Based in a fictitious Ford County in Mississippi, Southern part of the USA, the very first novel of John Grisham, is a fast paced, riveting story of a brutal rape, racism and themes of vigilantism.
The story opens with the horrific details of the rape of a ten year old girl, Tonya, by two drunk men and the subsequent killing of the two men by the girl’s father, Carl Lee Hailey. It was the 1980s and the critical part of this story was that the rape victim was black, the murderer was black, the rapists were white. The law definitely see them as equals(theoretically). But the people responsible for upholding the law and seeking justice were prejudiced and obviously didn’t see it the same way.
Grisham managed to convey the racist undertone in the entire novel and was praised by most for it because of how real it was. The reader is bound to be aware of how the jury feels at each point of time in the trial and prays for the acquittal of the father who’s special little girl’s innocence was taken away by two punks. Her womb damaged permanently. Even though Grisham’s writing doesn’t vividly describe the emotions of the girl and the family but rather it is left to the reader’s imagination to comprehend it.
Grisham mentions that the defense lawyer hired by Hailey, Jake Brigance’s character, was very similar to his own. And even though a lot of people have disliked the character in the book(liked it better in the movie), I found him real. Why do all protagonists have to be a hero? Yes, he was the defense lawyer. Yes, he believed in his client and would’ve done the same thing had he been in his place. Yes, he put a lot of things at stake for this one particular case which could make him or break him. But he also enjoyed the media attention that came to him because of this case. Why does he have to be perfect to be likeable?
I have read other books of Grisham before this and I thoroughly enjoy his books but dont find them extraordinary. This much talked about debut is just the same. I also feel that the book would’ve faired better had it been a little shorter. The story is not worthy of a 500 page novel. The movie adaptation also does justice. Mathew McConaughey’s ending summary had so much humility and emotion, I think it was one of the best scenes in the movie.
Let me know if you’ve read this book and how you’ve liked it in the comments? Also, please do let me know what should I read next in the legal thriller genre. I’m extremely hooked to a good courtroom drama that is well written!