Monday, 6 September 2010

American reading

The Help by Kathryn Stockett..  Brilliant, amusing, page-turning, and also frightening and shocking in its description of the casual racism in the American South in the 1960s.  Here's a blurb. 'Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver. Some lines will never be crossed. Aibileen is a black maid: smart, regal, and raising her seventeenth white child. Yet something shifted inside Aibileen the day her own son died. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is the sassiest woman in Mississippi. But even her good cooking won’t protect Minny from the consequences of her tongue. Twenty-two-year-old white Southern girl Skeeter returns home with a degree and a head full of hope, but her family will not be happy until there’s a ring on her finger. The three women are drawn together and begin a dangerous project.'  Do read it, please.

To Kill a Mockingbird. A re-read of the famous Pulitzer prizewinning novel on the same subject, set in 1930, published in 1960. At first I hesitated with the Southern dialect, but soon became absorbed in this moving book.  Gregory Peck starred in the film and kept coming into my head.  Maybe I'll hire the DVD.  How brave it was of Harper Lee to write the book at the time.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.  Didn't get along with this one quite so well.  The writing is brilliant, almost too showy, in that one is distracted from the story by the sparkling style.  I liked the middle where the student heroine becomes part-time nanny to a beautiful mixed-race baby adopted by a white couple, but somehow I prefer a novel with more narrative drive. A coming of age story that many have others have praised, though, and it was short-listed for the Orange Prize.  Just had a quick flick through the reviews - the critics seem to have admired it more than we ordinary readers do.

4 comments:

Lane said...

I adored The Help. Couldn't put it down.

And talking of Harper Lee, did you see the fascinating documentary about her the other week. Being reclusive, she didn't appear in it but her sister did. In her 90s and still a practicing lawyer.

Debs said...

I didn't read The Help because my step-mother told me she didn't think it was very good, but maybe I should get it after all.

Talli Roland said...

I do love Lorrie Moore, but I agree with your review.

Hope you're having a great week, Susie!

Susie Vereker said...

No, I missed that documentary, Lane. Will watch out for it next time.
Debs, you must read The Help.
Talli, thanks for yr comment. Will try another of her books.