Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Help (Book Review)


Book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Reason to read: July selection for the Book to Film Club

I'm trying to remember how I first heard about The Help and my memory is failing me. It's been a lock with the film club from early on as it's been very positively received and one of the few titles that had a summer release date (I really thought there would be more but I guess smishing robots and aliens kind of take over the screens). Because of it's huge popularity it took ages to get from my local library, but as luck would have it arrived just in time to start reading in July and captured my attention very quickly. I was worried about dropping the ball with my reading during July due to my recent move, but that turned out to be no worry at all as once I became quickly enraptured by the characters and their stories.

Set in 1960's Mississippi and told from the perspective of several different narrators, the film has a very unique tone & feel to it. The focus is on the lives of African American women and their experiences and challenges working as maids in white households, from caring for the children to cooking amazing-sounding food to dealing with racial tension at almost every step. That was one of my hesitations in reading the book, as prejudice of any kind gets me angry and sad about the whole world. But, one of my goals for the Book to Film Club was to encourage people to stretch their literary comfort zones, so it was only fair if I stretched mine as well. I'm glad I did as The Help deals with complicated, tense, life-altering and dangerous situations with tact, dignity and truthfulness at every step. The stories and characters felt earnest and rich, and I felt for them in their troubles and their triumphs. The book drew me in pretty quickly, but did take a bit to win me over, but when it did I was complete hooked and looked forward to any moment I could get back to reading it - and I finished it two whole weeks before schedule!

I'm really looking forward to the film and seeing the characters brought to life as they are what makes the book so special. I especially loved character interaction moments like seeing little Mae Mobley and seeing her through the eyes of Aibileen, or the awkward relationship between Minny and Celia. Because the film will certainly be condensed, I wonder what they will trim away. Considering the impressive casting of Aibileen (Viola Davis), Minny (Octavia Spencer), Skeeter (Emma Stone of Paper Man), Celia (Jessica Chastain from The Tree of Life) and Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard from Hereafter and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), I'm stumped at what they will let go of but I'm thrilled to see a strong female ensemble cast and to see a book and film filled with womens stories. The film adaptation is Adapted & directed by Tate Taylor (Pretty Ugly People) and will be released August 10, 2011. I'm really looking forward to seeing the adaptation.

If you haven't yet joined the Book to Film Club, you can join us at any time. Sign up for updates here. Our August 2011 book is The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

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