Up Close: Harper Lee
Kerry Madden
Viking, 2009
978-0-67-001095-0
(hardcover)
 
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Harper Lee: Up Close

Review
From the Up Close series, this informative biography spotlights writer Harper Lee, who grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, and studied law in college before deciding to become a writer. After working and writing in New York City for many years, she found a publisher for her first novel. Her life was transformed by the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), which quickly became a best-seller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the basis for an unusually successful movie adaptation. Though Lee appreciated the critical acclaim, she found the unrelenting demands for interviews, public appearances, and personal contact increasingly unwelcome and withdrew. Given the writer’s refusal to grant access to any biographer and her closest friends’ and relatives’ reluctance to discuss her, Madden has done a fine job of researching the novelist’s life and presenting it with respect for her point of view. The sensitive treatment of race relations during Lee’s youth and the section on three trials that may have inspired parts of her novel will interest students researching To Kill a Mockingbird. A lengthy acknowledgments section, source notes for the many quotes, and an extensive bibliography conclude this unusually readable biography of an elusive figure in American letters.

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