Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend Reading

I am ashamed to admit that I just read this novel. Yes, I am like a year behind the times. I know all the craze surrounding this book has already died off, but they are releasing a movie of it this summer, so I thought hey, might as well offer up a review for anyone who didn't read this book last year! For those of you who don't know, there was a lot of controversy surrounding this book... it ranged from praise (it is a New York Times bestseller) to hatred (some people feel it is racist.) I thought I'd offer up my honest opinion in case anyone in the Sassy Banana world wants to know! So here goes:

Yes, this novel has faults. The biggest one being that the black maids speak in a very heavy dialect. Personally, I think this was written well and feel that author Kathryn Stockett allowed us to "hear" their voices. Some people feel it is too cliche and contrived. However, the white women in this book speak perfect grammatically correct English with not so much as a hint of Southern slang. I felt this at times to be a bit distracting and a bit unbelievable. That being said, the plot and characters and emotion behind this novel far outweigh any of the negatives.

This book takes place during the Civil Rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi. The story is told through the eyes of two African American maids--Aibileen and Minny, as well as the white "heroine" of the story--Miss Skeeter, a young college grad who is grasping to find her place in the world. Through the eyes of these three women, you are witness to the daily lives of Southern maids and their dealings with their white women employers. Skeeter bravely decides to write a book written as a series of narrative accounts of black maids and what it is like for them to work for these white women. The story progresses as Skeeter begins to build relationships with Aibileen and Minny as they tell her their stories, and as she simultaneously loses the friendships with the white women that were once her best friends.

There are brilliant moments of truth throughout this novel--my favorite scenes involve Celia, a young married woman desperate to fit in with the high society clique but simply cannot shake her poverty roots. Another moment that really made me think is when Skeeter tells her fiancee about the book she is writing. His response is: "I don't understand why you would do this. Why do you even... care about this, Skeeter?" That line really put the whole novel into perspective for me. It wasn't that the majority of the white characters were racist (although some definitely were), it was simply that they didn't care to change anything. The apathy of them all is what was the most disgusting.

Guess I have said enough. This book is a very quick read (I finished in one weekend) and whether you agree or disagree with the author's authority and knowledge to write such a book, I promise that it is a guaranteed page turner. Check out more about the upcoming film here.


Janell said...

I heard her speak about the book on NPR. I didn't read it though. So many books to read and with tomorrow being the end of the world and all...

Lee said...

I hope the controversy about the book doesn't make the filmmakers timid.

Enjoyed this book & it sure was a hit with my book club.