on February 10, 2009
I absolutely LOVED this book. Kathryn Stockett did an amazing job. I loved how the story was written from the perspectives of the different women. I enjoyed seeing the world through their very different eyes and watching them develop throughout the story. The beautifully descriptive writing drew me in and made me feel like I was right there. This is an intense story of how these different women deal with the issue of racism during the civil rights movement. It is a poignant and deeply moving novel. I didn't want the book to end. I think this book would make an amazing movie as well. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.
on August 18, 2009
This has become one of my favorite books. Growing up as a child of the 80's and 90's in Canada this book gave me a very real glimpse of racial segregation in the south in the 60's. The love and empathy that develop's for each of the woman who have a voice in this book makes it impossible to set down.
Miss Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny leave you cheering for them each step of the way. Kathryn Stockett has written a novel that will have you laughing, crying, frustrated, infurirated, heart broken, elated, anxious, engrossed and always wanting more.
If you only read 1 novel this summer make it 'The Help'.
on June 15, 2010
How good is "The Help"? How many books do you know that effortlessly combine moral probity and social consciousness with a wittiness that makes you grin with delight? The year is 1962, Skeeter Whelan comes home from Old Miss with her BA and a yen to write. Her first assignment turns out to be an expose of racism...not the headline making kind that Medger Evers and Martin Luther King were fighting at the time, not school segregation, equal rights and voter registration, but the quiet, insidious kind found in every genteel Southern household. In other words, Skeeter's job is to reveal what it's really like to be a black maid in a white home.
Our would-be writer goes to the source, the maids themselves, but is able to coax only two--under promise of anonymity--to work with her: Minnie, whose outspokenness has cost her many, many jobs, and Abileen, who is considered a jewel, a treasure, and wholeheartedly trusted to raise her employers' precious (and seemingly endless supply of)babies...but not to use the family toilet. Soon, the other maids come flocking to tell their tales.
It's apparent that the church-going, mimosa-scented caucasian ladies of this world haven't made much progress from the days of Simon Legree. Oh, sure, nobody is taking a whip to the cleaning lady, but no law says you can't subject her to a humiliating series of rules, interrogations and suspicions.
The writing is so light and so fresh, you don't quite realize how seriously the writer, Kathryn Stockett, treats the subject. The book is funny...but it's never slapstick and never resorts to caricature, even when Stockett sits us among a group of white ladies sipping cool drinks and planning a fundraiser to save 'the poor black Africans' -- while guilelessly and guiltlessly exploiting the black woman serving them their diet sodas.
And the book isn't a one-note opera. Minnie is, at least on one occasion, the victim of her own misconceptions, and not any misbehavior on the part of a wholly benign employer. Hired by a "white trash" gal who married up, she must remain invisible from the husband. Her employer wants him to believe that she is the cooking/cleaning/washing and ironing wonder. When Minnie is finally caught in the act of cleaning by the husband, she panics...only to find him amused by the situation. It's a very funny scene. The husband walks in wielding an axe (he's cutting down a tree), but all Minnie sees is a big white guy, armed and dangerous. They explain themselves and friendship is brokered over sandwiches.
In some aspects, The Help a look a prejudice from two angles, but it doesn't falter in pointing out where the real culpability lies. The Help inspires thought and raises awareness...but never sledgehammers the message. You can enjoy the book as light reading, an amusing book about Southern mores, or you can go for the message. Either way, it's worth reading. This is Kathryn Stockett's first novel. Judging from the way it's climbed the best-seller charts, we'll be reading her next offering very soon. I can't wait.
on June 15, 2009
What an absorbing book! I could hardly wait until I finished it; yet, I didn't want this book to end. It is filled with people you love to hate; people you love; people who turned out to be less than you thought; people who turned out to be more than you thought. Laugh out loud funny at times; heartbreaking at others. Understated suspense- not the kind we are used to but it is there. To divulge more would be to spoil it. Buy it or borrow it, but read it!
on June 17, 2009
I have to admit that I was emotionally enthralled for the entire duration of reading this book from cover to cover. Stockett is a masterful storyteller, her narrative pulls you in, the suspense keeps you engaged, and the drama makes you want to shed a tear. This book is important because it explores the Jim Crow South in a way that is deeply personal, in a way that no textbook, no documentary could ever explain it. The evil of racism is not simply in the discrimination, but in the way it institutionalizes the power relations between white and black. The lives of these women really pulls you into their world.
As for the story itself, again, Stockett does a great job developing the central characters through multiple monologues. Stockett is also great at using literary devices like irony and satire to great effect. The only criticism I must admit though is that the ending appears cut short a little leaving a slight sense of incompleteness.
Overall, this is one of the best novels I have read in a long long time.
on December 24, 2009
Beautifully written. Rich strong, three dimensional characters. A story without sentimentality, yet intensely life-affirming. Neck-snappingly insightful at times, without being preachy OR full of clichés. Full of hope for the human condition. People in this book definitely grow and change, some more than others, as happens in the real world ... therefore if one reader can't see that, perhaps the writing is a just tad too subtle? But most readers "get it", I see.
on June 20, 2014
Decided to read this since the movie received good reviews. While an interesting read, I was hoping for a more emotional tale, given its topic and setting. For example, the writing doesn't do justice to the danger behind what Skeeter and her subjects are doing.
on October 20, 2011
Kathryn Stockett is a talented writer, and The Help is an extraordinary first novel, but there is a great problem at the heart of it. Stockett takes on the voice of black women in the American South, and no matter how fine her perceptions and how admirable her sentiments, as a white woman (no matter her life-long personal experience as someone from the American South), her imagination can't possibly stretch to contain the totality of black experience.
I live in Canada now, but when I was 9-10 years old, we lived in Texas, and we had "help" -- not live-in help, but someone who came in 3-4 times a week to clean up and prepare the occasional meal. When she could she would baby-sit my two younger sisters and me. She was our favorite baby-sitter.
This was in the early '50s, when segregation still ruled full force. Much later my father told me that the first time Alma came to baby-sit and he got ready to drive her home, she climbed into the back seat of his car. He said, "Come sit up front." She said, "If I do, there's going to be trouble." We came to Texas from Europe, and my father was astonished. He said that was when he began to understand just what segregation in the South really meant.
I can't begin to compare our few years' experience of the American South with Stockett's life-long experience, but I do feel this. As a veteran (white) journalist, even if I had spent my whole life in the South, I would never dare to take on a black person's voice. Stockett's rendition of black speech is accurate, but because it was necessarily written out of a white person's perception, it can only sound patronizing.
I think Stockett could have created a great novel if she had written entirely from a white person's point of view. It would have been more difficult, but writing true is always difficult.
on April 14, 2011
This book was so hard to put down! You cheer for the main characters and get a pit in your stomach when reading the tense parts in the book. Really opened my eyes. We did this for our book club and it was a hit!
on July 13, 2011
What an amazing read. Despite what would typically be considered heavy subject matter, this is a story told with hope, happiness, joy, and a true feeling of success. But of course, the frustration, inequity, cruelty, and sadness are all there too. That's what makes this such a spectacular read. Every emotion imaginable is represented. You will find yourself comparing the relationships to your own real-life relationships - not just between races/cultures, but also between friends, and among family. The characterization is done wonderfully, to the point that 20 pages from the end, I became reluctant to finish reading, knowing that I would miss the characters when it was over!
This was a gripping story and an easy read. Highly recommended!