Thursday, 31 March 2011

March Book Review

Whilst my reading of the Classics is skipping along merrily, my reading of anything else seems to have ground to almost a complete halt.

I couldn’t even tell you why this is – I guess there’s been quite a lot of stitchery going on at the moment, maybe that’s kept me busy, who knows?

Anyhoo March’s line-up looks something like this:

1. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
2. Divas Don’t Knit - Gil McNeil
3. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Divas Don’t Knit was sent to me by the marvellous Clare and came at a more than brilliant time. I needed a break from Classic-ing out all over the place and nothing says “Break” more than “chick-lit about wool”.

In a nutshell?

Woman’s husband dies, her and her children move to the seaside and she takes over the running of a wool shop. As you do. Everything all turns out well. The end.

I’m not being disparaging here – just relating the basic facts of the story, and in fact, as these sorts of books go, this was pretty good. Engaging, funny, it ticked all the right boxes for me at that point in time. And I even have the second book to move on to when I need another break from the heavier stuff I’ve been reading.

The Help has been on my bookshelf for a criminally long time and I have been meaning to read it, especially as reviews seemed to pour in from everywhere with people raving about it.

Sometimes, with a book it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that grabs you and draws you in – is it the characters? The storyline? The background? Or an amalgamation of everything? The story itself was interesting and the characters were...ok...but for me it was more the subject Kathryn Stockett had decided to tackle – namely the issue of racism in 1960s Mississippi.

The Help is told by 3 people – Aibileen and Minny – both servants working for high society ladies, and Miss Skeeter – part of the group of high society ladies, but one with a conscience.

Miss Skeeter sets out to write down the stories as told by The Help around her small town – Aibileen and Minny are two of the contributors and persuade others to take part. The story revolves around this basic plotline, whilst providing an insight into the lives of these three women.

I am struggling to say more about it, I did really enjoy it and thoroughly concur with all the other people who have said that they liked it but I am finding it incredibly difficult to pin down and tell you the things I really liked. What I did find myself doing was putting the book down every so often and just reminding myself that this wasn’t that long ago. We’re not talking about a hundred years ago, we’re talking a couple of generations. I can’t even begin to understand how people could think and behave in such abhorrent ways.

What I like is that Stockett doesn’t over-simplify a situation which it would have been all too easy to do so. She, if you will excuse a poor taste pun, doesn’t put things in black and white – there are shades of grey in between and no character is one dimensional – it would have been easy to slot people into caricatures and deal with the subject that way instead.

I did feel the ending was a little disappointing. I don’t always need things tied up with a pretty little bow and this certainly isn’t one of those, but nor do I love endings which just stop abruptly, as I feel this did. It was as if she had imposed a word limit and, upon approaching it, just stopped writing.

Well worth picking up.


Book of the month? Well I did love The Help but I’m afraid The Moonstone holds a special place in my heart.


  1. If I can dig out a copy of The Moonstone from the classics shelf at home, it's definitely going to be packed in with my holiday reading. If not, I shall stalk the charity shops of Kent until I find a copy!

  2. Ah yes, I enjoy a chick lit every now and then, especially if I've just read something heavy. But not if I'm reading it and thinking I could write better.

    The Help sounds really interesting, must track it down. I haven't read anything in March, I'm hopelesss. Can I blame the baby blanket again?!

  3. I love Gil McNeil's books, they're so easy and nice and whatehave you to read. I really really love that they have happy endings! It is nice to read a book at not be challenged by it or try to find some deeper meaning. Of course, the author totally just writes about herself. She lives in Kent and has a 6 yo son, and she knits. Ok. All of her books are ... single mothers, set in Kent, all have some kind of famous/rich best friend, all involve a holiday, usually somewhere Italian/Siciclian/Venitian and there is usually either a wedding, a baby, or some kind of local fete.
    but you know what? I am very happy to read that same basic storyline over again because it appeals to me right now and I DON'T CARE if other people want to be book snobby about it. Ditto "The Princess Diaries". Most awesome series of books you could ever read.

  4. I like Sharon Owens for a bit of chick lit. No other chick lit really keeps me avidly reading like she does.

    I'm still really chuffed that you loved The Moonstone! x

  5. I have a tiny brain today so I might have said this before, but I'm really enjoying the Philip Kerr novels you recommended last month. I've read/listened to March Violets and I'm starting Pale Criminals next. I'd never have found them on my own so thank you!

  6. You do amaze me with your prolific reading...I'm soooo is pants! xxx


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