Started, Death at La Fenice & The Help

I’m struggling with reading much of anything at the moment, but I heard about a couple of interesting books lately, both totally out of genre for me, and I decided maybe a complete change of scene is what I need.

I listen to a bunch of podcasts from BBC Radio 4 and one was a book club discussion of Donna Leon’s first Guido Brunetti murder mystery, Death at La Fenice. I put a reserve on a copy from the library and collected it on Saturday. I’m about half way through and enjoying it so far.

Today, I saw a review of The Help on one of the blogs I read (sadly, I now can’t remember which) that included a trailer for the movie. Between the blogger’s comments and watching the trailer, I decided I was interested and started reading the Kindle sample. I’ve now bought the book and again, I’m enjoying it so far. The book is set in the US South during the sixties, which is a time and place so completely out of my experience (I grew up in New Zealand, which is much more British than American, and was only born in 1969) that I admit to generally passing by such books. I’m glad I stopped to read this one. Hopefully, that’ll teach me to do it again.

The Help

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women – mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends – view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Death at La Fenice

Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor whose intermission refreshment comes one night with a little something extra in it-cyanide. For Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and detective genius, finding a suspect isn’t a problem; narrowing the large and unconventional group of enemies down to one is. As the suave and pithy Brunetti pieces together clues, a shocking picture of depravity and revenge emerges, leaving him torn between what is and what should be right — and questioning what the law can do, and what needs to be done.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. The Help was one of my favourite reads last year! Hope you continue to enjoy it.

    I read the Donna Leon book a couple of years ago and I meant to read the second book in the series, but never quite got around to it.

    Reply

  2. Sorry to hear that you’re struggling with reading. Fingers crossed for your current reads 🙂

    Reply

  3. I’ve been reading The Help all evening when I should have been doing other things. I’m getting close to halfway and I really better stop now and get some sleep.

    It’s interesting, as I’m outraged by the segregation laws and all that follows from that, but at the same time it’s almost like it could be a created fantasy world. I know it was real, but like I said in the post, it’s so far outside my experience I almost can’t relate to it. I simply cannot understand how someone could truly believe that the colour of someone’s skin actually makes them inferior. I know people did, and some still do sadly, but sitting here reading in New Zealand in 2011 it seems kind of insane to me.

    Reply

    • I take it back. I’ve read a few more chapters and now I’m definitely outraged. I still don’t understand, but I’m starting to want to reach into the book and slap a few people around to make them see how totally stupid they are.

      Reply

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