lee's success and his petty failure to acknowledge the great contributions she made."
"Review" by , "An informative and genial biography that literary fiction lovers will flock to."
"Review" by , "Though the flattering biography is unauthorized...Shields' painstaking research does a great job in bringing out the complexity of Lee's character."
"Review" by , "Charles Shields is a former English teacher who taught Harper Lee's book, and a scrupulous journalist who respects the lady's privacy even as he opens up her life. This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and the feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself."
"Review" by , "The biography's strengths are all the ways it brings together pieces of Lee's life to form the portrait of its subtitle....The biography may leave readers wanting more, but it conveys a fuller sense of Lee's life and times worth having."
"Review" by , "The best chapter details how Lee and her childhood friend Truman Capote went to Kansas to research the crime and its aftermath that would later become In Cold Blood."
"Synopsis" by , After years of research, Shields has brought to life the warmhearted, high-spirited, and occasionally hardheaded woman who created two of American literature's most unforgettable characters — Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout.
"Synopsis" by , "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.

"Synopsis" by , 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.

Charles J. Shields, a former English teacher who taught Harper Lee's novel for years, has a BA in English and an MA in American history from the University of Illinois, where he was a James Scholar. He and his wife, Guadalupe, reside in Barboursville, Virginia. 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 the book's perennial popularity, its creator, Harper Lee has become a somewhat mysterious figure. Now, after years of research, Charles J. Shields has brought 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--and who contributed to the success of her lifelong friend Truman Capote's masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

At the center of Shields's lively book is the story of Lee's struggle to create her famous novel. But her life contains many other highlights as well: 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 Capote's ally and research assistant to help report the story of the Clutter murders; the surrogate family she found in New York City.

Drawing on six hundred interviews and much new information, Mockingbird is the first book ever written about Harper Lee, and is an evocative portrait of a writer, her dream, and the place and people whom she made immortal. This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself.--Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself.--Garrison Keillor, The New York Times Book Review Mr. Shields constructs a worthwhile portrait of Harper Lee].--Janet Maslin, The New York Times The biography's strengths are all the ways it brings together pieces of Lee's life to form the portrait of its subtitle. Particularly compelling is its treatment of periods in the writer's life after her childhood in Monroeville . . . It] provides a valuable historical context for events, including Lee's choice of a 'crime that shocked the readers of The Monroe Journal when she was a child' as inspiration for Tom Robinson's rape trial in the novel . . . There are many details to be savored in the accounts of Lee's arrival in New York in 1949, at 23 . . . Shields' account of the filming of To Kill A Mockingbird is a highlight too . . . The book] conveys a fuller sense of Lee's life and times worth having. As a bonus, it will almost certainly make you] want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood.--Lynna Williams, Chicago Tribune

Admirers of Harper Lee] and her masterwork can . . . be grateful to biographer Charles J. Shields for shedding some much-needed light on Miss Lee's family, friends, background and literary accomplishment . . . Mr. Shields has produced a work that all future biographers of Harper Lee will need to consult for its many commendable aspects.--James E. Person, Jr., The Washington Times What can be known about Lee] has been collated and analyzed in Mockingbird, a new biography by Charles Shields that seeks to explain more of Lee's life as a writer and as a person of her times . . . Shields' painstaking research does a great job in bringing out the complexity of Lee's character.--Betsy Aoki, The Seattle Times Shields answers most of my questions, tells me what I wanted to know, fills in blanks I did not even know were there . . . Shields' exhaustive research has enabled him to tell us Lee's] story much as a historian might tell of the life of a great figure recently passed away . . . Shields reveals in a well-paced, cleanly written narrative that brings the reader as close to the subject as the reader needs to be . . . This is a book for anyone who loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Teachers who teach it . . . will find a treasure trove of information to pass onto their students. Writers who admire it will identify with the trials and tribulations of turning blank paper into something someone someday might read. And everyone else, regular readers who discovered something in her book that touched them personally, will find something in the life of Harper Lee that explains why this story moves them so.--Harvey H. Jackson, Anniston Star (Alabama) Researched and written with such painstaking care and dedication, is . . . a readable and useful companion to Lee's one great novel.

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