M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009,  461 pages)

I wanted to read The Help before the movie comes out in August.    I have read or scanned a lot of blog posts on the book.   Everyone loves it.    It is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the southern part of the USA in the 1960s.    The land of Eudora Welty (I was very happy to see her mentioned several times in the novel),  William Faulkner  and  segregated schools, hospitals and bathrooms.    Much of  the white populace had a viciously racist attitude toward black people.  They felt they were diseased, dangerous, and inherently inferior.   The times were also in the process of changing but it did not come easy.

Most people know the plot of The Help so I wont spend much time on it.   A white
woman in her early 20s decides she wants to do a book of interviews telling the life stories of black maids working in the house of white families.   It is told from the point of view of three maids and the white woman.   Stockett made each of the characters come to life for me.   All of the main characters are multi-dimensional.
The Help captured and held my attention from start to finish.  

Stockett took a big risk in attempting to make the speech patterns of the maids authentic.   By and large it rings true but not 100 percent.   I thought the weakest part of the book was with the romance between the white would be writer Skitter and the son of a well known local politician.    The depiction of the family of her boyfriend seemed the only part of the book that really was not well done.   They did not seem as real as the other characters.

As I came to the close of this book I wondered if it will one day be listed among the classics novels of Southern USA  like To Kill a Mocking Bird  or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.    There are references to To Kill a Mocking Bird in The Help.
The characters in The Help do not seem to me to have the depth of those in that work.

I endorse this book as a good read.   It has been the book club choice of the year since it came out and I can for sure see why.  

Mel u


Becky (Page Turners) said...

I nearly bought it the other day but here's the thing - I dont like the cover, so I didn't buy it! Talk about judging a book by its cover. Everyone says its an enjoyable book, but it just looks tacky! Is that crazy?

Suko said...

Mel, I'm glad this book kept your attention. I am eager to read this book, and to see the movie!

Mystica said...

I am so keen to get to this book (eventually).

mummazappa said...

You know I quite enjoyed this book, but I didn't find the characterisation of the maids authentic, it just screamed 'white woman writing black women'. For me I thought it lacked the emotional truth and didn't really ring true. But I did enjoy the story anyway :-)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I just listened to the audio version and I would highly recommend that over the printed to experience this book. I don't normally like audiobooks but The Help is definitely an exception to that rule. To be honest, after listening to the audio, I don't think I would have enjoyed the printed version - it is lyrical, heart-warming and beautiful in the audio production. If you get a chance to try that, I'd love to know what you think. I posted a review on my site and included the information of the people behind the voices because I loved it so much.

Bonnie said...

I really enjoyed your review and absolutely agree with your thoughts on some of the characters in the novel. Great review!

Short Story Slore said...

I flew through this book last summer and I loved it! After hearing Emma Stone cast and seeing her and Allison Janney in previews, I'm actually really excited for this movie. The preview I did see kind of made this a happy-feel-good movie, which isn't what I took away from the book. Maybe it's more serious than what they are letting on.

Man of la Book said...

I also liked this book (my thoughts:http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=405), it was an easy read as well.

I don't know if it will become a classic. If I were a betting man though I would say yes.

mel u said...

Becky Page Turner-I took a look at the cover again and you are right it is kind of tacky-you would think they would have used a better cover designer!

Suko-yes I am looking forward to the movie-

Mystica-I hope you will read it when you can-

mummazappa-once and a while the conversations did seem a bit patronizing-dialect should only be done by true masters like Henry Green

mel u said...

Coffee and a Book Book Chick-I hope I am able to listen to the audio though it would be very long for me to do it!

Bonnie-thanks so much for your visit and comment

Short Story Slore-I am looking forward to the movie also-I watched the trailer on youtube-

Man of la Book-I think it will be sort of a souther USA type of classic-not a Middlemarch type of classic sort of a borderline

mel u said...

Man of la Book-just read your post-very insightful-I tried to leave comment there but it said comment closed-you made a very good point-why dont the white characters also speak in a regional dialect of the souther USA in the 1960s?-

Jinky said...

I enjoyed reading this book too. One of my faves. :)

lucybirdbooks said...

My sister lent me this one and I really liked it, but I found out Katerine Stockert is being sued by one of the women who used to be her maid and it seems a bit wrong to use her as a basis for a character without her knowledge

booksandreviews said...

Mel_U, as you know, it was one of my favourite books of 2010 and I can't wait for the film to come out this year, although I was not really keen on Emma Stone playing Skeeter. Let's give the girl a try.

A tricky thing I did not notice when I read the book is that it acutally represents the way the maids speak but pays no attention to that of the white ones. We know there is a special (and gorgeous, to me) accent in the Southern states: they have a drawl, they use certain local terms etc. Yet, Stockett makes them speak in almost standard English. Why?

I'm glad you like it.

bibliojunkie said...

I've been wanting to read this one since last year. Your review made me more curious to read it sooner. thanks!

mel u said...

Bibliojunkie-I wanted to read it before the movie came out-I hope you enjoy it-

theveryhungrybookworm said...

Personally, I greatly enjoyed the book's plot, central conflicts, and message, but you are right. The authenticity in certain sections may have been weak. Overall, it was a fun read. I'm not sure if it will be a classic, but Minnie's revenge pie sure should be!

Kristina said...

I am nearly finished and I am LOVING this book. I have a question that will undoubtedly make me sound niave, but I read the chapter where Skeeters mom is serving her a 'gender correction tea'...is there really such a thing and did people really try it?