I went to see The Help this afternoon! I was a little terrified of watching it, because I read and loved the book before the movie was even announced. I'm pleasantly surprised, though! The various storylines are well presented, I laughed and sniffled at all the right parts, and I was blessed with a huge audience of people who'd obviously read the book (there was a lot of preemptive clapping!). With the exception of Skeeter (Emma Stone), I found all the casting spot on. She was just a bit too...blah and not spunky enough for me (I'd worried about her being too petite and pretty for the role; having seen the film, the real problem was in the presentation of the character as a whole just not matching how I imagined her at all). The others were great, especially Viola Davis (Abileen), Jessica Chastain (Celia), Octavia Spencer (Minnie - she and Chastain were perfect in their scenes together!), and Bryce Howard (the easy-to-hate Millie). I definitely suggest the movie - but read the book first!
Why?: My mother suggested this book to me. She listened to the excellent audio version, and spoke about how it took her back to the racial tensions of her childhood. She was never of the class to have full-time maids who raised your children, but she knew people who did. She also lived through the tumultuous days of the Civil Rights Movement, standing with the oppressed. The book touched her deeply, but also allowed me some insight into a time which, blessedly, seems so bizarre to my generation.
Stories of the days when the civil rights movement was new sometimes lack a core of great and engaging characterization; this is not at all the case with The Help. Novels written by different characters also often lack distinct voices among those characters. Written from multiple perspectives, each woman is given a voice and diction of her own. The story unfurls from multiple perspectives, showing both sides of the white South: those pleased with the status quo and those, like my mother’s family, who weren’t. The African-American population of the book is beautifully written, illustrating the fear and danger inherent in this fledgling movement, as well as the strange and layered relationships to be found between black maids and their white employers.
Gist: A young woman who longs to be a journalist convinces a small group of black maids to tell her about their experiences. Layers of truth are slowly revealed, and the depth of feeling between these women who raised generations of upper-middle class and high class white children and the families they worked for gradually reveal themselves.
Perfect For: ages 16+
Genres: Fiction, Novel
Keywords: Drama, History