I'm not sure I have much to add to the many reviews that are already out there, when it comes to The Help. But, here's something I wrote as I was reading it:
I'm loving The Help. It's the first Southern book I've read in a long time that is genuine. Stockett has the language down pat and it's really pretty fun to read about things that happened in our area, places I know and names I've heard for years but don't know much about, like the story of Medgar Evers.
I avoided reading The Help for a very long time. A conversation on Twitter was the tipping point. I've had a copy on my shelf for quite a while, but I was hesitant to read the book for several reasons:
1. The Help has been hyped to death, therefore . . .
2. Everyone on the planet seems to have read and reviewed the book, already. I tend to like reading books I haven't heard much about and find myself happier talking about lesser-known titles and authors.
3. I don't consider reading about life in the South "escapist" because I live in the Deep South . . . and I am definitely an escapist reader.
So, what -- if anything -- might I have to add as a person who actually lives fairly close to the book's setting? Like I said, not much. What I can tell you is that there are still plenty of Hilly Holbrooks living in Mississippi. I could probably get lynched for saying that, but I particularly mean there is a cliquishness in small-town Mississippi that you can't miss if you're "not from here". While I'm not like Celia in the sense of having been raised in a lower class than those in Hilly Holbrook's little Junior League circle, I related best to Celia because I understand what it's like to be an outsider in Mississippi.
Setting aside, the writing in The Help is excellent and I love the story. I cannot tell a lie. I fell in love with it the moment I hit that first comment about Aibileen having a fight with the many pleats she had to iron. I don't normally like reading books that are written in vernacular because I tend to have trouble shifting gears and am firmly of the belief that accent makes itself known through the words that are spoken in dialogue, but in this particular case it just worked for me. I'm accustomed to the mode of speech in The Help and it didn't jar me in the usual manner.
There wasn't anything in particular that I disliked about The Help, although Amy and I had an interesting discussion about the fact that the storyline is, in effect, about a white woman rescuing blacks and the truth of the matter is that it was people like Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking eloquently and Rosa Parks making a stand that truly led to change. Obviously, there were white people in the Civil Rights movement and some of them died for their beliefs, but change would not have taken place without the determination and courage of those who were living with their rights withheld.
Excellent writing, a terrific storyline worth talking about and a realistic look at life in the Sixties in Mississippi make The Help a book worth reading and talking about.
But, you already knew that, didn't you? Did you know we grow everything bigger in Mississippi, even our stuffed mice?