‘Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (“In Cold Blood”) and Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.’
To Kill a Mockingbird is still my favourite novel of all time; I still remember how awestruck I was at its beauty when I first read it as a nine-year-old. I’m a big fan of Truman Capote’s too; I have read all of his work at this juncture, and have adored almost all of it. When I found out about G. Neri’s fictionalised account of the childhoods of Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Streckfus Persons – Nelle and Tru – then, I just had to read it.
The opening paragraph which Neri has crafted sum the pair up perfectly: ‘When Truman first spotted Nelle, he thought she was a boy. She was watching him like a cat, perched on a crooked stone wall that separated their rambling wood homes. Barefoot and dressed in overalls with a boyish haircut, Nelle looked to be about his age, but it was hard for Truman to tell – he was trying to avoid her stare by pretending to read his book’.
The entirety of Tru & Nelle is beautifully written, and Monroeville immediately springs into vivid life. Neri has a deft hand in appealing to all of the senses from the outset, and one is soon aware of the sights and smells which made up the worlds of the children. A lot of factual information about the pair has been slipped in, making Tru & Nelle feel incredibly realistic. Although the book is aimed at a younger (‘juvenile’) audience, in no way does the prose feel simplistic or dumbed down. The mystery element which was woven in worked very well, and gave an extra layer of focus to the whole. The dialect is handled well, and the novel is well stylised; entertaining, evocative, creative, and historically accurate. A must-read for all fans of Tru and Nelle’s.