Monday, October 4, 2010

Mississippi in the 1960s

I really liked The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  First of all, I know this book has received criticism because of her use of a southern "black" dialect in the chapters that are narrated by the help.  I think, because the author is white, she gives her own interpretation of the dialect, and I guess part of the criticism is that she didn't give the white women any accent at all.  She readily admits that the writing isn't perfect, but I think it helps to differentiate the narrators.  She did the best she could and tackled a subject that is still sensitive to many people.

The story is told by African American house maids that served southern families in Jackson, Mississippi, usually for many years.  These maids became surrogate mothers to the children and did whatever was asked of them for usually very little pay.  It wasn't slavery, but there was a very distinct class system -- separate grocery stores, bathrooms, tables, and many other things.  The other narrator is a white woman who has lived in this society, and begins to perceive an unfairness in this system.  She decides to write about these women but, of course, this must all be kept secret.

The characters are just wonderfully developed.  Each is distinct and believable.  The story is compelling.  The reader knows that it is likely things are not going to end well, and tension builds throughout the book.  The farther I read, the harder it was to put it down.  I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it (one of the characteristics, for me, that denotes a special book) and I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for a while since I'm finished.

3 comments:

  1. It sounds like a wonderful book. I hadn't heard of it, bur I've put it on my 'to read' list.

    http://tinylibrary.blogspot.com

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  2. My wife read and loved this book. I attended a self-publish expo in NY over the weekend and this was one of the talked about titles in publishing.
    Mike

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  3. Talked to a friend who is an avid audio book listener. She said this book is excellent in the audio version -- different people for each narrator that do a great job. I'm sure that helps with the dialect, for those who are bothered by it. If you find the right books (which this one apparently is), audiobooks can really add to the story.

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