Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

I really enjoyed these stories. The book is gossipy and entertaining and just fun to read. It's not easy subject matter, it's not comfortable subject matter, but it's addressed in a way that makes it comfortable (almost). The book is honest without being too heavy or serious, but is wonderfully poignant when it needs to be.

Only two things stuck out that I didn't like: Skeeter comparing herself to Boo Radley, because she is nothing like Radley, at all. It's fine to reference a book you think is relevant to yours, especially since "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published around the time this book is set, but don't make a half-hearted reference for the sake of making a literary reference you think makes you look smart. I also disliked the riding-into-the-sunset ending of Aibileen. In my opinion, endings are the hardest to write, and the riding-into-the-sunset variety are the easiest to fall into. I wanted a more concrete ending, but I'll take it.

Also, I have mixed feelings about the book within the book. It's a little too metafiction. The book "The Help" and "Help" are essentially the same thing. I understand Stockett needed something to make her book work, which was to make her characters tell their stories for the purpose of writing their own book, but there's something about that I don't like, which is why I think the movie will be so successful. That being said, the stories and characters were so strong and vivid that I could put my misgivings aside.

All of Stockett's characters are clear and strong in their own right, even the not-so-bright pushover Elizabeth. Hilly is wonderfully wicked in her racist convictions. Minny is a great sort of comic relief at times, but her stories were no weaker than Aibileen's; I loved Minny's relationship with Miss Celia and looked forward to her chapters.

At times the book felt drawn out; all the repetitious anticipation for the book to be finished and then to be published. But every incident, every story was fun to read. The atmosphere of the book is wholly engrossing and an interested place to set yourself in.

I'm probably one of the last people to read this book, but if you haven't read "The Help" yet, it is well worth it. It's a cliche and it's corny, but this book will make you laugh, make you cry, break your heart, and lift you up.

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