Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Stockett's story takes place in 1950s Jackson Mississippi, focusing on a group of white woman and the African-American women they employ as household help. The Help will resonate with anyone who is of a certain age and has spent time in the south. Stockett captures the dialogue, mannerisms, and evokes the feel for that time in history, in those types of homes, in that part of the country beautifully.

I was jazzed to read this book. You really can't go anywhere these days without hearing someone wax poetic about it. It's more than a best-seller; there's a buzz; it's a sensation.

I loved Stockett's warm tone and humorous touches. Three characters took turns narrating the story and their voices sounded true and honest. But in the end, couldn't shake off a vague feeling of disappointment. In general, the characters felt one-dimensional. The was Skeeter, the brainy career-girl with "inner-beauty." Then there was the villain, Hilly, who came off more like a cartoon bad-guy (I guess that should be bad-girl.) Characters are made all the more real by writers who can pull off showing us the bad sides of the good guys, and the good sides of the bad guys. There is a premise within that a book titled The Help is being written collaboratively by the African-American maids and the brainy career girl, and this seemed too carefully orchestrated and contrived. With such great hype this book could have been so much more. Still, it's fun. It's easy. It's a great beach read. To be honest, though, I was hoping for more.

Next week: Committed, and The Gate at the Stairs, and more!

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