I often go through phases when reading, either reading several books by the same author one after another, or lots of books of the same theme or subject (examples include books about twins, books about eastern culture, books about nurses in World War I). Some years ago I went through a John Grisham phase, reading several of his novels back to back. Their main appeal to me was the realistic portrayal of characters and situations – the voices Grisham gives to is characters are so real and believable, I could almost imagine myself sitting in the courtroom listening to their testimonies. And, of course, the subject matter he deals with in these dramatic courtroom scenes is often based on a moral question. Everyone involved in the legal drama thinks that they are in the right. The reader must decide who to side with, and usually that is not a simple task.
A Time to Kill is one such book; my favourite Grisham novel that was inspired by a real courtroom situation, during which Grisham heard the testimony of a little girl who had been raped. He began to wonder what would happen if her father had killed the man who did it. In this, his first novel, everyone has a point to prove, and the moral questions really made me think from start to finish. There are characters who, as a reader, I knew were in the wrong, but who’s beliefs could not be swayed. The ones who were fighting for justice were doing so for a man who admitted being a killer. Is it ever acceptable to kill someone, even someone who had committed terrible wrongs against you? Could you ever defend a person who you knew had committed horrible crimes? How could society function if we were all able to take the law into our own hands?
Sometimes I’m looking for an easy read. Sometimes, I want a book that will throw out some big questions, and really give me something to think about. A Time to Kill is definitely the latter.