I loved the movie that much that I had to read the book. I also love the ability to “borrow” an audiobook from your library. I knew that I would not have a lot of time to sit down and read, but I have an almost 30 minute commute to work, so I figured I would take advantage of that. The book turned out to be so good, that I have barely put my iPod down.
If you want the basic premise of the book, see my film review. Honestly, my mom was right. The film was probably one of the best adaptations I’ve seen in a long time. They kept all the good parts, changed the few things that would help it flow better on screen, and really emphasized those characters that were most important. I would have liked to see the good that came out of the book they published, such as one of Skeeter’s old friends feeling good about what her maid said. They don’t really tell you in the movie, but some of the maids had good things to say about their bosses, and some of them had really good relationships. Another maid tells Aibilene that because of the book, her “white lady” sits her down and asks if she had treated her as badly. It led to discussion, to good things, and I wish the movie had been better able to portray that.
Another thing I loved about the novel was the friendships that the women developed. Aibilene and Skeeter’s was perhaps the deepest and most touching. Sure, in the film, they talk and are friendly, but I don’t think it shows you just how close of a relationship that they develop. I know that if you are only given two and a half hours, that things will be glossed over. Which is why I love books. They are so much richer, so much deeper. The movie in this case gives you a mighty good taste of the story, but the book provides the full meal of it.
If possible, you also hate Hilly even more in the book. Bryce Dallas Howard really did do a good job with that role. Elizabeth is a lot more sympathetic, and you understand a lot more the power Hilly holds over these women in her area and just how brave Skeeter was to do anything to upset that. It’s another thing the film glosses over, Skeeter’s ostracization. Even though Skeeter is never really in a lot of danger, before the book is published Hilly makes sure she has no friends, no respect, and she tries to keep Stewart away, too. All because Skeeter pulls the toilet prank and has the Jim Crowe laws in her bag. Two small things, but it drives the wedge that the book just makes wider. *SPOILER* (Ok, if someone had told people to leave used toilets in my yard, too, I would be pretty mad.) *SPOILER*
The audiobook was fun because it is read in four separate voices: Aibilene, Minny, Skeeter, and a narrator. The narrator only steps in for the banquet scene. I thought it was odd at first, but mostly because I was used to the dialogue (especially Celia Foote’s) in certain reader’s voices. For a scene like that, where you would miss out on something if you were in one person’s head, it made complete sense. And this way, you got to see every little detail better than a fly on the wall. Minny was voiced by Octavia Spencer, the actress who plays her in the film. She in particular just jumps out of your headphones, grabbing your attention. I loved them all, though.
The actual writing was very good, too. Stockett really captured the different dialects used, the rhythms of speech, and the words that would have been chosen. It reads smoothly, and even though there are grammatical errors in the speech, you don’t mind because that is so true to the character narrating the piece.
My only complaint about the book was it was hard to follow the timeline. Since you start off with Aibilene for quite some time, and then switch back and forth between the other two, you sometimes jump back and forth in time. It’s not a huge struggle, but it does make it a little hard to follow. That is the danger in having more than one narrator, though. And most of my confusion probably rested in me listening to the book instead of reading it.
If you went and saw the movie, you really need to pick up the book. It is a rare treat to find something original, thought-provoking, and so alive with characters.
Rating: 9/10 A really fantastic novel.