Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meeting of March 27, 2017

We met at Carla's to discuss Jolene's book choice The Mockingbird Next Door - Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills.  Present were Carla, Colette, Beth, Betty, Janet, Jolene, Michèle and Shirley.  Carla served some wonderful cheese and a nice variety of crackers along with a kale dip, a warm artichoke dip and spicy jellies.  Of course there was wine and with tea and coffee Carla served a wonderful pavlova.  We are spoiled!

Some changes to our schedule were made and Linda, who is enjoying the warmth of Florida has proposed along with her book choice for May, an excursion!  Take a look at our 2017 list of book choices and see if you can guess where we are going!  Make sure you check back in May to read about our great outing!

One of Jolene's favourite books and for many of us, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  So a memoir about Harper Lee was an obvious choice for her this year. The author, Marja Mills is a journalist who has worked for the Chicago Tribune.  As part of a Chicago project to encourage citizens to read To Kill a Mockingbird, Ms. Mills requested and received permission to interview the Lee sisters Harper and her older sister Alice.  After the article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Ms. Mills sent it to the Lee sisters and then developed a friendship with them eventually renting the house next door to them for 14 months.

The Mockingbird Next Door is a memoir of Ms. Mills' experiences and the friendship that developed with the Lee sisters over those 14 months and not a biography of Harper Lee.  Alice, Harper's older sister and their friends that she meets are the bigger source of stories about Harper Lee.  Harper, known much more as Nelle, told some stories, took Ms. Mills along with he on excursions such as fishing at a friend's farm but always refused to be taped and often said, this is not to be printed.  Both sisters were very good storytellers and the book has many stories about life in Monroeville and its residents.

When Penguin Press announced that the book would be published and later when it was  published in 2014, a statement from Harper Lee was published in which she said that she had never authorized the publication.  The statement created a controversy and there were questions as to who had pressured Harper Lee to send out the statement.

Most of us enjoyed the book though many thought that it could have used more editing.  Many found the stories of their daily lives, relationships with friends and family endearing.  It was also interesting to read about Nelle's friendship with Truman Capote and her involvement in research for Capote book In Cold Blood.  We also learn a bit about Nelle's friendship with Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird..  A couple of us did not find it particularly interesting and thought the author wrote too much about herself.

In the end, this book generated a lot of discussion about new genres in memoirs and biographies, that not only speak of the subject of the memoir but also the author of the book.  As always, we enjoyed our discussions.  Thank you Jolene for the book choice and thanks to all members of the Muse & Views Bookclub, the best there is!