To Kill A Mockingbird by Lee Harper published 1960
Without exception, we all thought this book stands the test of time, despite its complex topics which include racial injustice, violence, rape and sexual prejudice.
Lee combines the narrator's voice of a child (Scout) aged between 6-9 observing her small town life, but with a grown woman's reflection on her childhood. This narrative method allows us to read a "delightfully deceptive" story that mixes the simplicity of childlike (not childish) observation with adult situations, which are full of hidden motivations, prejudice and unquestioned tradition.
The detailed, but compact and simple observations of people, places and situations bring all the characters to life and with very little imagination we can see the places, people and situations so clearly that the group felt that it made the story more personal and therefore more engaging.
Within the seriousness of the subjects are hidden gems of humour, satire and irony, which lift the reader away from the temptation to judge and moralise as things are seen through the eyes of the children, and makes you laugh, so the story moves along with ease.
The main character of the lawyer Atticus Finch is of course the moral compass of the novel, as he teaches his children, and indeed the whole town, lessons of courage, honesty and honourable behaviour. Two of the members of the group said they knew people who had read the book and decided to follow the legal profession as a direct result of reading it, and being inspired by the strength and veracity of the character.
The book certainly deals with tragedy and injustice, heartache and loss, (rather like a Greek tragedy) but it also includes a strong sense nobility, courage, compassion, selflessness, and an awareness of how we can become better human beings, which is inspiring and thoughtful.
The book still rouses feelings of indignation and disgust, particularly in the way individuals are degraded, but also forces readers to question current issues about race, class, and society, and this is probably why we felt that it was still a relevant and challenging book for today.