Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reviews in Twos!

Alright, after this installment I’ll be up to date with all my reviews (yay me!). That doesn’t mean that Reviews in Twos is gone for good though because who’s to say I won’t get lazy posting my reviews in the future and will have to mush them together again to catch up?

This time around I read what I’m almost positive will be seen as a modern classic in a few decades: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Can’t believe it took me so long to get around to that one. It had been on my shelf since it was published! Next was the ACTUAL classic (which I’ve already talked a bit about in my January 31, 2011 post): The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

And here they are for your reading pleasure…

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
5 stars

This is the lovely story of three women living in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Two are African-American maids, Minny and Aibileen, working for white families and the third is a young white woman, Skeeter, that has just returned home from college. Skeeter has aspirations of becoming a writer and while Minny aspires to get through the day without getting fired or beaten by her husband and Aibileen tries not to overstep her bounds while raising a white woman's daughter to not see color. They aren't civil rights activists but in their own ways they push the limits and each try to earn their own type of freedom along the way.

This was a wonderfully moving story that gripped me from almost the very beginning. It was really hard to believe that this was Kathryn Stockett's first novel because she wrote so beautifully. Each woman in the story has her own unique voice which I thought was very interesting and unique and pulled me in more. Even if Stockett had not entitled each chapter with which woman was narrating it would’ve easily been clear. And though these were fictional characters, I really ended up caring immensely for them and it felt like I was reading true parts of history. And it was tied in to the history of the South and Jackson. It could definitely be described as a historical-fiction. There is a whole part on Medger Evers’ murder. It’s an interesting tie-in. But it was not all depressing and sad, as one would actually expect to find in a novel that deals with topics as heavy-handed as this. Stockett mixed just the right amount of humor in so that it wasn't too horrible. There were parts where I definitely remembering smiling and laughing. There was just the right balance in my opinion. I would recommend this book to anyone.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
3 1/2 stars

Oscar Wilde's only published novel is the tale of a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who, in posing for an artist, Basil, becoming his muse and meeting his good friend Lord Henry has his life changed forever. Lord Henry is a very witty yet completely self-absorbed character who Dorian finds himself immediately drawn to. Lord Henry points out to Dorian how sad it is to have beauty fade and how youth is really the most important thing in life. Agreeing with this, and having just seen the beautiful portrait Basil just painted of him, Dorian becomes horribly upset and wishes that the picture would be the one to age and become ugly while he could live out his life always young and beautiful. Little does Dorian know that when his wish comes true, his life changes in ways he had never imagined and it starts an inner struggle within himself for years to come.

I thought this story was very intriguing but unfortunately took a while to get going for me. In the beginning I appreciated many of Wilde's witticisms, most of which were uttered by Lord Henry, but that was about it. However, after the twist came where Dorian realized the portrait was aging instead of himself it definitely got much better and the meaning much deeper. I felt Wilde really got into the psychology of the double life and he was able to elicit quite a response out of me (I was literally screaming at Dorian sometimes he made me so furious). I wondered if Wilde was not at all influenced by the book I had read a bit earlier this month, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

However, I felt that just when the novel was picking up steam Wilde decided to throw in Chapter 11. It was a very tedious and, in my opinion, almost completely pointless chapter. It took me completely out of the pace of the story. Had it not been for that chapter I would've been able to give this 4 stars instead of 3.5. Otherwise, very good indeed.


Anonymous said...

I liked this novel, but it was so long ago, I can't remember the dreaded Chapter 11 that I keep hearing about. I think CL on Shelfari talked about it too...

llevinso said...

She did! I think she even said she nodded off a few times while trying to finish that chapter.

Marisa said...

I think I need to read it again because I too have forgotten about the dreaded Chapter 11. Great review!

llevinso said...

Thanks Marisa. It was a hard chapter to read but as I said in my review, I think the book overall made very interetsting observations. I can't wait to read more of his work!