Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Two Cents on "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

It certainly is a popular book.   I was on the hold list for a couple of weeks at the local library and it has been out for a while.  (I LOVE the fact that you can set up a hold, receive an email that your book is ready, check-out, download and begin reading an e-book from the comfort of home!)  As I write this The Help" is #5 on The New York Times Combined Print and E-book Best Sellers List.  Amazon has over five thousand reviews on this book alone (5,285 to be exact), and more than four thousand of those rank it as Five Stars.  It does have 174 one star reviews, and if my math is right--which is probably isn't--is just over 3%.  Now, I am not the type of person that loves everything that is popular.  I have to admit though, when something is such a hit I do become curious. 

While I was happy when the book became available for checkout I hadn't been antsy with anticipation like I am with other books for which I'm waiting.  However, once I started reading I enthralled.  I found it difficult to put down.  The writing was clear and easy to read.  The story was touching and poignant.  I found it extremely easy to picture the characters.  Despite following multiple characters each one was well defined and each storyline was well told.  I felt carried into these women's lives.  When I was finished I wanted more.

I certainly have some criticisms.  The vernacular in which the "Help" spoke was a bit simple.  Plus, it seemed that they were the only ones with anything of a Southern style of speaking, ie, the white people spoke perfectly unaffected Yankee English.  Maybe this was simply to convey how great the class distinction really was--it was two separate cultures--but it seemed inadequate and some believe racist.  Mark Twain, a master of the vernacular, had most of his characters speak in a way fitting with their locale.  He intimately knew the South and was able to capture it in the way he wrote dialogue.  I got the feeling that Stockett is a Northerner writing about the South.  Some of the characters are a bit stereotypical: the sassy black maid, the woman who married into money, the mother who ignores her children, etc.

While it is a work of fiction, and as such doesn't portray a completely accurate picture, I do feel that it captured an attitude of the times.  Trying to put into words the complexity of the relationships between the white and black women of the southern town during the early 1960's is a daunting task.  "The Help" manages to give us a small glimpse into that world.

That's just my two cents.

Anyone else read this book and have anything to say about it?  Did you like it?  Dislike it?  I'd love to hear what you have to say!

1 comment:

  1. I liked it, but I didn't have high expectations or read it as anything more than a novel. Taken at face value, I thought it was interesting and fun. But as far as reading it for context, I think you're probably right.

    My MIL is from the south and she won't read it. Hmm. I should press her more on this.

    My hubby remembers your hubby, he thinks. Is your hubby at CU?


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