The Help was my bookclub's pick for April. We read the book and then watched the film. My thoughts are below.
Book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Published by Putnam, Feburary 2009
Genre: Fiction/Civil Rights Movement/American South
This was the book club pick for April. The film was released in the United States August, 2011.
Brief Synopsis via Goodreads: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Thoughts on the book: I loved the book, but I felt that there was a lot background information to get through before you get to the heart of the story and the parts of the story that everyone wants to read about based on the hype.
Conversely, I love that once you get past all the background, it’s a character driven story more than a story driven by the plot. There are characters to love and characters to hate. I love when there’s a character to hate, and Hilly is such a horrible, horrible person. I loved hating her. I loved Celia. I think she was my favorite character in the entire book.
Thoughts on the film: I liked that all the background stuff that I complained about above was streamlined and you got to the heart very early on. I thought that Skeeter’s mother was less abrasive in the film and Stewart didn’t come off as such a jerk.
Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Minnie was so spot on. I sometimes wonder if the exaggeration of attitudes of the characters both white and black was intentional. I think having that exaggeration and using stereotypes (to an extent) when telling a story rooted in history is a great way to show how some people actually felt.
Have you read the book or seen the film? What did you think?