Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snapshot Book Review: The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fabulous story. Fabulous characters. Fabulous life lessons. This book would have received a fabulous five stars, if only the author would have written it in true, distinguishable, convincing African-American dialect. Instead, two of her three narrators merely sound like a white person who, two-thirds of the time, throws in some bizarre truncated language, trying to sound uneducated. In short, Kathryn Stockett writes like a white person trying to sound black. And it's a shame, because who can blame her? She is.

The story itself is beautiful. Structuring it so that it is told from three different first-person points of view is also wonderful, because it keeps you, the reader, from "rooting" for only one group of people or considering only one possible outcome to any particular action or set of events.

However, Stockett's attempts to write in African-American dialect fall far short of their goal. Not only does she fail to convincingly portray the sound of a black woman speaking, but she fails to distinguish the two black maids who narrate her story (Minny and Adelaide) from one another. Fortunately, they are discernible by their attitudes and circumstances throughout the novel, but when it comes to their speech patterns and "voices" they are completely indistinguishable.

The novel, as an entertaining piece of literature, was a pleasure to read. However, as a critical writer and English major, I cannot help but give Stockett and her editorial team the criticism that they deserve. I hold out hope that she improves upon this aspect in her next novel--because after the success of The Help, there will surely be one.

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