31 July 2012
Review: The Help
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Of all the books I've ever read, I'm not sure I've read one that's more divisive among my friends. One side has been trying to get me to read this since it came out, extolling its virtues and talking about how entertaining a read it is. The other condemns it, whether it be the book or movie, as various levels of racist in part due to its white author and/or due to its white protagonist heroine. As I haven't seen the movie yet, and may not see it at all, I'm not sure how much of the criticism can be levied on a movie that may not be as detailed, or subtle, or perhaps careful, as the book, but the book itself is surprisingly good, especially for a popular mainstream read that I did not have high hopes for.
I don't need to detail the plot at this point, as you already know what it's about unless you've missed the popular media over the last year and a half or so. The book separates the plot into point-of-view stories from three characters - two of the domestic maids, and the white woman who's compiling their stories. Thus, the plot is jumping back and forth between the collecting of the stories and the situations coming up in Jackson at the time - before, during, and after the publication of the book in the story.
Since Goodreads doesn't allow half stars, this is closer to a 3.5 for me. Parts of it felt real, others contrived. The book was probably a little longer than it needed to be, but it does flow rather nicely and is entertaining overall, even if it's a little superficial. Having not read any fiction that comes to mind about this specific aspect of the era, I can't speak to whether other books - written by white people or minorities - handle the subject matter better or worse, but this does a slid job for what it is - a popular mainstream title.
Chances are that you've already read this if you actually want to. If you haven't, and you think you want to read it, you'll probably enjoy it. If you don't think you want to read it, the book is unlikely to change your mind on why you're avoiding it, for whatever reasons those may be. Such is the life of a popular, mainstream book, I suppose.
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