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Reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in Mogadishu

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The book: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

The place: Mogadishu


They don’t do covers like this any more, do they? Not that I think modern covers are universally bad – there are some gorgeous ones out there – but I do get sick of the soothing colour + faded historical photo as background + stylised foregrounded photograph with tenuous relationship to the text + title in font du jour, which seems to be the fallback formula. When was the last time you saw a cover that actually illustrated a scene from the book, like this one does?

I have no idea a) where this book came from (possibly an old copy of my mother’s, or even my grandmother’s?), and b) why I had never read it before. It’s one of those books that has sort of seeped into the collective consciousness, so I have a pretty clear idea of what the main plot points are, but there are a number of details that have surprised me: quite how feisty young Jean Louise is, for example; or the background of endemic casual racism depicted. I’m pretty much exactly halfway through at the moment, and can see that it’s one of those books that have been deservedly lauded as a classic.


Back in Mogadishu today after a couple of days in chill, damp Nairobi, which – after initial indifference – I like more and more every time I visit. Highlights of this particular 48 hours (friends aside) included a particularly excellent pizza, a delicious Italian meal from Dolce Vita in Muthaiga, and a day spent in Nairobi National Park, driving about in a clunky old Land Rover and looking for animals. I had never been there before, and had indeed only been on safari once before in Kenya – to the Masai Mara in 2006, my first ever R&R experience – and had, I guess, sniffily dismissed the Nairobi National Park because really, how good could it be, given its proximity to the capital? Pretty bloody good, it turns out: we saw plenty of zebra and wildebeest and warthogs and giraffes and Generic Hoofed Animals (TM Hannah, whom I was with); we saw a load of monkeys of different types; we saw the top 10% of a number of hippos; we saw two monitor lizards undergoing an energetic courtship ritual. Sadly no carnivores, though it turned out on leaving that there had been a load of lions in the centre of the Park, having made a spectacular zebra kill, and we had more of less circumnavigated them entirely, visiting more or less every part of the Park where they were not. Next time, lions. Next time.


Written by Jess

April 19, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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