Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mini-Reviews: The Help, Rattlebone and Lucy

I read two of these books a while ago so I don't remember them as clearly (I didn't love them or really enjoy them), so I apologize if I'm a bit vague. The goal is to do a two-paragraph review of 2-3 books. I'm always going to do mini-reviews for adult fiction titles with no ratings.

Rattlebone by Maxine Clair 1994

IQ “Intuition is the guardian of children.”

It's a collection of eleven short stories all taking place in Rattlebone, Kansas during the 1950s. The main characters are children, but I think it may be more suited for adults. I’m sure throughout the book the author was trying to convey a deeper meaning and message than what appeared on the surface. Unfortunately, I think that I missed the deeper meaning which made me enjoy this book less. I don’t feel that I’m the best person to review this book, but I’ll try my best. Most of the characters annoyed me. The story was told by a child (Irene Wilson) for most of it and she acted immature a lot and she didn’t always understand what was going on with the adults, especially her parents. Her observations and guesses made this read a bit confusing. Sometimes I understood what she was talking about, other times I didn't. It's really hard for me to view events through the eyes of young children, especially when the story is not set in the present.

I did like how this novel explored many different aspects of life in the 1950s for African Americans in the West. "Secret Love" was the saddest story, it's about a boy nicknamed Puddin who is mentally handicapped. I probably liked "The Great War" best which was about Irene's parents and their arguments, Irene was older in telling this story and that may have been why I had an easier time figuring out what was going on. The book is good, just not for me. In all honesty, part of what may have made me not like this book was the uncomfortable topics dealt with like young children discovering their sexuality.

Disclosure: Borrowed from susan

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid 1990

IQ “I understood finding the place you are born in an unbearable prison and wanting something completely different from what you are familiar with, knowing it represents a haven."

Lucy tells the story of 19 year old Lucy who travels from the West Indies to be an au pair to a wealthy family in New York. She watches over four children and at first Lucy is envious of the lifestyle of the family (I forgot their last name), but she soon realizes that the parents, Mariah and Lewis are not happy.

Lucy is fascinated by New York and wealth, neither of which she has any experience with. However, she is also homesick and often gets upset easily. Her family history is intriguing as well. Her parents had an unhappy marriage, so she's even more interested in the unraveling of Mariah and Lewis's marriage. The relationship between Lucy and her mother is realistic, Lucy wanted to get away from her mother in order to feel that she has finally grown up, but then she misses her dearly. Lucy is a good main character, honest and innocent. A large part of the novel has to do with Lucy experimenting with her sexuality. Most of all this novel is a coming-of-age story in a pretty short narrative with beautiful language. Lucy is a refreshing heroine who is not all passive and her observations are on-point, they bring up things that I've never really thought of. I also enjoyed my vacation through Lucy's memories to the West Indies.

Disclosure: Borrowed from susan

The Help by Kathryn Stockett 2009

IQ "Mother still doesn't know that I've been kicked out of bridge club or that Patsy Joiner got a new tennis partner. I don't get invited to cocktail parties or baby showers anymore, or any functions where Hilly will be there. Except the League. [..]I tell myself, that's what you get when you put thirty-one toilets on the most popular girl's front yard. People tend to treat you a little differently than before." pg. 345-Intrigued yet? :)

This book deserves all the hype it has gotten. I'm not going to give a summary because I'm going to be presumptuous and assume that everyone knows what it's about. I do think that the author does a great job of showing the very complex and gray-area relationships between white housewives and their African American servants. I have wondered if this book would have received as much acclaim if it was by an African American author and while I think the answer is no, that does not affect my love for this book.

I love all these characters, but especially Minny. Minny had me rolling on the floor laughing or almost in tears the next. If you've read the book I have two words for you: THE PIE. I was so horrified but at the same time I was satisfied that Minny didn't wait around for karma, she took matters into her own hands. Minny backtalks all the time which is a big problem, but she's also a fabulous cook so most employers are willing to put up with her. Minny goes to work for Celia and she has to remind herself "Don't you go sassing this white lady like you done the other. Sassed her all the way to the nursing home." (pg. 31, that "white lady" Minny is referring to is a real trip, she's awesome and has remarkable patience with her daughter, Miss Hilly). Celia Foote is something else, I've never read a book about "white trash" and my heart ached for her. She was so sweet and frustratingly naive. I wanted to shake some sense into her! It also took me the longest time to figure out her secret, like Minny, I was expecting the very worst. I also wanted to smack Miss Hilly everytime she was mentioned. She was adfdkfjakdlfjakldjfdk! Gah. I enjoyed Skeeter, she kept me laughing although I did want her to just move from Mississippi to New York and move on. However, I was enthralled in her quest to find out what happened to Constantine, the maid who raised her but had mysteriously left Skeeter's home when she came back from college. While Skeeter's mother continuous quest to find a husband for Skeeter was annoying and her actions toward Constatine were appalling, I grew to understand why what she did was completely justified in her opinion. Wrong, but able to be explained. Abileen, Stuart, Mister Johnny, all these characters have stayed with me long after finishing the book. The ending has some closure, but others have stories that are left open, I want to know that everyone turns out ok and that those who have behaved hatefully will get their comeuppance. This book is brutally honest and it showcases the value of friendships between women and how we support each other. It also presents relationships during the 1960s in the Deep South. A must-read. It was a true test to write a mini-review for this book because I just want to rave about it!

Disclosure: My mom read it and gave it to me to read next. We both really liked it.

So how did I do on my first mini-reviews? Do they need to be a little longer, more in-depth or simplified further?


  1. I really enjoyed the Help as well! Wouldn't it make a great movie?!

  2. I liked your mini-reviews.

    The Help - I loved this book. I hated "miz" Hilly with a passion. people like that are so hateful and you find them everywhere - even on the playground, there are little girls controlling large groups of other girls. The others don't necesarily LIKE the controllers, but they fall under their leadership because they are afraid of being rediculed. Working with children, you see a lot of this behaviour.

  3. I think you did a great job with these - they certainly don't need to be any longer for mini-reviews. They were still thoughtful & more indepth than many 'regular' reviews online. :)

    I have The Help on order! Definitely going to read it as soon as it comes.

  4. I agree these reviews were very succint and to the point. I enjoyed them. :)

  5. @Helen-YES! I wouldn't be surprised if they made it into a movie eventually. But would it be as good? hmm.

    @Mardel-Yup, even adults can be immature sometimes too, just like kids ;) I love The Help, one of my favorite books that I've read this year.

    @Karen-Thank you! I was afraid I was getting long-winded with the Help mini-review. It's soo good, can't wait to hear what you think :)

    @Artist-I'm so glad and thank you! (I'm looking forward to reading Manifest)


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