Mockingbird’ Reviews From 1960

A New York Times book review of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Herbert Mitgang in 1960. Credit The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani’s review of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” comes to us 55 years (in one case, to the day) after The Times offered its opinions of Ms. Lee’s iconic debut, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Exactly 55 years ago, Frank. H. Lyell assessed “Mockingbird in The New York Times Book Review. He wrote:

The dialogue of Miss Lee’s refreshingly varied characters is a constant delight in its authenticity and swift revelation of personality. The events connecting the Finches with the Ewell-Robinson lawsuit develop quietly and logically, unifying the plot and dramatizing the author’s level-headed plea for interracial understanding.

And he concluded, presciently: “Movie-going readers will be able to cast most of the roles very quickly, but it is no disparagement of Miss Lee’s winning book to say that it could be the basis of an excellent film.”

The following Wednesday, Herbert Mitgang reviewed the novel in The Times. He wrote: “Here is a storyteller justifying the novel as a form that transcends time and place. … Miss Lee’s original characters are people to cherish in this winning first novel by a fresh writer with something significant to say, South and North.”