Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields
A Portrait of Harper Lee

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Charles J. Shields

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Charles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed, bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife live near Charlottesville, Virginia.
 
Published April 1, 2007 by Henry Holt and Co.. 372 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mockingbird

Kirkus Reviews

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There are many pages about Lee’s collaboration with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood (confirming much of the detail in the film Capote), with some attention to Capote’s jealousy of Lee’s success and his petty failure to acknowledge the great contributions she made (Shields examined her capacious no...

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The New York Times

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In his introduction to the first book-length biography of Harper Lee, the elusive author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Charles J.

Jun 08 2006 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

The New York Times

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So she backed away from celebrity, declined to be interviewed or be honorifically degreed and simply lived her life, sometimes in Manhattan, riding city buses, visiting museums and bookstores in her running suit and sneakers, seeing old friends, and most of the time in Monroeville, in a ranch hou...

Jun 11 2006 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Apr 03 2006 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

Book Reporter

Lee had been slowly assembling a story that at times had been called GO SET A WATCHMAN and then ATTICUS, but then the Browns gave her the gift of "one year off" so she could write her book: a gift she repaid to her generous friends once her first novel, now titled TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, was accep...

Jan 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

USA Today

In Mockingbird, biographer Charles Shields quashes one persistent rumor about Harper Lee Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote did not write or co-write her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Blogger News Network

After turning the final page I had to wonder if Nelle Harper Lee has read this book and if so what she thinks.

May 03 2007 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

Bookmarks Magazine

Charles Ealy Salon.com 2.5 of 5 Stars "Though Shields can’t begin to answer the big questions about Lee’s personal life, his analysis of her novel’s inception and impact almost fills the gap, but even there, he’s neglected an important aspect of her artistry: a discussion of Scout, Lee’s 6-y...

Aug 21 2007 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

Open Salon

And, Shields adeptly captures this aspect of Lee, her life and work, in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.

Mar 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Ha...

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