Talk about a book that could have used one more edit…
Lest you think my thoughts on The Help are totally negative, let me clear that up now. It has a good plot, a great theme, and I love the characters. So what's the problem? Stockett beats you over the head with the aforesaid theme. Over and over and over and over.
We get it already, Kathryn.
Maybe if I hadn't been reading shorter novels with spare and poetic prose I'd have appreciated The Help a little more. As it was, by the middle of the novel I considered skimming through to the end. I wanted to know what happened, yet I could hardly stand reading such a long, drawn-out, over-inflated book to get there. At 451 pages, it was at times near being a slog.
But I persisted, for the sake of the book group discussion this week. Though not without some grumbling. And I know, I'm in the minority on this book. Everyone's book group is reading it. Copies of it are so scarce in our library district my supervisor had to go buy me a copy to read for the discussion.
And it's a good enough book. Not a great book by any stretch of the imagination, but a good one. If I could have gotten my hands on it, though, my red pen would have been flying – Take out this chapter! You don't need this character! Cut! Cut! CUT! And Skeeter as the main character's name? Really?
I'll save myself the trouble of giving you the plot, instead leaving that to Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it. (Feb.)
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So, the verdict is, it's a bestseller. To those who try to avoid them, you'll know what I mean. It's written with book groups in mind. Hell, it'll probably make it to the big screen. It's good, but misses great by a country mile. Paring it down by at least a third, taking out unnecessary scenes and verbage, would have improved it. A lot. It's not a bad read, not terrible. But I was glad to turn that last page, relieved to be done with it. And when a book is great, that's the last thing I'd say.
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; 1 edition (February 10, 2009)