Book Review :: The Help

Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel, The Help, is in the voice of three narrators – a young twenty-something progressive white girl and two black housekeepers. It is a story of Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960’s. Miss Skeeter – the white woman – sets out to write a book about the lives of black “domestics” – those who keep house for whites and raise their children in the process. Aibileen and Minny are the other two voices, and they help Skeeter with her book.

Miss Skeeter’s goal in writing the book is not only to show the abuse and inhumane treatment of blacks at the hands of whites, but also to show where true kindness and love exist between them. She says, “For women to realize, ‘We are just two people. Not that much separates us.'”
The motivation for Stockett’s book comes from her own life and the domestic housekeeper her family had – Demetrie. For this reason, it is a courageous book. Stockett admits – and I think she is right – it is quite presumptuous for a white woman to think that she can tell the tale of a black woman in the 60s. And similarly, I think it is just as presumptuous for me to judge how well she accomplished her task. So I won’t try.

What I can say is that it is a good story and a noble purpose. She does a good job – I think – with dialect, but I do wish that the voices of Minny and Aibileen were more distinguishable. Other than the headings and knowing which ‘missus’ was being seen to, you couldn’t really tell them apart.
But all three of her main characters – as well as several of the other minor folks – are very memorable. Aibileen and Minny are fairly well developed, and while Miss Skeeter lacks ’roundness’ (a fault I feel is directly related to her obvious similarities with the author), she too will stick with a reader.
It is a worthwhile read, and probably worthy of the acclaim it has been receiving. However, it would have been just as successful and a more appropriately paced novel had it been 100 pages shorter.


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4 Replies to “Book Review :: The Help

  1. Your blog has been my Saturday night entertainment. I have so many things I need to do, but I can't seem to put your blog "down."

    I won't go on and on about how we've read many of the same books and how your reviews – whether I've read the book or not – have been so interesting to read. I'll just briefly write a few things about The Help, a book I had to read for book club, and one I defintely wasn't interested in reading. But, as often happens, book club served to introduce me to a book that I am so happy to have read. You're right – there were flaws, but overall I think this book deserves the praise it's received.

    I could not believe what a good job Stockett did with the dialect. I have read so many books in which that was done poorly, and my hat is off to Stocket on that alone. One thing that really resonated with me is that the black women were good enough to raise the white women's children but not good enough to use the bathrooms in their house. The disconnect there is just absurd, which crystallizes, for me, the stupidity of racism. I will never forget the relationship between Minnie and the little girl (sorry I can't remember her name right now) for which she cared. How Minnie would whisper to her that she was beautiful & worth something… that I will never forget.

    I'm very excited for your next blog post, and I really appreciate that you pepper your book blog with some personal blogging, too.
    -Stacie Waddell

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