Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Tags: adult, historical fiction, civil rights movement, South, Mississippi, prejudice, writing

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


America may be undergoing the civil rights movement, but Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 feels like the last bastion of the Deep South. White ladies with their black maids socialize in the heat and talk of sending provisions to starving children in Africa, unaware of their own absurdity. For two black maids, experienced Aibileen and loudmouth Minny, and one young white “spinster,” Miss Skeeter, though, their worlds are about to turn upside down.

An aspiring writer, Miss Skeeter, still reeling from the mysterious disappearance of her beloved childhood maid, is driven to write a book that interviews the ups and downs of the lives of maids in Jackson. Easier said than done: the maids have heard of the blacks who were tortured or even killed when they spoke out. Eventually, Aibileen and Minny agree to help Miss Skeeter, but the going is tough as they fearfully keep their secret hidden from the rest of the town.


It’s hard to put into words the scope of this book. THE HELP deals with a piece of Mississippian history that’s little known and even less spoken of. What could have easily fallen into the clichéd ruts of Southern or black American history instead stands on its own due to its smooth writing and unforgettable characters.

Each of the main characters who narrate THE HELP have their own distinct voice, history, and conflicts, which helped make this book richly layered and so much more than what its synopsis implies. Aibileen, Minny, and even Miss Skeeter will be your best friends, while the side characters also hold their own in this world. Even the “evil” characters like Miss Hilly are fully realized, with all their hypocrisy, deeply rooted prejudices, and borderline horrifying penchant for vengeance. The tension builds throughout as the stakes mount, and you’ll barely want to put this down, desperate to find out if everything will be alright.

Not everyone will love this book. Beyond the great writing, story, and characters is an uncomfortable tension with the real history, and that’s the trouble with this book having been written by a white Southern woman. There are those who will probably be offended by the book’s content, and there will also be those who have no problem with its nervous treatment of this sensitive part of American history. But there is no denying Kathryn Stockett’s talent. THE HELP is an incredible achievement of voice and characterization. You can be assured that Stockett will stay on everyone’s radars for a long time to come.

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: Well, I am far from being qualified to comment on covers of adult books. They're just so different. I'll say that I do very much love the gold foil-ness of it, though.

Penguin / Feb. 2009 / Hardcover / 464pp. / $24.95

The copy I read for review was bought by meeeee.


  1. I usually read from the YA genre, but I want to read this one since most people seem to love it. Great review :)

  2. Very nice review indeed, this is one I just can't seem to decide on. To read or not to read.

  3. The owner of Book Court keeps telling me to read this. As does everyone else--and all people with excellent taste. Last night I read a sample on my Kindle and I have to say, it was very likeable. I think I'm going to pull the trigger.

  4. I really need to read The Help. It's the February group read for a goodreads group I'm in.

    I really enjoyed your review, and like how you acknowledge it's treatment of history.

  5. I really liked this one. It totally captured my attention, and I couldn't put it down.

  6. I've wanted to read this book for a few months now. It just sounds so interesting, so great. Now that I know you loved it, I NEED to read it. :]

  7. Good review. Very informative. I normally stick to YA, but I like to stray to Adult every once in a while. This sounds like a book I could make that exception for.

  8. This was recommended to me a few months ago by a family member, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Good review!

  9. I'd been waiting for this! Loved hearing your take on it.

  10. I'm really glad you reviewed this, I was thinking of buying it after seeing it on the bestseller list (I'm trying to read more adult books). Now I'm definitely going to try to get my hands on it :)

  11. This is in my To Purchase list--I want to read it, but some super YA book always takes top priority. :)

    Thanks for the review!

  12. I recently got a copy from PBS, I think, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    I enjoyed your review :-)

  13. This is a beautiful review! I enjoyed this book too, largely for the same reasons, the strong characters and multi-layered story

  14. This isn't the type of book I would normally read, but for some reason, I want to read this. Must be all the good reviews. ;)

  15. well your Po$t is good and i really like it :). . .awesome WORK . . .KEEP SHARING. .;)
    book review help


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