Nancy's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Posted at Shelf Inflicted

One of my co-workers, a guy who isn’t much of a reader, borrowed The Help from the library based on his English professor’s recommendation. The guy just couldn’t stop talking about the story, so I decided to borrow the audio book. It’s not very often I get to discuss books with people in real life and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by. Audio books are good for me. I was so engrossed in the story and characters that I drove the speed limit on the highway and took the scenic route while running errands. Sometimes I went out at lunch and needlessly drove in circles, or sat in the parking lot at work, waiting for a good place to stop.

It is 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. Twenty-two year-old Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan has returned home after graduating college to find that Constantine, her family’s maid and the woman who raised her, has mysteriously disappeared. Aibileen is a black maid in her 50’s who works for the Leefolt family and cares deeply for their daughter, Mae Mobley. She is still grieving for her young son, who died in a workplace accident. Minny is Aibileen’s closest friend and a wonderful cook, but her mouth keeps getting her into trouble and no one wants to hire her, until Aibileen helps secure her a position with Celia Foote, a young woman who is new in town and unaware of Minny’s reputation.

The story jumps back and forth between the three characters, all of them providing their version of life in the South, the dinner parties, the fund-raising events, the social and racial boundaries, family relationships, friendships, working relationships, poverty, hardship, violence, and fear. Skeeter’s mother wants her to find a nice man and get married, but she’s more interested in changing the world. Her plans to anonymously compile a candid collection of stories about the maids’ jobs and the people they work for will risk her social standing in town, her friendships, and the lives of the maids who tell their stories.

I loved this story! The characters really came alive for me, and the author did a good job acknowledging actual historical events which lent richness and authenticity to the story. I laughed and cried, felt despair and hope. This is an important story that is a painful reminder of past cruelty and injustice. It shows how far we have progressed and how much more we still have to accomplish.
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Reading Progress

December 1, 2010 – Shelved
February 25, 2011 – Started Reading
March 10, 2011 – Shelved as: audio-books
March 15, 2011 – Finished Reading
March 24, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
March 24, 2011 – Shelved as: made-me-cry
March 24, 2011 – Shelved as: race-relations
March 28, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
July 25, 2011 – Shelved as: library-books
May 31, 2013 – Shelved as: shelf-inflicted
May 22, 2015 – Shelved as: award-winners

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)

message 1: by Kwesi 章英狮 (last edited Mar 29, 2011 01:47PM) (new) - added it

Kwesi 章英狮 I have this book, waiting to be read and bought it from a secondhand bookstore! Nice review and I can't wait to read it!

Fiona Great review, Nancy! I too have listened to an adapted/abridged version of this novel on BBC Radio 4. I really enjoyed it. I've just heard a little whisper about a film adaptation...

message 3: by Nancy (last edited Mar 29, 2011 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nancy Kwesi: I hope you enjoy the book. Part of me thinks I would have liked a little more history, something about the radical groups of the time, like the Black Panthers. I also would have liked some of the "bad" characters to have more depth. These flaws were minor, though, and certainly didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story.

Fiona: I think this very character-based story would make an excellent film with the right cast. I wonder who will direct it.

Kwesi 章英狮 I see, maybe you might like to read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

Fiona Nancy wrote: "I think this very character-based story would make an excellent film with the right cast. I wonder who will direct it..."

I'll let you know if I manage to find out. I agree that, with the right director and cast, the film adaptation could be very special indeed.

Bark (Has Atrocious Taste) Great review Nancy. I have a copy on audio and will have to give it a listen soon.

message 7: by Nancy (last edited Mar 30, 2011 01:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nancy Fiona: I'm not sure who would be best suitable to direct this film. As for cast, I think a lot of well-known actors would probably detract from the story.

Thanks, BarkLess. I haven't listened to audio books in quite a while and am glad this was the first I picked up after such a long absence. The narration was excellent!

Kwesi, I have The Secret Life of Bees and plan to read it soon. Did you enjoy it?

Stephanie *Very Stable Genius* I listened to the audio book. The voice actor did a great job, and I loved the book very much. I am usually weary of popular books, no worries with this one.

Kwesi 章英狮 Nancy, yap you can find love in a place you will never expect.

Ellie For some reason, I own this book, started it & got somehow distracted. Your review really helped me refocus. This time I needed some story summary (I don't always) to understand the point & help me tackle the read.
So many thanks.

Fiona Kwesi, thanks for the reading recommendation. I've stacked The Secret Life of Bees upon my to-read shelf.

Nancy, I'll be happy just as long as this novel is skilfully and sensitively adapated. And as you are quite aware, my love of film focuses away from the gloss of Hollywood, so yes I agree with you that it would be better, more appropriate to cast some less-predictable, less well-known actors.

Kwesi 章英狮 Enjoy reading guys!

Nancy I came across Coming of Age in Mississippi after reading other reviews and am thinking I'd like to read this and make a comparison.

Ellie I think that that is an inspired co-read with The Help. Please write what you think of the two after you're finished!

message 15: by Nancy (last edited Jul 08, 2011 06:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nancy Here's my review.

Ellie Excellent review Nancy; you made some very important points. I love Moody's book.

Nancy Thanks, Ellie. I learned of Moody's book from another reviewer of The Help. It's very interesting to read about the same period in history from two entirely different perspectives.

message 18: by Amber (new) - added it

Amber great review! my thoughts exactly.

Nancy Thanks, Drbf. As much as I loved the story, I'm afraid the movie won't be as good. Has anyone seen it yet?

message 20: by Gwen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen Haaland Great review Nancy. Totally agree. I also gave this book 5 stars, and the movie (which I had to see the day it came out) was very good 3 1/2 -4 stars out of 5. Though of course, it could not reach the level of depth and detail the book attained, it is still worthy of viewing and quite well done. Please let us know what you think after seeing it.

Nancy Thanks,Gwen. :) I haven't seen the movie yet, but will post here as soon as I do.

message 22: by Barb (new) - rated it 5 stars

Barb Graf I read the book and agree with your great comments but also heard from my Dad just what a great experience the book on CD was... high praise for the talented ones who produced it.

Nancy I actually did listen to the audio version. The performances were phenomenal.

message 24: by Mez (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mez I agree with you! I absolutely loved this book! I agree that it does teach us about how cruel it was for certain people back in the 60's. The Help is something that everyone should have a chance to read.

Nancy Thanks. :)

Foxthyme Saw the movie and it was great! I'm afraid to read the book now. Usually I read the book then watch the movie and then hate the movie because I preferred the book. So not sure if it will have ruined the book for me, or I'd like it just as much or more....?

Nancy If I see the movie first and really enjoyed it, I'll read the book. If I read the book first, I usually never get around to seeing the movie.

Foxthyme I'll give it a try. :)

message 29: by T (new)

T Moore Nancy: I liked your rating of the book... To me, this is a American classic read.. Dripping with the bipolar zietgeist of Jackson, Miss. in 1962 - 63..

A fun and often funny story design, a different approach conceptually, a study of courage that leads to revolt and a gripping telling of a horrible world of the abuse of humans by humans who have power/wealth on their side...

It is the type of read that will age wonderfully and will someday, be right up there with Harper Lee's, "To Kill A Mockingbird" on all the "Jim Crow" reading lists..

I happen to believe, the book's theme and body of work transfers perfectly forward until this very day - to our Dreamy N.P.R. Yuppie Culture of Separation.. With its acceptance of ugly myth and injustice - that are right in front of us all in our daily lives... It paints the mouth breathing privileged class of today just as well as did those of the Jackson Miss. of the early 1960s.. For today, the theys, as usual, choose to ignore the issues of the abuse of others - issues, that enable their special lives - otherwise it would just ruin their day.. Wouldn't it!!!

I protest...The inclusion of history was necessary and well timed - it was not forced.. You want forced history - read the digressions of pre-Wiki Melville or Hugo.. YIKES!!!

message 30: by Bliss (new)

Bliss There is a new book released that you'd probably like: Jade Conquer

message 31: by Skip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip Did you read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd?

Nancy No, I haven't. Should I?

message 33: by Skip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip I liked it, especially when I understood that it was loosely based on a true story.

Nancy Thanks, I'll check it out. I have The Secret Life of Bees on my shelf somewhere. Have you read that one?

message 35: by Skip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip 4.24 avg rating — 52,028 ratings for Invention

Gretchen I too listened to the audio book and I was sorry to see it end. I have no doubt I enjoyed the audio performances more than I would have reading it. Absolutely wonderful.

Nancy Glad you enjoyed it, Gretchen.

Cecily I hope your non-reading co-working isn't majoring in English!

Nancy Cecily wrote: "I hope your non-reading co-working isn't majoring in English!"

No, he's not majoring in English. But this book has made a reader of my former co-worker. Even though we no longer work together, we still keep in touch occasionally and chat about books.

Cecily That's wonderful!

It also goes against a line I just read in Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" (but didn't note in my review), along the lines of there being nothing like a bit of smut to encourage reading.

Nancy Sometimes that's just what it takes to break down non-readers. I'd like to think that time and an open mind would eventually expose them to higher quality literature.

message 42: by Cecily (last edited May 13, 2015 10:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cecily Nancy wrote: "I'd like to think that time and an open mind would eventually expose them to higher quality literature."

Yes, but even if it doesn't, they've still learned to read for pleasure (and although this may not be high quality literature, it isn't trashy, either).

Cecily Found it: “There’s nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy.” Not that it applies here.

Lawyer It's always so nice to see a review you missed the first go around. Yours is superb. I'm glad this one popped up in my feed. Simply superb.

Nancy Lawyer wrote: "It's always so nice to see a review you missed the first go around. Yours is superb. I'm glad this one popped up in my feed. Simply superb."

Thanks for your kind words! I'm sorry I'm only noticing this now.

Nancy $1.99 on Amazon!

message 47: by Evan (new)

Evan You overpaid. I'm pretty sure I could have fished you a freebie out of the dumpster.

Nancy wrote: "$1.99 on Amazon!"

Nancy I didn't pay for it! Just informing friends of the deal. I borrowed the audio version from the library.

message 49: by Evan (new)

Evan Smart choice. And I admire your public service.

Nancy wrote: "I didn't pay for it! Just informing friends of the deal. I borrowed the audio version from the library."

message 50: by Joanne (last edited Jun 26, 2016 02:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joanne Great review Nancy and I agree 100%

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