Strong social commentary, and well-paced: Book review of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill

A Time To Kill is John Grisham’s first novel. It came into the limelight after the success of his second book but, once discovered, became known as a masterpiece. There are some brilliant aspects to the book, many of which are relevant even today to the different forms that segregation takes. At the same time, a lot of it feels dated and cringe-worthy. Read on to know whether its positives outweigh the negatives or not.

John Grisham A Time to Kill
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Legal thriller

Length:

511 pages

Blurb:

When Carl Lee Hailey’s ten-year-old daughter is brutally raped by two men and left for dead, he takes justice upon himself and kills the men who hurt his child. Jake Brigance chooses to defend Hailey, a black man in a county that’s predominantly white. It becomes the biggest trial of the Southern town of Clanton, Mississippi. The media attention begins to escalate, as does the racial tension. Threats and violence unfold as extremists take a stand against Hailey. And the trial that began as Jake Brigance’s biggest career opportunity turns into a battle for justice beyond the prejudice of race, and the fight for his client’s life… and his own.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10 for its tale that combines hard-hitting emotion, political and social factors, and the simplicity (both good and bad) of basic human instinct.

Characterization:

6 out of 10. The attempt at making certain characters come across as raw and very human in their reactions came off, instead, as people who were primarily good, but with a healthy dose of being arrogant jackasses.

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its legal action and drama, 9 out of 10 for its emotion, and 10 out of 10 for its rare but well-placed humor.

Writing Style:

7 out of 10. You can tell there’s really good talent there, but it is clearly the beginning of potential being realized.

Part of a Series:

Yes, as Book #1 of the Jake Brigance’s series, from what Goodreads says. Book #2 is Sycamore Row.

Highlighted Takeaway:

This book hits you hard, much harder than you would expect. And it remains relevant across the decades, in numerous ways.

What I Liked:

The blatantly honest narration. No words minced, nothing sugar-coated. It was a clear reflection of the society, mindset, and even language of the time in which it was set, making it much more believable and relatable. Although, not everything believable was likable, which brings me to my next point.

What I Didn’t Like:

The sexism and other societal norms, although self-deprecated, were a bit cringey in today’s day and age. You need to constantly remind yourself when reading those parts that the time in which it was set was very different than today.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys books with courtroom drama and/or books with social commentary. Or even anyone who just wants to read a good book that’s emotional, raw, and has a good story to tell.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who finds it difficult to look at the concept and practice of gender roles as different than what they are today. If you cannot ignore those era-specific nuances, you won’t be able to enjoy the positive aspects that the book offers.

Read It For:

Emotion, courtroom drama, and an engaging story.

What did you think of A Time to Kill by John Grishan? Worth its hype or a let-down? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading this review!

– Rishika