|Nomadic SA Chick||
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
It's 1962, and Jackson, Mississippi is a hot spot for poor race relations and equality. Skeeter is a 22 year old, privileged young woman recently returned home after graduating from college. Aibileen Clark is middle-aged nanny and house keeper, and Minny Jackson is a smart mouthed younger woman who has troubles keeping housekeeping and cooking jobs because she can't keep her mouth shut. Together these three woman will accomplish something that will turn the whole society of Jackson, MS on its head.
I had put off reading this book for a long time, it's jsut what I do with overly hyped things. I honestly thing that if it weren't for the reading challenge I wouldn't have picked this one up yet. I am glad I finally did. It was a good book, though I do believe that it does not live up to the hyped it had. I blame Oprah's Book Club fans for that, because I don't think it would have had the following had it not been for Oprah's endorsement. That being said, I think she made a smart choice with this book. But, I digress. The book was a great read filled with emotion and history of the beginning of America's Civil Rights Movement. Stockett built a lot of great characters and back stories for each. She was seamlessly able to alternate the telling of the book between Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, each with their own distinct language and speech patterns.
I give this a 4 out of 5
The movie is a bit more flat than the book was. But how do you fit 450 pages into a 2 1/2 hour movie? A lot of things had to be cut, altered, and rearranged. I think the movie did well in conveying the main points of the book, but got lost in conveying the personal struggles Skeeter faced between her friends, boyfriend, and her parents as she worked on the book. They also did not delve into to much back history with either Aibileen or Minny, unless they absolutely needed to. The relationship between Minny and her husband was never mentioned, which then made the ending a little off. Overall it was a good movie and worth seeing at least once, but wait until you've read the book.
I give this a 3 out of 5
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! --- You've been warned!
Now, for more details about everything, and a book vs. movie comparison.
When Skeeter decides that she wants to start writing the maid's stories she starts to make unintentional waves with her friends. Hilly Holbrook has too much ego, too much pride, and too much power in the town. Afterall, Hilly is President of the league and her husband is wanting to kickstart his political career. All the woman see to respect (or is that fear) Hilly, so they follow her orders, sometimes with great reservations. Hilly is not above lying about the maids to fire them or worse, have them fired, and she quickly becomes Skeeters biggest enemy, despite the fact that they've been friends since primary school. Hilly will stop it nothing to make sure everyone in Jackson has shunned Skeeter.
While all this is happening Skeeter does a great job of hiding this from her ailing mother; Charlotte Phelan is none the wiser about her daughters alienation in the community. Though Charlotte is fighting her own health battles (cancerous ulcers, and it looks pretty grim), she is more concerned with her daughter finally meeting a nice young man and getting married. Enter, Stuart Whitworth, the senator's son whom Hilly has set up with Skeeter, long before everything got out of hand. The relationship between Skeeter and Stuart is rough. On their first date he was a complete asshole to Skeeter. A few months after that date Staurt shows up at the Phelan farm to apologize and explain why he acted the way he did, all while acknowledging that it was wrong of him. Charlotte is delighted that Skeeter is "normal", and encourages and in some ways tortures Skeeter to make sure she is always acting like a "proper lady"; wearing the right clothes, that her hair is just right, and that she doesn't start talking about her dreams of being a writer. Charlotte does not want Skeeter to do anything that might scare Stuart away.
Stuart and Skeeter eventually start dating seriously. Then one night The Phelan family is invited to the Whitworth's to have dinner and so the families could finally meet. it was during this dinner that Skeeter realizes that things are wrong between the two of them and Stuart breaks up with her. After much time and much heart break, Stuart shows back up at the Phelan farm begging for forgiveness from Skeeter. He's sorted out his mess and realized Skeeter is the woman he loves. It took some time for Skeeter to let Stuart back in, but she eventually does, after her mother warns her not to take Stuart shit anymore. Charlotte has grown as and found more appreciation for her daughter's personal happiness. The time comes when everything seems to be going right in Skeeters life. The stories she has been writing with the maids is going to be published, she loves Stuart, and Stuart proposes. Skeeter is shocked by the proposal, but before she can say yes she decides she must tell Stuart about the book. That did not go well at all. He is livid about it, and does not agree nor believe in what she did. Stuart takes back his proposal, leaves, and we never hear from him again. Skeeter is devastated but she doesn't tell her mother that the engagement is off before it every really began. In fact, Skeeter tells her mother that she is engaged. Charlotte is on her death bed and Skeeter only wants happy news for her mother.
Now you're probably wondering why I just devoted two paragraphs to the dead end relationship between Skeeter and Stuart. Well, it's because when I first started reading the book I saw a review from another reader that said they didn't understand why Stuart was even included because it was a pointless story. I could not disagree more. After reading the book it became apparent just how much Skeeter gave up to pursue what she believed in and dreamed of. With stern encouragement from Elaine Stein, a female publisher in New York, Skeeter finds her courage to tell the stories of the help. Skeeter lost her position of editor of the League journal, all of her friends, all socializing with white people who are not her family, and probably what hurt the most for her, Stuart. That relationship wasn't for nothing. It was a sign of how much this book and these maids, who are usually treated so poorly by her white friends, truly meant to her. She sacrificed everything for the cause.
When the book is finally released people quickly find out it's about Jackson, even though Skeeter changed to the town name to "Niceville", changed the names of all the maids and employers, and even published it under "anonymous". She did everything she could to spare any backlash for the maids. Thankfully Minny demanded that Skeeter put in a very specific story that would be their insurance policy in case it was ever learned where the real location was and who these maids really were. Hilly is a very smart woman who quickly starts to connect the dots.
As Hilly reads through the book she preaches about this book being about Jackson and that she will figure out who that maids are and they will all be fired for speaking poorly of their employers (though not all the stories are bad, some are actually really nice and gives you a little hope for humanity). Hilly is in hot pursuit of the "blasphemous" maids, that is until she gets to the very last chapter. She has stumbled up Minny's insurance policy, what she calls "the bad thing". Hilly quickly reads the story about a maid in the act of revenge who makes a chocolate pie for her former employer. This pie is supposed to be an apology to the employer after the maid was fired. This chocolate pie is filled with the maid's own shit. A hot, fresh, and steaming chocolate pie. The employer eats two big slices and is getting ready to enjoy a third when the employer's mother comes in and wants a slice. The maid who cares about the mother tells her no that it is only for the employer, but the employer insists that the mother have a small slice if she wants it, but the maid maintains that the mother should not. Finally the maid tells the employer and the mother that the employer is in fact eating shit pie. The mother start laughing while the employer screams. Hilly screams! She realizes that this is her story of the time her asked that Minny come to work for her because she was putting her mother in a nursing home. Now Hilly must decide to either keep on with her witch hunt and let her story come to light, or she defends the book and claims that it's not about Jackson.
In the end, Charlotte gets better and lives. She even knows that Skeeter and Stuart broke up again and there is no going back for a third time. Aibileen is fired from working for Skeeter's former friend Elizabeth after Hilly accused Aibileen of stealing some silver. Aibileen is also going to start taking over for the housekeeping article in the white paper, so long as nobody knows that it's her. Minny is still working for the Foote's (Johnny and Celia; Hilly's ex-boyfriend and his new wife), and she has been promised a job for life, as long as she wants it. She has left her abusive husband and taken all her children with her. Skeeter is offered a job in New York working for the publishing company that published her book. She split all the proceeds from the book 13 ways, so that all the maids get a cut of the profits also. Skeeter also learns the truth about what happened to the maid that raised her (Constantine Bates); a secret everyone had been keeping from her since she returned to college.
Book vs. Movie
The book wins; it will almost always win. However, I like the movie a lot. A lot had to be changed to make the adaption, and I think a lot of the back stories and relationships suffered because of this, but they also altered the some personalities a bit. The things I was disappointed to see changed or glossed over were Celia's miscarriages and the emotional impact it had on her and Minny. This was such an important detail in the development of Minny and Celia's relationship from professional to friend. They also altered Celia's revenge check against Hilly after Minny explained to her why Hilly and the League ladies do not like her, and about the "bad thing". The importance of the relationship between Skeeter and Constantine was also altered. It played a much larger role in the book than in the movie. They even short changed Constantine firing and how that involved her grown white-looking daughter, or the history and trauma of Constantine having to give up her daughter because she looked too white. I wish they would have left this in the movie. However, I don't think they could have played it well with the positive changes they made in Charlotte for the movie. That is the one thing I was most delighted with about the film. Charlotte became a stronger woman in the film, even though in the movie she is sick with cancer from the very beginning, rather than it being a slow development through the book. I was impressed to see Charlotte stand up for her daughter when Hilly came over to accuse Skeeter of the "travesties" of the book. Charlotte stands firm and calls out Hilly for leaving her house looking like a mess, not fixing her hair, and for not covering up the obvious cold sore she's sporting. In the movie Charlotte realizes that Skeeter wrote the book, and she's actually proud of her daughter for it. Overall, both the book and the movie were good, each for their own reasons. I recommend reading the book and seeing the movie.
Everyday, remember the life lessons Aibileen tried to instill in the 4 year old Mae Mobley she was caring for. "You is kind. You is smart. You is important".