Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Post #2 for today. I'm in catch-up mode. Next week I'll go to weekly posts.

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?


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19 comments:

  1. I think there are Hilly's in ever small town in America - I know I've met a few everyone we've ever lived. I knew you'd love the book!

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  2. Kathy,

    That is probably true. When I first moved to Mississippi and complained to a friend's father about the cliquishness of our new home, he replied, "There are entire countries that are hostile to outsiders." He's traveled all over the world, so he ought to know!

    Yep, you were right. I loved it! :)

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  3. I also loved this book...honestly, who wouldn't? We even have Hilly Holbrook's up in Northern Wisconsin, yup, it's everywhere!

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  4. Jo-Jo,

    It's an awfully good story, isn't it? LOL They're everywhere!!! It was definitely fun reading about Hilly being put in her place.

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  5. I like how Fi isn't even phased by the giant mouse. And it's so blue! (Can cats see color?)

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  6. I avoided this book, too, to be honest. It was so hyped I was a bit scared, but I loved it! Still haven't reviewed it...

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  7. I remember back in the days of ironing pleats - what an awful way to spend time! Of course, I used to iron my HAIR too, so I was pretty much ironing everything back in the "old days"! Now I totally refuse to iron ANYthing, no matter how bad it looks!

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  8. I got completely sucked into the lives of the women in this book and really look forward to seeing the movie

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  9. Loved the printed book, loved the audio book, and LOVED the movie!

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  10. We are shockingly similar, which ought to scare the mess right out of you. I, too, avoided this book as long as I could, until one day I happened upon it at Costco and thought, "What the hell." I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, although I also had that "well, isn't it nice for the rich white lady to help out the poor black folk" sense. I've heard the movie is better. I might have to go see it, given that I know I'll cave in eventually.

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  11. Softdrink,

    She's not fazed because she hunted it down, already and the mouse is passively waiting to be either eaten or hauled across the house, again. LOL No, I don't think they can see color. I sure like that shade of blue, though!

    Kelly,

    I wasn't afraid of the hype so much as put off by it, I guess. Well, that and I don't really like reading Southern fiction because half the time it's written by people who aren't Southern and the rest of the time it's just not escapist enough for me. But, The Help is a really amazing book.

    Jill,

    I haven't ironed in years, either. But, I never ironed my hair. Pleats . . . ugh. Shirts are an ugh, too. I love labels that say "machine wash, tumble dry". They make me happy.

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  12. Helen,

    I've heard the movie is really good, but I haven't seen it, yet. Oddly, one of the few people I know who couldn't make it through The Help is a local friend. She said the vernacular drove her nuts, so she went to the movie, instead.

    Les,

    Yeah, I know. I read your blog! You are like a one-woman advertisement for The Help. ;)

    Cupcake,

    I need to go see the movie but I'm never in any big hurry to rush to the theater, for some reason. I will tell you, though, that I was told the movie was so crowded at one of the theaters in the Jackson area that people were told to move in and fill up any empty seats so that latecomers would easily be able to find a place. And, those aisle seats filled up. So, it's probably good to wait. It's drawing a crowd, down here.

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  13. lol re the stuffed mice. Glad to hear you enjoyed the book, thanks for the shout-out :) I'm really enjoying following all the discussions about the book!

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  14. Amy,

    Fiona loves that mouse. Can you tell? It's amazing how many times a day I notice it's been moved, again.

    I did enjoy the book. Did you say you haven't read it? After we talked, that was the one detail I couldn't remember. You really should, if only for the sake of the writing, which is excellent (if you haven't . . . and that's where I'm leaning).

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  15. I don't remember if this is in the book... but in the movie, Hilly has a line where she's talking to Skeeter and says, "I don't know if you know this, but there are some really big racists down here in Mississippi." Excluding herself from this statement, of course. Talk about big time irony. The Hilly[s] of the world never really GET it. Great book and well done movie, too. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

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  16. I haven't read it yet, perhaps eventually :)

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  17. Bailey,

    I don't remember if that's in the book, either, but it sounds like something Hilly would say. So true about the irony and the Hillys not getting it. I'm starting to get an itch to see that movie. Thanks!

    Amy,

    I don't think there's any hurry. It's going to be around a long time.

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  18. For some reason I really resisted this book as well--even though I bought it as gifts for several women and recommended it to others because "everyone" loved it. Finally my mom, sister, and I all decided to read it together and we all fell in love. It was one of those books that I just didn't want to end. Have it sitting next to me to review but just can't come up with anyone else except "Loved it!" ;)

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  19. Trish,

    LOL Know the feeling! I considered just saying, "I have nothing to say about this book but I loved it!" I thought that was a bit of a cop-out, though, so I tried . . . and still didn't say much. To be honest, that's probably fine. There are so many reviews floating around that nobody really needs to know any detailed thoughts. By now, they've probably all read it, anyway.

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