Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Help

Everyone has been raving about The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's a huge bestseller and has an incredible number of reviews on Amazon, nearly all 5 star. I've seen phrases like "an instant classic" and "life-changing" and such, so I thought I would probably not read it. I rarely like books that other people fall in love with that way. (I also tend not to like "women's fiction" which this definitely is.) But I kept hearing about it, so I put it on hold at the library. There was a long queue; it took about 4 months for me to get it. But I had a feeling it might not be a keeper, even though it was very inexpensive for a new hardback.

So, I read it. It's a quick read, even though it's long. It held my interest well enough, but I wouldn't rave about it the way so many people have. Maybe the hype had me set up for disappointment; that often happens.

The story of the three women in Jackson, Mississippi, during the civil rights era may have been authentic enough. I am not a southerner, though I am married to one, so I don't know a whole lot about that time and place. I found I didn't care about any of the characters, particularly, and that's a bad thing in a book that's pretty much character-driven. There were some episodes in the book that seemed unbelievable and unrealistic to me, though there were many that didn't.

I think the author did a good job writing in the voice of three different women. I didn't like the voices so much, though. Something bothered me but I didn't know what till I read it in one review: the black maids spoke with a distinct accent ("I told her I gone do it"), but the white women did not. No g's were dropped, no one-syllable words turned into two with a drawl. It felt condescending to me.

I'm glad I read it so I can stop listening to people telling me I must read it. I'd read something else by the author in the future (this was her first book). But I'm going to renew my resolve to stay away from bestsellers and books declared "instant classics."

1 comment:

Vee said...

Thanks for the review of this, Marbel.

I've had friends and family go on about this book as well ... I tend to read dusty old actual classics instead of new ones (unless about history), so I've been thinking I should read it, too. So people will leave me alone about reading it. ; )