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The Help is one of those books that stays with you for a very long time after you have read it and it makes you think and question people in a way you've never done before.
I first read The Help about a year ago when it was suggested as a read for our book club. Ever since school when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I've really been fascinated by stories set in Americas Deep South and those dealing with race relations.
The story is about African American maids working in white houses in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi. It is a book within a book in a way as one of the main white characters, a girl called Skeeter who has just come back from university, is quite upset at the way the black maids are being treated. She grew up with a wonderful maid who literally raised her and she feels sad at the way these women are treated. She wants to tell their story and have it published but most of the maids are unwilling to talk for fear of reprisals. Eventually she gets two maid to talk about their stories, Aibileen and Minny and the things they have to say are both shocking but also quite funny in places too. The relationship that develops between these women is quite astonishing and I love the way the author, Kathryn Stockett writes their characters and intertwines their lives.
In parts I found this book quite light hearted and often found myself laughing even though when you really think about it the subject matter is not that funny.
I'm white myself but I don't think that has anything to do with it and how i feel about this book. It's more human nature and feeling and knowing that this is no way to treat a human being, no matters if they are a maid or not.
The book has received quite a bit of criticism, not least from real life people who claim they were the inspiration for the story. According to an article I read, "Abilene Cooper, a maid who used to work for Stockett's brother, has criticized the author for stealing her life story without her knowledge and sued her for $75,000 in damages."
The book has been a wonderful success though. According to an article I read, "The Help has since published in 35 countries and three languages. As of August 2011, it has sold five million copies and has spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.
I really enjoyed this book as just a story but also as a piece of history too and think its an important story that everyone should read.
I find it easy to motor through most books, but every now and then I like to read something with more depth and intensity. Following World Book Day and the release of the supposed 100 best books ever written, I have decided to try and make my way through the list, as I am doing with Empire's top 500 films of all time. I have only read a few from the list, and Kathryn Stockett's The Help was one on there. Not normally the sort of book I would read either in terms of style or subject. It's much more my wife's sort of book, but even she gave up on it about a third of the way through, and this had initially put me off.
I soon realised though that you just have to be in the right mood for such a book. I don't get the chance to sit down and read for hours on end, and so it has taken me a few weeks to read it, but I'm so glad I did. It's powerfully written from three perspectives, and is a brave and bold look at segregation in Mississippi in the 1960s. The book's title is the term used for the black maids working for white families, specifically here in Jackson, Mississippi. It focuses on three women, two black and one white, who embark on a mission to expose the horrors and occasional niceties of segregation and how black people were treated at the time. Although largely a work of fiction, it is spurred by the memory the author has of her maid when she was a little girl, so there is certainly some personal feeling in the book.
The book is told from a first person narrative perspective, but split between the three main characters. Aibileen, an ageing help, is perhaps the main character in many ways. She is the first perspective we experience, and straight away Stockett demonstrates the social difference in class between the white housemothers and the help they employ - the word 'slave' certainly wouldn't be misplaced in terms of how some of the women treat their help, and this exposure so early on sets a benchmark for the rest of the book. Aibileen is a calm and respected woman within her community and you get the feeling that she is considered to be one of the best helps among the white women as well.
We then switch to Minny, a friend of Aibileen's who is a lot more volatile and quick with her tongue. This has meant she has lost more jobs than she has children, and she seems to churn these out at quite a rate as during pregnancy is the only time her abusive husband Leroy does not hit her. Hers seems to be a more carefree attitude, but the abuse she suffers at home and the false accusations of theft from her employer at the beginning of the book is a reminder of how doing what they want and seeking to have a nice life is punished almost instantly from every angle. I've yet to watch the film, but I can see how Minny's character would be the most entertaining to watch from a film goer's point of view, even if her treatment is certainly not likely to be entertaining.
The third perspective, that of social outcast Skeeter Phelan, is perhaps the most integral to the book. She is an aspiring writer and seeks to gain a foot in the door by writing for the local paper. She lands the opportunity to write the weekly Miss Myrna column in the paper, which deals with answering letters about household tips. A privileged white woman still with her parents whose maid has always done everything for them, she doesn't have a clue how to start, and with the recent mysterious departure of her childhood maid, she doesn't feel as if she can ask the new maid for help with the column. However, her best friend Elizabeth Leefolt's maid is one of the best maids around for household work. It's Aibileen.
Thus begins the most tentative of relationships between Skeeter and Aibileen, a white woman asking a black woman for household tips advice that quickly descends into Skeeter wondering why black people ar treated so badly and just take it. There are brief tales of horrors and violence throughout the book, and as Aibileen and Skeeter embark on an anonymous way of exposing the truth about what happens behind closed doors, the various main and sub plots develop solidly all around them, dangers of being found out and of others' lives constantly increasing despite the false nice public personas the white people always show.
Really, I didn't how to approach the subject matter when writing this review. I think it's something we're all aware of that used to happen a lot more widely than it does now, but I think you'd be a fool to think that nowhere has this happen any more. Sure, it's a lot less now, and events in the 60s and 70s have certainly led to the equality we experience so much more nowadays. This is a stark reminder of just how bad it was in such an open manner in the Deep South. The way it's written will make you angry in so many places, and it's a testament to the author that characters such as Hilly Holbrook are such horrible people that you loathe them throughout and hope they get their come uppance.
It's not all doom and gloom, and there are some moments of humour, romance and pure hopes and wishes dialogue that open out the characters and the plot and make the whole thing a lot deeper and less streamlined. Each character becomes quite firmly etched on your mind by the end of the book, and I think that reading it over a longer time period, as I have done, certainly helped with allowing me to process the information and story that Stockett wanted to tell. The writing style changes depending on who is telling the story, with Skeeter's parts written in proper written English, Minny's less so with slight amendments, and Aibileen's even more pronounced with slang, spelling and grammar altered quite severely to reflect how she would speak. This is perhaps the most effective part, as it shows just how thoughtful Stockett has been.
Showing things from both a black and white perspective cements the all round view of the subject matter, although Skeeter's viewpoint is certainly in favour of the help and not from those in her social class. If there could have been any improvements to the book to really nail it down, it would have been to present things from the viewpoint of one of the housewives, who really come across as horrible on the whole. We don't really get to see their perspective from a narrative point of view. However, what Stockett does do is make them all vocal enough that we certainly know how they feel because they're happy to talk down to and about their help in front of them and within earshot. Perhaps a fourth viewpoint would not have worked. Just a thought.
Nothing, though, has diminished my enjoyment of this book. I thought it was excellently written, and proposes a very realistic ending. Quite often, fiction allows you to take the easy road and give a 'happy' ending, one that conforms to what you may expect and delivers a feel good take on things. Without giving things away, Kathryn Stockett stays true to the content of the book and a certain sense of reality with her ending, and I appreciated that the ending reflected the content, pace and delivery of the book. Style and panache delivered throughout. A thoroughly recommended read, but you have to be in the right mood and be determined to see it through to the end.
I kept seeing this advertised but I didn't ever look into reading it because it didn't look like it would appeal to me and I hadn't heard from family or friends that it was a must read. However, when I heard they were making it into a film I decided it must be worth looking into so after reading the product description on Amazon I decided to give it a go even though it didn't sound like my usual light hearted chick-lit.
The book is set in 1960's America in a town called Jackson. There was still segregation between black and whites at this time and a lot of white families had black maids working for them. First of all we meet Aibileen who works for Elizabeth. Aibileen tries to enjoy her work as much as she can, although Elizabeth does like to think she's above her she adores Elizabeth's two year old daughter Mae-Mobley.
We then meet Minnie who is also a maid serving a friend of Elizabeth's. Unlike Aibileen, Minnie hates her job and doesn't hesitate to tell people how much of a witch she thinks her boss is. At home things aren't easy for Minnie either who has an alcoholic and abusive husband.
Skeeter is a friend of both Aibileen's and Elizabeth's bosses. Unlike her friends she is not married yet and has just returned from college. She is an aspiring writer and needs to find an interesting concept to write about in order to attract a publishers attention. She too had a maid when she was younger, Constantine who she adored but since returning from college she has discovered Constantine has left and nobody will say why. After mulling this over, Skeeter decides it would be very interesting to learn more about a maid's life. However, no black maids would risk their jobs over a white ladies book, would they?
I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book but as soon as I began reading I was absolutely hooked. Usually I take at least a week to read a book as I do like to pick it up and put it down numerous times, however I managed to get through about a third of the book in one morning which is extremely rare for me.
The story is told from the perspectives of Aibileen, Minnie and Skeeter. Each chapter is from a different point of view and in order to understand who is speaking each chapter begins by stating the womans name at the top. The chapters are not in an order where each woman speaks in turn, for example you can sometimes have two chapters from the same woman in a row. Initially I thought that I would rather the entire book was from Aibileen's point of view but I quickly realised how much more opinion and information we as the reader received from all three women. I think it was especially important to hear from Skeeter as she was supposed to be on the other side of the fence. The fact that the book is written from three points of view means there is always something interesting going on. To begin with I preferred chapters from Aibileen and Skeeter but when Minnie changed employers I found her new situation fascinating and looked forward to hearing more from her.
The three main characters are all very loveable despite being very different. I think my favourite character was probably Aibileen, she was a strong, proud woman who worked very hard and was also quite lonely after the murder of her son a year or two previously. Minnie is a hilarious character and she is very bubbly and fun, she is not afraid to speak her mind and it is easy to see how her mouth can easily get her into trouble. I loved the character of Skeeter as she was so different from what she should have been, she was not afraid to stand up to her peers and was well educated and empathetic.
There is one main goal in the story and although the ending of it can be predicted from the start there are lots of surprises along the way. By having three main characters it allows the author to put in three times as much action and events.
The writing style of the book is written how the women would say it. For example, Skeeters chapters were written in well spoken English which were very easy to follow and AIbileen's and Minnie's were written how they would speak, for example Aibileen says 'I done called everbody'.
The plot flows very well throughout the novel and I certainly enjoyed reading it. I felt compelled to read and read to discover what happened next and I was quite disappointed when I reached the end. The ending was done very well and was perfect in my opinion but I wanted to read more, maybe there will be a sequel?!
The book was written by Kathryn Stockett.
It was published by Penguin in 2009.
It has 476 pages.
The book is available from Amazon for £3.86 for the paperback edition or £3.99 for the kindle version.
A film has been released of the book and is now available on DVD (£11.99 from Amazon).
The film was released in 2011 and I saw it a few weeks ago on Sky Box Office. I had been very much looking forward to seeing the film and I did enjoy it. I thought it was a good representation of the book however there were parts that were missed out or changed which I felt were important to the plot. However, on the whole I thought the film was brilliant and I would definitely watch it again.
A very good book which has taken the book world by storm. Very enjoyable for any lovers of fiction and certainly recommended. The three main characters are all loveable and interesting and provide a lot of entertainment. One I could read again.
Kathryn Stockett's The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights movement. Life in Jackson, however, does not really seem to be changing. The Help is a story of two black maids (the help), and one white woman who writes a book about the experiences of maids in Jackson.
The style of The Help throws you slightly at first, written as it is in a first-person Southern US twang - perhaps you could call it an accent or dialect, but neither seems quite right. This is particularly noticeable in the sections narrated by Aibileen and Minny, the maids. Yet once you get into the swing of it, the style is an integral part of the novel. It helps transport you to Jackson in the 1960s, and really gives a sense of place - the style even helps to convey the summer, as that way of speaking is synonymous with the hot southern states.
The story of The Help is very interesting, and shows how segregated the USA was in the not so distant past. This side of the novel was actually quite hard for me to grasp. I found it difficult to comprehend this place and time with its inherent racism, it being so different to anything I have know. The Help is very easy to place in time, thanks to the style of writing and how well Stockett portrays day-to-day life, and perhaps this is what made it hard to grasp - the 1960s are not long ago.
As for the story itself, it is certainly gripping. I became attached to the three women, and caught up in the excitement of the book they worked on together, as well as the risks they were taking in writing it. There is plenty of tension throughout the novel as the women work on the book, always afraid of being caught, and this really keeps you turning the pages as you wonder whether someone is suddenly going to realise what they are doing, or, after publication, who wrote it and who the maids interviewed were.
My only complaint about the novel would be the ending. It is left rather open for all three women, and we don't know how things will work out for them. As I was attached to them by the end of the novel, I wanted to know that they would definitely have a happy ending. On the other hand however, you could look at this ambiguity as one of the novel's strengths: if this were reality, and these three women had published a tell-all book about the lives of black maids in 1960s Jackson, things wouldn't end all neatly tied up. There would be uncertainty about their futures, just as Stockett has written in The Help.
The Help is a really enjoyable read - well written, tense, and educational at the same time. It is Kathryn Stockett's only novel to date, but I look forward to her future work.
"THE HELP" BY KATHRYN STOCKETT
I have been given this book twice by two of my daughters so I think they must have thought it was a book that I would like. Indeed they were right it was just the kind of book that appeals to me. It was set in America and as I studied American Studies at University I have always enjoyed books set in this country. I also have an interest in black history in America and this was an area that I studied in depth so this book hit the spot in both setting and the content.
There have been some wonderful books set in America's deep south ranging from 'Gone With the Wind' Uncle Tom's Cabin', through to 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' by Harper Lee which must be one of my all time favourite books then more recently 'The Book of the Negro' and 'Mudbound' as well as 'Kindred' both of which I reviewed on here some time ago. There are just so many but these spring to my mind as I sit typing this.
I was surprised to discover that the author Kathryn Stockett was actually a white woman as the book is basically told through the voices of black women working as servants back in 1962 in Jackson Mississippi where " Black maids raise white children but aren't trusted not to steal the silver...."
The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi and basically tells the story of two black women who work in white families' homes and one white woman who wants to tell the story of black women who work in this way at a time that it was not 'right to talk of such things'.
Firstly we have Aibileen, who works for Miss Leefolt and her husband. Aibileen has had a hard life and has recently lost her only son to a horrible 'accident' she is a gentle caring lady who genuinely loves those white children in her care, possibly we feel, more than the parents in this case. She is very fond of the rather tubby and carelessly cast aside Mae Mobley who is the daughter of the Leefolts. Aibileen is most respected in her own community and church. She is very religious and writes all her prayers and if she has mentioned someone in her prayers then often those people are helped so she has something of a place of special honour amongst her friends. The fact that she can read and write is somewhat unusual for black people at this time as it was felt that too much learning made them insubordinate!!
The next important character who helps tell the story is Minny who is Aibileen's friend. Minny unfortunately says things without thinking of the consequences and doesn't tolerate being treated wrongly and this has lost her a few jobs She is married to a drunk who treats her badly and it is Minny the family depends on for food and shelter. Her husband, Leroy only stops physically abusing her when she is pregnant so she has a large family. Minny is a brilliant coo and her food is famous so that has kept her a few jbs but her final act of rebellion towards her most unpleasant boss is hilarious. The reader gets hints of what this was and it isn't until near the end we discover what she actually did and ..... well I won't spoil it for you
The author of the book being written in the story is a white character known as "Skeeter" Phelan. She got the name from her brother who said she looked like a mosquito and her real name is Eugenia. She is an academic and not as attractive as her mother would like her to be. She lives on a small cotton plantation with her parents and is very capable of driving trucks and tractors but her real love is reading and writing. She is desperate to get a job in this area and finally get one as the writer of a column on cleaning tips for a small local paper. She knows nothing about cleaning and has to turn to Aibileen for advice and hence the friendship develops. Skeeter comes up with the idea of writing a book based on the stories told by different maids in white homes. It was an almost impossible task to get anyone to share their story for publication as this would have meant major punishment for anyone caught. Bear in mind that at this time In Mississippi a black person could be beaten to within an inch of his life just for using a white person's toilet.
Back in this time in the Deep South young white girls were encouraged to meet potential husbands and get married. After this they did 'good work' and charity stuff. Ironically doing things like raising money for people in Africa at the same time as treating the blacks around them with a total lack of care. 'Skeeter's mother was almost at the stage of giving up Skeeter as a lost cause although she does have a couple of suitors in the story which pleases her mother more than Skeeter herself.
Obviously these are not the only characters in the book. Skeeter meets socially with Miss Leefolt and her old school and college friend Hilly for cards and of course charity work. Hilly is a very strong and manipulative person who tries to control the 'friends' around her and certainly is pretty unpleasant to those black people she comes across. Her big crusade is for all white homes to have a separate toilet for their servants as he believes they are dirty and spread disease. She is one of those amazingly strong and disillusioned people who feel they are doing 'good' but are so sadly misinformed and end up causing endless trouble for everyone they meet. There is a really funny episode in regard to this toilet issue which did make me laugh and was the reason Skeeter's was ousted by Hilly in the white society in Jackson. Despite the fact that we come to despise Hilly and all she represents she is a necessary evil in the story as she is the representative voice of prejudice and her really outrageous behavior and attitude shows how very idiotic and wrong the segregation was back in that time.
I thought that all the characters were very real from the main characters, (both the ones you like and the ones you hate as you read) as well as the minor characters like Skeeter's boss were all crafted with care and accuracy. I could see these people so clearly as well as hear them speak.
STYLE OF WRITING
The style the author chooses is simple and almost conversational. It is a very easy book to read as the story is straightforward and the style clear. In some parts of the story such as In the chapters told through Skeeter the story is written in the first person in Standard Amercan English. At other times the author uses the southern black style of talking, particularly when it is Aibileen and Minny's turn to take over the story. I didn't find this a problem and in fact made it easier to hear the different voices of the characters' talking. In my view it made the characters seem more realistic as they were thinking and talking in the way that would have been spoken by maids back in that time.
Throughout the book terms that we would find quite offensive are used but that is part of the style and time of the setting of the book. If everything had to be politically correct for our time then the atmosphere and tension would have been lost. I think that made the book even more believable and poignant so I can fully appreciate why these terms are used in the book.
A BIT ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathryn Stockett was born in Jackson in 1969 and she had a maid called Demetrie whom she was very fond of. As she said herself in an interview in the Daily Mail: "... growing up, I adored Demetrie as much as my own mother. In some ways, she was better than our mother, who was always busy (I am one of five)....".. Looking at her life and experiences it obvious that the story and things that happen in "The Help" were based on Stockett's own life and things she swa and lived through which is why I think the story and characters are so real and believable.
WHAT DID I THINK?
This is Kathryn Stockett's first novel and I really hope it isn't her last as it was written with such attention to detail and the charcters are so real that you really do feel that you know them by the end of the book. Towards about half way through the book I was reading well into the night as I wanted to know what was happening to the different characters. I was willing them to get the book written and really concerned when things didn't go well for some.
I loved the way the author tied the different elements of the story together. There was always a bit of a mystery that you wanted to find out more about. What did Minny do to Hilly that was so terrible? What did happen to Skeeter's old nanny Constantine that made her leave without ever saying goodbye?
I also really admire the way the real issues of segregation and horrible treatment of the blacks in the Deep South was brought to our attention but not labored. It was described in the way it would have been at the time not as someone looking at the situation from our time and viewpoint. This made it feel much more authentic to me.
By writing as if at the time in question the author makes us very aware of the clear boundaries that existed between the two races. People of the two races were not even allowed to mix socially so Skeeter's friendship with Aibileen was very difficult to organise and the fact that Skeeter went to Aibilleen's house was very brave on both their parts. There was no way that the 'help' would eat at the same table as the family and some white people actually believed that black people were 'dirty' or even 'diseased..This is strange as the families were quite happy to have them look after their babies almost entirely, very odd I thought.
Skeeter is a person ahead of her time in the fact that she obviously feels that the segregation of this time was wrong and does her best to open other people's eyes as to what is going on in the Deep South through the book she is writing with these women who are in domestic service. Some of the whites seem to take their position as the 'superior' race very seriously and go out of their way to ensure the 'lesser' people know their place. Hilly, Skeeter's college friend is one such person, a real nasty racist who refers to the help as the "nigra" and makes their lives as unpleasant as possible. I could cheerfully have done something nasty to her. As I said before Minny achieves a small revenge which I found Hilly totally deserved and was very clever but you will have to read the book to find that out.
Beside the white black social divide we are also made aware that some whites are of a higher social status than others. Even to the extent that the black help even looks down on their white bosses. This is brought to our attention when Minny takes a job at Celia Foote's house after being dismissed by Hilly's mother. Celia is considered little better than white trash and despite the fact she treats Minny very well, Minny only feels contempt for her. Celia is shunned by the society set in Jackson beause Hilly says she is to be rejected such is the power wielded by this unpleasant and vindictive woman.
Jackson it seems was a much smaller community, rather like a country town where everyone knows what is going on in everyone else's business and this is the kingdom ruled over by hilly and her group of society women. Racism is a fact of life that is simply just accepted by the majority as that is what they have grown up knowing. It is only a small minority who think that it isn't right and Skeeter is one of those but her views are not acceptable and she is ostracized by Hilly and her society friends.
Yes indeed I would say it is well worth a read if you have any interest in American history and books set in the USA or indeed just enjoy a darn good story. I found it a very sensitive portrayal of the families' lives in Jackson in the 1960s. It really captured the feel of the place and the stifling and controlling way society worked back then in the Deep South. How the prejudices were so entrenched that people just thought that was 'the way it was done' and didn't even question whether it was right. I am not so naïve as to think that there isn't any racial prejudice in the USA today but as least things have improved and legally racial inequality is an offence. Like in the UK there are still many people who are racially prejudiced against others but at least they can't be open about it and things have moved forward in many ways .Certainly in the biggest majority of the population these prejudices are abhorred.
Although the subject matter is not the most cheerful and the time the book is set must be one of the worst for black people in the USA the book is not a deep and depressing read. There are times when you had to smile when reading about specific events, both actually relating to things that happened to Hilly. There were other times when I was actually shocked, other times when I felt a tear coming into my eyes so it is a novel stirring many mixed emotions set in a good story which holds your attention from very early on.
It does still seem incredible to me that it was only within my lifetime that these changes have finally taken place. I clearly remember the protests and marches in the 60s and 70s and to think that at this time an apartheid system not that different from what happened in South Africa still happened in the Deep South of the USA. Blacks and whites went in different doors at the cinema, they sat in different parts of a bus and so on. I remember hearing Martin Luther King giving his famous, 'I Have a Dream' speech in 1963 and being so shocked at his assassination in 1968.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was a great story told in a very clever way. There was always an underlying tension throughout the book but at the same time there were some shocking moments, some really poignant times and some very funny parts too. I would recommend you read the book as it will have you hooked. I really hope she writes another book as I shall certainly read it. I am always a bit wary of films adapted from books but I will take a look at the recent film adaptation but according to my daughter Skeeter is not quite right. I will have to go and see for myself now.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
What a book!
I started it on Thursday afternoon and finished it on Friday night...I literally couldn't put it down and was to be seen hovering over the stove with a wooden spoon in one hand and this book in the other!
Set in small town Mississippi in the 1960's it tells a more modern version of the opposite viewpoint to my favourite book of all time, Gone With The Wind.
It tells of the racial tensions and continuing segregation going on and the dramatic effects these had on the whole community, not just the black workers.
Told from three different viewpoints you really feel like you get inside these characters heads and so the empathy you feel is unbelievable...I laughed and I cried whilst reading The Help.
The standard of writing is fantastic all the way through and really made me care about the characters. It's a rare author that can actually make me hate one of the characters...in fact the only other character I can remember disliking as much as Hilly is Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter!
The only bad thing about this book was finishing it...I was really sad to get to the end and wanted to pick it up and start reading it all over again.
I read this book within a few days due to the captivating plot and the way that the book was written made me feel that I was really part of the story, as corny as that sounds. The book is written from the viewpoint of various characters meaning that you feel a personal connection with each of them and gives a deeper level of understanding about the racial divide that was so prominent within America during that time period. This book looks at life as a coloured person being the "help" and the influence and power of the white people. Throughout this book you see how the characters deal with the divide and also whether the white characters will use their power and influence for good or bad. Without ruining the plot, as a reader I felt that I grew a deeper understanding of what it would have been like to live within that society and it prompts the reader to form an opinion on their stance. This book will have you going through all sorts of emotions as you embrace each of the characters for both their flaws and strengths.
As an avid reader, I was more than happy when my book club chose Kathryn Stockett's The Help as our next book. I was definitely not disappointed. This a compelling story, told from the point of view of three strong minded women, which takes place in the midst of black/white segregation in 1960s southern America. Stockett manages to form the different voices of all three main characters to perfection; each of these diverse characters is formed so well that they are truly believable. Throw yourself into the world of Skeeter as she secretly battles against what is expected of her as a young white woman of the times. Feel the torment of Aibileen and Minny, the help, as they start to believe in themselves and tell their stories, despite the potentially dire consequences. Altogether, Stockett has produced a page-turner, that is thoroughly un-putdownable, and a joy to read from start to finish.
This is one of the best books i have ever read. As soon as i bought this book i could not put the book down. This book gives you the insight of what it was like for black american women in the 1960's. The struggle they had to go through to survive. This book made me laugh and cry the characters really come to life. Can not wait to see the movie.
Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver... There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...
It's probably fair for me to say that although I'm a fairly clever person, there are aspects of life that I know nothing about. Like many people, I am well aware that the world used to be divided into two groups. The white people and the coloured people. To this day, it makes me angry, but back then the world was an entirely different place and that's just how it was then. But as far as it goes, that's pretty much all I knew. I don't know why it was, I don't know what brought about the change that sees people from all walks of life mix together in the twenty-first century as (I'd guess) most young people don't, because to put it in the nicest way possible: what is it to us? (That goes for lots of things, too, not just the way white people and coloured people couldn't mix). So when Danielle posted up the movie trailer for The Help, I took a look, out of interest more than anything else. I watched it and I was shocked; it looks like an amazing movie, but the whole premise of the movie was surprising. So because I am well aware that books are miles better than their movie adaptations, I downloaded The Help onto my Kindle and a week later, let me tell you it is one of the most astounding books I will ever, ever read and I feel like a better person for have reading it.
There is not a chance my review will do The Help justice. It's the kind of book you have to read to see just how good it is. It's tempting for me to just end this review right now and say: read it. Because if you haven't read it, then you're missing out. You're missing out on a book that will go down in history as a classic. The Help is about so much more than showing us what life was like for coloured people in the 1960s. It's probably even about things I couldn't even describe or even realise, and I will still be thinking about it long after I've read it. The book has absolutely everything, despite the situation Aibileen and Minny find themselves in, despite the fact they spend their time waiting on white people, the book still managed to bring a smile to my face. A smile of hope, a smile that despite just how bad they were treated, they didn't let it get them down. The book made me sad, it gave me tears in my eyes. It was suspenseful, particularly as Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny find themselves waiting for everything to come to a head. I truly feel as though I've spent more than a week with these people. It's as if I truly know Aibileen, Skeeter, Minny - even Mae Mobley. It truly gets under your skin and doesn't let you go.
Every single character is written with such depth that - I am not joking - it's as if you're there watching it play out, I was hoping Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter could pull off what they were doing, I was hoping Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly would get exactly what they deserved. Despite how horrific Miss Hilly is, and she is a truly horrific and spiteful woman, you can still feel for her. I may not have liked what she did at all, but she just leaped off the pages along with every one else. Even Jackson, Mississippi seemed incredibly real to me. I could feel the heat and the cold, I could see Aibileen's house and Skeeter's house. Minny was the sassiest character I have ever come across, I have an awful lot of love for Minny. Honestly, you have to read this book just so you can meet Minny. Aibileen was very much the ying to Minny's yang, she was a lot less hot-headed and her love for Mae Mobley and her dissent for the way Miss Leefolt treated her daughter was plainly evident. Aibileen was more of a mother to Mae Mobley that Miss Leefolt ever would be and that made me sad. Skeeter impressed me the most, because she's the one who steps forward with the great idea. She's the one who sees that the way the white people treat the coloured people is wrong on so many different levels.
What took me most about the book is way in which Kathryn Stockett has written it. The writing is just so authentic, it isn't written 'properly', it's written exactly how I presume people in the 60s spoke. It just made the book all the better. I'm not the kind of person that usually enjoys novels written like that, I prefer my books to be written properly, otherwise I generally find myself getting annoyed but there is no other way Stockett could have written The Help, because the way in which it was written just luminates the story more and more. The Help could have easily been an angry novel, Stockett could have easily managed to make Aibileen and Minny angry and resentful for everything they had to go through - I mean no matter who you are, the thought that a coloured person had to have their own bathroom back then makes my blood boil, because it's so humiliating - and yet despite all of that, Aibileen, Minny and many of the other maids, have wonderful stories to tell. It isn't all doom and gloom, and despite the fact the book is indeed a tough read from the perspective that things back then were just horrific for coloured people, the book is still uplifting in so many ways. It manages to encapsulate so many feelings in its 544 pages and there is not a dull moment whilst you read this novel.
I know it's wrong of me to judge Ms Stockett, but when I read what the book was about I assumed she was a coloured lady. I truly did, but that's not true at all. Ms Stockett is very much white and has first hand knowledge of what it is to grow up with coloured help. She's undoubtedly poured a lot of what she remembers from the time into the novel, and it must have been so difficult for her and she mentions as much in the back of the novel. How she wondered how well the book would be received, how she was worried about writing the novel in the first place. She's worried she has told too much, but I disagree heatedly. Because no matter how much she tells, I'm fairly sure there is still a lot, lot more that could be told. Kathryn Stockett hasn't, as I've said, written the book to show that white people were horrible people back then, she's presented it exactly how it was back then, warts and all, yes, but with the good moments, too. She's shown that even before the civil rights revolution times may have been a-changing. I'm not going to pretend I know about times back then. I'm 21 years old, all I know is what I will learn from the Internet. But I do think The Help has educated me a lot, too. I applaud Kathryn for writing this novel, it is an astounding work of fiction. I have so many questions I would love to ask Kathryn about the novel. I read lots of books, I love lots of books, I give lots of books 5 stars, but this is one of those books that I would give infinity amount of stars, the amount of praise I have for this novel is overwhelming and I implore everybody to go out and buy The Help if you haven't already read it. You only need to go and see the thousands (yes, thousands) of reviews on Amazon.com to know that this is a special, special novel and I truly hope the movie does it justice (from the trailer it looks like it will - Octavia Spencer looks EXACTLY as I pictured Minny whilst reading). You won't regret reading The Help, I promise you.
After giving up waiting for this book to borrow from my friend, I spotted this to lend from my local library, and jumped at the chance.
The book in question is - "The help by Kathryn Stockett".
Starting in the 50's in Mississippi, there is an obvious divide between two factions, the whites and the coloureds.
The well to do Southern ladies won't share there toilets, feeding areas, hell they don't want them anywhere near them in fact due to the "dirty coloured" diseases they are carrying, the fact that they are good enough to clean these white women houses and bring their children up for them is another matter entirely!
Skeeter has been best friends with Hilly and Elizabeth since high school, though Skeeter does now feel he is becoming estrange from the pair of them, especially the over zealous Hilly, who seems to be working her way through a huge amount of coloured help, and with them suddenly being charge for random thefts from her house!
After deciding her future lies in publishing, she is advised that she should write something about what she knows, but all she knows is about the "help" though the story of what happened to her childhood carer Constantine has been kept from her.
Through the book she is pushed together with some of the maids in the book, and finds friends where she didn't expect, but to what cost?
This book affected me from the first page! As a person who has always been lucky enough to have the opportunity for equal rights the treatment of the maids is truly awful at times, and so contradictory, they have to use a custom built toilet so as to keep their germs to themselves, but an nurse a white woman's child almost through their entire infancy, or as long as it takes for the bigoted attitudes of their parents to come forwards!
I loved how the book was written, with the majority of the Southern ladies being merely characters in the maids story, with Skeeter being the exception, having chapters to herself.
The feelings of deception and fear are tangible when reading the book, especially with the descriptions of what white men in this area are likely to do to coloureds who cross the line, there is a particularly bad one where a man is blinded because he accidentally used a white only toilet.
This really is an amazing book to read, and one that had me in tears one moment and laughing out loud the next, but one thing is certain, this is a book that will stick with me for a long time, recommended!
Price wise this book will set you back around £5.00 via www.amazon.co.uk.
Thanks for reading x
The Help was bought for me as a Christmas present, amongst other books. Because I had never heard of it, it was a while before I actually got round to reading it, and I'm sorry I didn't sooner! This book is one of those novels that grips you and keeps you reading from the very start, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone!
So what is it about?
The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. It is a tale about the hardships and joys of the black help in their white employers' houses. It follows the lives of three individuals in particular: Aibileen & Minny (who work as housemaids or 'help' in their white masters' houses) and Skeeter (a budding writer, confused as to why her own beloved maid mysteriously disappeared while she was at college). When Skeeter decides that the only way she can become published is writing about the lives of the Help and their experiences working for their employers, she puts herself in the firing line for social alienation, as well as the lives of those who tell her their tales at risk.
Is it any good?
I remember reading, after I had finished the novel, that the author wrote this novel because of the love she had for her own housemaid, and what she took for granted at the time regarding the precariousness of her housemaid's situation in life. Thus, this book is filled with moments that are funny, heartwarming, and tragic. It demonstrates that there were two sides to the Help and their employers' relationships, something that is not often explored in novels written on this subject.
The novel switches between Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny's own voices. Stockett writes wonderfully, adopting the talking style of each character well, and making the reader feel as though they were really listening to the character themselves talking. I think my favourite character had to be the sassy Minny; her hard-talking, no nonsense personality, and yet vulnerability around her husband, made her a character that you really felt for and loved.
Thus, the simple answer as to whether it is any good is a big YES. This novel is *un-put-down-able* and an incredibly moving read. Available for £3.99 from Amazon, and cheaper second hand, it is definitely worth every penny!
Having read many glowing reviews about The Help I added it to my reading list and when I spotted it in the library I promptly checked it out.
Set in Jackson Mississippi in the early 1960's The Help gives a fictional account of the relationship between black maids and the white ladies that they work for. We learn how the maids are entrusted with the most important job of bringing up the children, but are scrutinised when polishing the silver.
Set in the backdrop of the civil rights movement, these are turbulent times. There is general rest amongst the black community on how they are treated as second-class citizens, and being segregated in all parts of life. They are not allowed to ride at the front of the bus, must have separate hospitals with black doctors to treat the sick and have to use a separate bathroom when working, as white people in their ignorance fear the diseases that the black maids carry.
We start by meeting Aibleen, an older black maid who works for Miss Elizabeth Leefolt. Aibleen, along with the cooking and general house chores takes the main role in raising Mae Moebly, Elizabeth's young daughter. Mae Moebly is Aibleen's 17th child and she has loved and raised each of them as if they were her own. We learn that she has recently lost her own son, who died in an accident at work, whilst his white bosses looked on, unwilling to help him because of his race. This injustice has caused something to shift inside Aibleen and she feels a real need to make some changes in the world.
Aibleen's best friend is a younger maid, Minny. Minny is well known as one of the best cooks around but is also known for her sharp tongue, which has often got her into trouble. She worked for Miss Hilly, one of Elizabeth's friends, and leader of the Women's League and Bridge club. That was until she did The Terrible Awful Thing and now she's always looking over her shoulder, expecting things to catch up with her soon.
One of the other members of the club is Skeeter, a young 22 year old woman who has just returned home from finishing college. Her head is filled with dreams and ambitions of becoming a writer. However her mother has other ideas and won't rest until there's a handsome fellow on her arm and a ring on her finger. Skeeter however wants more out of life than just being a wife and a mother. Skeeter is also upset at learning that Constantine, the maid that brought her up has left her home and no one will tell her where she has gone or why.
These three, very different women, find there lives begin to intertwine, when Skeeter decides to write a book about black maids in Mississipi, from their perspective, and their relationship with their white employers. Aibleen and Minny along with a handful of other maids begin to tell their tales. With the civil rights uprising this is clearly a dangerous subject, but one which Skeeter and the maids feel strongly about telling. Skeeter is fuelled by her desire to become a writer and has been in touch with an editor in New York who may be interested in publishing, but also hopes that by earning the trust of the maids she will learn what happened to Constantine.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Help and can understand why it received so many glowing reviews online. Whilst it is itself a work of fiction, I am sure that there must be hundreds of real-life maid who have similar stories to tell. I found the book well written and was thoroughly engrossed throughout. I did however find the language a bit tricky to follow as it was written in an authentic sixties style American English. It took me a while to settle into this style, but after a few chapters became accustomed to it.
The book is split into chapters and each one is told by a particular character. We start by meeting Aibleen who was a character I immediately warmed to. She comes across as someone quiet and thoughtful, but also very wise with and almost regal quality. We learn about her employer Elizabeth Leefolt and her daughter Mae Moebly who Aibleen looks after.
It becomes apparent that Elizabeth has little interaction with her child and on the few occasions that she does ends up knocking Mae Moebly's confidence, such that Aibleen spends a great deal of time trying to raise it again. I was extremely saddened by the relationship between mother and child, especially as Mae Moebly craves her mothers attention. I thought that Elizabeth came across as quite a cold character and one that I didn't particularly like. It was almost like she said 'I've done my job by having you', not realising that the real job begins afterwards.
My favourite character though was Minny. She comes across as feisty, headstrong and certainly has a quick tongue that often gets her into trouble. I was intrigued to learn about The Terrible Awful Thing that Minny had done, which was referred to throughout the book but wasn't revealed until we get towards the end. It was worth the wait and what I did learn had me chuckling away! However all is not as it seems and I was saddened to see Minny's strong character crumble at the hands of her violent husband Leroy.
Miss Hilly's was a character that I really disliked. She was arrogant and quite backwards in her view - a real Cruella D'ville type. It was quite ironic that the League or ladies club that she ran raised money for children in Africa but insisted on separate toilets for black maids working in white homes. In fact one of her campaigns was to raise awareness of this issue and call on all white homes to have a separate bathroom for the black help.
I also took a liking to Skeeter. She was someone quite determined and thoughtful but was consistently undermined by her mother who thought her too tall and not girly enough. Her relationship with her mother is not the best and she remembers fondly of the maid that helped raise her and is determined to find out what had happened to her.
As the book project unfolds it was apparent the huge risk these women were undertaking to get their stories told. I was quite fearful for them, but at the same time excited, wanting them to succeed and perhaps start to make a change. I was a bit disappointed with the ending though. I thought it was a bit abrupt and would have liked to learn more about the effect that the book being published had and any repercussions that may have come from it.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Help and I would echo the praise that this book has already received.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett draws you in to the life of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60's where there is a deep segregation between the races and the civil rights movement is gaining momentum and where black maids raise white children but often have to put up with appalling behaviour from their white employers.
The book follows three people and the amazing story they have to tell. There's Aibileen who tragically lost her own son but has raised 17 white children and currently is employed by Miss Elizabeth Leefolt. Her friend Minny has her own problems, while she is an excellent cook she's been fired from 19 jobs and her sharp tongue has not helped particularly as she has made an enemy of Jackson's Queen Bee, Benefit Chair and Country Club member Miss hilly Hollbrook. The last is Miss Skeeter, otherwise known as Miss Eugenia Phelan and friend of Miss Hilly. She has recently returned from College to the mysterious disappearance of her beloved maid and no-one will give her an answer as to what happened to Constantine. She is single (her mother is so not happy about this situation) and is a little lost in Jackson living back at home on a cotton plantation and wishing to be a writer.
These three characters come together with the help of other maids in a project that could change all of their lives dramatically. You will need to read the book to find out what happens as I don't want to give anything away.
The book is written throughout through the eyes of Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter, each in their own distinctive voice and about each of their perspectives of the story and how it integrates into the bigger picture. It is so well written that you can easily empathise with each character sharing their joy, tears, anger and sadness. You are transported completely into their world and form a soft spot for each of them.
It is a real page turner that keeps you hooked to the very last of the 464 pages, and I have to admit I was actually sad to see the end of the book. It is not always comfortable to read some of the stories but the book is so well written that it pulls you in sweeping you through a myriad of emotions along the journey.
I couldn't put this book down and read it in a matter of a few days often putting off things so I could escape to Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter's lives and see what was happening to them.
I would thoroughly recommend this book, it transports you to the Deep South and a very different time and way of thinking but you gain friends and a couple of enemies along the way and a great read!
The book costs £3.99 on Amazon with a recommended rrp of £7.99.
The Help is a story based in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and it tells the story of the differences between the lives of Black and white women.
In Mississippi in the 60's the whites and blacks were still segregated, they still have seperate stores, seperate buses and even seperate libraries. But the white women relied on the black women for some very important things mainly to clean their homes and raise their children, while they were off at bridge club or being part of local societies to raise money for poor children in the third world.
We learn more about the lives of the women of Jackson from the book's three main characters...
There is Aibileen who has raised her fair share of white babies, seventeen to be exact. She is now tending to her latest white child young Mae Mobley while she tries to work out her own hurt brought on by the tragic death of her son.
Minny who prides herself on her cooking, but can't seem to learn when to keep her mouth shut. She is married to Leroy and is raising her ever growing family seemingly single handedly as Leroy spends more time staring into the bottom of a bottle than at home with his family.
Finally white Miss Skeeter who is home in Jackson after four years at college and searching to find out what happened to the maid Constantine she had always adored as a child. She is also battling to find her place in her hometown where social standing is everything and unless you are in with the in-crowd run with an iron fist by Miss Hilly Hollbrook you are nothing.
The three women's paths are drawn together when Miss Skeeter realises that there is more to life than being one of the popular girls who spends their days attending society luncheons and trying to hook the prize husband. As she strikes out to make a stand for her beliefs and never mind the consequences, but she has both Aibileen and Minny along for the ride, who would have ever thought that the words of a few black maids and one white woman would encourage such interest from the people of Jackson, Mississippi.
- - - - - OPINION - - - - - -
I found this book on a charity book stall for a pound very recently and after reading a few reviews on it previously I had to snap it up and I am glad to say it was the best pound I have spent in a long time.
From the first page of the book I was captivated by the language and the way the character of Aibileen is written, I could almost hear her Mississippi accent speaking the words aloud to me. I found her character's parts of the book very enjoyable to read, although at times they were often sad especially the sections about her feelings over the death of her son I found her a fantasticly emotional character who was very easy to relate to.
Miss Skeeter was a character it was a little harder to take to for me, but I found as the book went on that I was rooting for her to come through and achieve her goals. Her relationship with her mother was one that although I have always been close to my mum I saw bits within it that I think most women may have experienced growing up which gave her a real likeability.
A part of the story that did really touch my heart were the stories that Aibileen used to tell Mae Mobley about Martian King an Alien who came down to earth and was mocked because he was green and looked different. I thought what an interesting idea to show a child that just because we are all different in looks we are all the same good people inside.
The way Kathryn Stockett has written The Help is excellent, she has managed to write from the prespective of both white and black women well without it sounding in any way tacky or stereotyped. She also has a great gift for characters, I found myself loving her main characters, although sometimes for different reasons than I think I was maybe meant to and disliking characters such as Miss Hilly and Minny's drunken husband Leroy just as much as I was supposed to, mainly because they were so well written.
Whatever you do don't forget to read the extra piece at the end of the book entitled too little, too late it's a small story of why Kathryn Stockett felt compelled to write The Help.
An excellent story that shows us how times have changed and how we should remember that although we are different in skin colour underneath we are all people who hurt, love and feel just the same.
PRICE - £7.99
PAGES - 444