Beloved books read in childhood can stay with us for a long time.

For many those books include To Kill a Mockingbird.

The recent death of its author, Harper Lee, will see some reaching for that book to once again read the story of the American South, friendship and courage.

The book was published in 1960 in the depths of the United States' civil rights struggle. Oprah Winfrey has called it the national book and, though the reputation of Lee and her protagonist, Atticus Finch, have been tarnished by the publication of the sequel, Go Set A Watchman, To Kill a Mockingbird will outlive this hiccup.

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It was a book that was all-consuming. Harper Lee recreated her world for all of us; you could taste a southern summer with all its heat and manners and rigours and colour. And fortunately the subsequent film adaptation was its equal.

Not many books can tell a good yarn and at the same time be relevant to the current events of the age.

As much as the book was about bravery and love, it did malice brilliantly - both in the fate of Tom Robinson and the torment of Scout and Boo Radley. It was a scary book for a child as much as a revelation about race, class and justice.

So thank you, Harper Lee, for Atticus, Scout, Jem, Dill, Tom Robinson, Boo Radley and the other people who fill the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird. You gave us a story, setting and characters that mean as much to an adult as they did to a child.

To paraphrase Reverend Sykes: "Stand up, Harper Lee's passing."