Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Question re The Help,

which I have just finished and found interesting in ways intended and otherwise. But I am unsure about a major plot point and will to try to phrase my question so as not to spoil it for anyone planning to read it or see the movie: Did Minny actually do what she said she did to Hilly or was the genius just in making her believe she did?

11 comments:

Debbie Duncan said...

I assumed she did.

Roger Sutton said...

Thanks, Debbie. I read it that she didn't but waited in vain for confirmation one way or the other.

Rebecca Stead said...

I never doubted that it happened either . . . are you going to tell us what you found interesting? Now curious.

Lisa Yee said...

What they said.

TWG said...

I haven't read the book. But yesterday I stumbled across this article by the book's author, about her difficulty in finding a publisher.

http://shine.yahoo.com/event/poweryourfuture/kathryn-stocketts-the-help-turned-down-60-times-before-becoming-a-best-seller-2523496/

Roger Sutton said...

Rebecca, I listened to the audio version, which, dramatically, was just terrific, giving each of the three women a different narrator. (And I hear the Minny from the audiobook is also the Minny in the movie.) So it's hard to distinguish what I liked about the performance from what I liked about the book. At its best the descriptive writing was lyrical but not self-conscious and the dialog was almost always vivid. Skeeter was probably the least developed character--I could never figure out what she saw in her boyfriend, so her heartbreak was not convincing. The book-publishing angle was almost laughable as was Skeeter's abrupt leave-taking of Jackson. But I was very impressed that the two maids did not get Skeeter's happily-ever-after.

The reason I thought Minny's trick was a mind game is that she never connects the dots between what she told Hilly to do and what she did to Hilly. I mean, wouldn't it have tasted a little funny?

Laura Canon said...

I thought that too, Roger. Surely you'd notice?

Rebecca Stead said...

Hmm, that's a point about taste - and I doubt she "researched" the question.

I find that a couple of years after reading the book, I can barely remember the story (boyfriend?). What sticks with me is the writing. Voice ALL OVER. I just finished STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett, a terrific and accomplished book that I fell right into and swam through very happily. But it doesn't even attempt what I think of as voice, which is something I am always hungry for. I know not everyone is with me, and I love PLENTY of books that don't have it, but when I see it done the way Stockett has done it, I swoon. (another example: Tim Tharp's THE SPECTACULAR NOW.)

Roger Sutton said...

Yes, voice, indeed, but neither hammy nor hamfisted. I also loved the new Patchett (again in audio). Both books have been accused of cultural misappropriation, which I guess is another topic!

Rebecca Stead said...

Yes, let's get that started . . . I think there is a lot to say but I definitely don't want to start.

Roger Sutton said...

I'm not sure there is a lot to say beyond what usually gets said. Everyone agrees that anyone can write a story about anyone--in theory. But for some critics, that theory is never born out in practice and for others, the writer's rights trump all.

One of the criticisms I've seen about The Help is that the black narrators write in dialect while the white narrator does not. (Again, the audiobook ameliorates this distinction, as they all sound "Southern" to me.) There is a kind of Mary Sue-ish aura to the book, where Skeeter stands in for the author and thus logically speaks no dialect and has no accent--we don't hear these things in ourselves.