Tuesday, December 14, 2010

list it tues: list of lists & a book review

I am so far behind this season, I can't see straight - note item 2's missing s.

But I ate up a book in about three days. It's been a long while since I've done that, but I felt crappy with a cold, and about the best I could do was lie around and read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I still have mixed feelings after finishing this book. I know I am coming to this party late, to review a best seller. But I think I needed the time it took me to approach The Help. I am a great lover of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Any other book that wants to cover racial issues in the South before 1970 is treading really difficult waters, especially in an attempt to personalize issues of segregation and racial relations after Harper Lee's seminal work.

I must admit I like the book better after reading Stockett's closing words about growing up in a similar situation to what she illustrates. The relationships between black maids and their white family employers are revealed through the narratives of two black maids and one white daughter who is seeming to finally come of age after college, and back in the home and town of her childhood. Skeeter is the one who turns Jackson's well-established order inside out, but she can't do so without Aibileen and Minny.

A lot of my difficulty came from the colloquial nature of the narrations, something I usually enjoy. When the book opens with a black voice written by a white author though, I cannot help but feel a bit suspicious that things will turn out too close to say, Song of the South. But throughout the book, I think Stockett shows an awareness of wanting to avoid that as well as a conscience about how difficult the waters are to tread.

But here's what I like about the book.  She treads very cautiously through these stormy waters.  She has to, and that is what was made clear to me in her afterwords.  This book was her way of understanding and apologizing to the maid who brought her up, who died when Stockett was just sixteen, and who was clearly a strong mother figure to her. Because of her experience growing up in Jackson, she really is able to write the affection Skeeter has for her lost maid, and the affection Aibileen has for the baby girl in her care.

The characters are lively, if a bit stereotypical to begin with, but I think Stockett grows as a writer through the book in her ability to understand what life must have been like for these women. The primary point Stockett makes is about the delicate line that had to be walked through dangerous times in about the most dangerous place, Jackson Mississippi leading up to Martin Luther King's March in DC and the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. Thankfully those incidents are far in the background of the story.

I do recommend it, it is a quick read, even at 451 pages. It was a great escape while I wasn't feeling well, even if it wasn't a comfortable one. But that's just the kind of book that I really enjoy.  I don't like easy reads nearly as much.  I want a book to stay with me.  I think this one will.

Addendum again: in my rush to get something up earlier today, I once again forgot to point the way to more listers who participate.  Please click on the green List it Tuesday square in my side margin to see them starting in artsyville! Oh and while you're there, do wish aimee a very happy 40th birthday!!!


  1. Thanks for the book review-I have that book on my shelf and keep thinking I need to just get to it, but have been very "anti-uncomfortable reads" as of late with the whole family crisis crapola. I think though, that while my television movie preferences have been light and funny this season, I need to go back to my uncomfie reads because they're always more satisfying for me in the long run.

    P.S. You are definitely not the only one behind for the holidays-no cards out yet, no gifts finished, and no money to do anything but make all this stuff myself=my feeling like going back to bed :)

  2. you've got that last part right, carmen.

    go ahead and read it. i understand, we've been having family crises, too, which can make you want to forget that anything meaningful might be gleaned elsewhere.

  3. at least you got a good read out of your cold! and even though you have lists waiting, you got to catch up on books. it seems ONLY a bug can make me pause long enough to read for pleasure these days.

    :) Happy Holidays!

  4. same here, i have to be sick to pause long enough to read an actual book these days.

    happy holidays to you, too SE!

  5. thanks for the book review! it`s always great to get a tip and since the book isn`t known here in germany, even better! am with you about the christmas lists. i was going on and on last night about christmas being in two weeks, until my son said " but it`s next week" imagine the horror:))

  6. oh good, so i am not alone in my time warp! thanks, QC!

  7. A list of lists !! I love that !!!

    My list is up too ....

  8. that's about where i am now....haha.
    thanks, bonnie!

  9. That's a scary list of lists! So much to do....

  10. love it!! a list of lists!! maybe i would be more organized if i try this :)

  11. Thanks for the review. My list was a book list, and this looks like an interesting addition! Fits my book club too! {:-D

  12. thanks, alarmcat! alas this is my sorry last minute attempt at organization...

    i'm glad, storybeader. thanks!

  13. ohhhh ... new banner pic = LOVE it!
    Can you post something about Christmas for WEEKWORD? Allie is hosting. Her blog is:

  14. thanks! i try to be seasonal with it...

    i want to, but i've barely got christmas going just yet....i was just at her blog this mornign considering what i would do. ok, maybe a meditation on cookies.


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