I'll say straight away that I really, really enjoyed this book.
Set in the Deep South in the early 1960s, it's narrated by three women: sensible AibilI'll say straight away that I really, really enjoyed this book.
Set in the Deep South in the early 1960s, it's narrated by three women: sensible Aibileen, black maid to a white family; sassy Minny, Aibileen's best friend and also a maid; and Skeeter, a white woman, frustrated with her life and desperate to become a writer.
Advised by a New York editor to write about what interests her, Skeeter does the unthinkable and asks Aibileen to tell her about her life as a black woman working for a white family. With the black civil rights movement gathering pace in the background, these are dangerous times in the South and Aibileen hesitates before agreeing to help. Together, the women begin a secret project to document the stories of 'the help'.
The story follows the progress of the book as they write it, but it also focuses on the everyday lives of the women.
Aibileen works for the Leefolt family, doting on their baby, Mae Mobley. In secret, Aibileen tries to teach the child that skin colour doesn't make a difference to the person inside.
After losing her job because she did a "Terrible, Awful Thing" to the local white queen bee, Minny eventually finds a job with a lonely white woman, desperate to break into the town's social circle.
Skeeter is unique amongst her friends in being unmarried and childless. She becomes more disillusioned with the attitudes of her friends towards black people, especially as she grows closer to Aibileen.
Skeeter's friend, Hilly Holbrook, is the villain of the piece. She's the local queen bee, a firm believer in segregation and a skilled manipulator. Nobody crosses Hilly and gets away with it, but both Minny and Skeeter manage to make an enemy of her. I was rooting for her to get her comeuppance and she does, both in the revenge Minny takes on her and through her desperate attempts to stop people finding out about it.
The chapters are narrated by different characters and that comes across in the style of writing. Aibileen and Minny's chapters are written in the voice of a black woman, colloquialisms and all. Skeeter's is written more traditionally, in the voice of a college-educated white woman. I found both equally easy to read, but I know of other people who struggled with the black voices.
The main characters are all well drawn. It focuses on the women with the men in their lives having only a walk on part. It draws out the fear the black women lived with and the reality of their lives. I know about segregation and the struggles the civil rights movement faced, but this book really brought it all the life and I was utterly shocked by some of the things the whites believed.
This is a good book and I rattled through it. Definitely worth a read. ...more
This book is set in a world populated by witches, vampires, daemons and humans, so steer clear if fantasy isn't your thing.
Diana Bishop is the last inThis book is set in a world populated by witches, vampires, daemons and humans, so steer clear if fantasy isn't your thing.
Diana Bishop is the last in a line of witches stretching back to the Salem witch trials. She's turned her back on magic to become a noted historian, but her denial of magic is sorely tested when she unwittingly uncovers a manuscript that's been hidden from all creatures for 150 years.
Enter Matthew Clairmont, a centuries old vampire. Initially attracted by the discovery of the manuscript, he's irrevocably drawn to Diana and the two begin a forbidden relationship.
The story centres around Diana and Matthew's romance and Diana's burgeoning powers. All manner of creatures begin circling Diana, wanting to know more about both the manuscript and her powerful magic.
The premise is fairly interesting and sometimes the tale whips along, but there are far too many descriptions of mundane things like Diana getting dressed, Diana taking a bath, food, wine and, rather improbably, yoga classes.
I didn't much care for Diana as a character. We're constantly told how brave, beautiful, clever, strong and powerful she is, but the author rarely demonstrates this in Diana's actions. Overall, she's pretty wet, drippy and full of self-pity. Once she falls for Matthew, she's forever being carried by him, protected by him and can barely stand on her own two feet.
Matthew himself is pretty controlling and chauvinistic. The author explains this away by the fact that he's a) a vampire and b) so old, but it's hard to believe that a modern woman would put up with his behaviour. Lucky he's apparently so damn hot really.
The romance is swift, but chaste and sometimes reads like a breathless teenager has written it.
There's a wide array of supporting characters, from Matthew's vampiric family, including his formidable mother, to Diana's witchy aunts, with a few daemons thrown in for good measure. Some of these characters show promise and it would be interesting to see more of them.
The book could have done with some heavier editing to tighten it up. It's almost 690 pages long in paperback and could have been substantially shorter without losing any of the storyline. It does feel as if the author has been fairly self-indulgent at times, like she's put many of her favourite things into the book (wine, food, yoga, taking long, hot baths), and the book's poorer for it.
This probably all sounds fairly negative, but it's not a bad book if you persist through the plodding parts and can refrain from wanting to slap the heroine. I'll probably read the sequel, but that's mainly because, long as it is, this book doesn't answer any of the questions it sets up. It's the first book in a trilogy, so it ends without resolving anything. Again, if you prefer a story that can stand on its own, this probably isn't for you. ...more