Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

It's 1962 Mississippi and three women - aspiring writer Skeeter, professional nanny/maid Aibileen and sassy maid Minny -come together for a project that puts them all at risk.

By now, most bloggers are well aware of the ample charms of this engaging novel. I was one who was initially put off by the sheer length of the book - at 450 pages, it qualifies for the Chunkster Challenge. But I am here to tell you ... I wish this could have been TWICE as long - I enjoyed the main characters that much (Minny was my favorite) - and I'd have loved to have gotten more about a lot of the side characters, especially Celia Foote, Constantine, Sugar and Kindra.

Not having spent much time in the American deep south, I can't say how accurate the portrayals of the maids' daily lives were, but the injustices they had to bear certainly sound likely for what I know about the time. While race relations have thankfully improved in this part of the world (thanks to brave men and women like the ones in this novel), there IS still a general attitude of superiority in many parts of the world and I definitely noticed a “colonial mentality” while in Kenya last month (where I read this).

I overheard conversations where expats complained about finding a decent maid since “all Kenyans are lazy”. There were complaints about theft, and even about maids using the house toilet instead of going behind a bush (hey, they should be used to it right?). Seriously!

THE HELP doesn’t come out in paperback until the end of May, but it’s one it is worth getting in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

23 comments:

Aarti said...

I have heard so much about this book that I may have to resort to desperate measures to obtain it in a timely manner. I really liked how you showed how much you enjoyed the book, even in a short review :)

Staci said...

You wished that it was twice as long????? I'm totally sold..this is on my own personal challenge to read next year!

Andi said...

A friend recommended this one to me a while back--before all the buzz started--and I so wish I'd statched it up then. I'm #53 on the library waiting list! Looks like I'll just have to grow some patience.

Sadako said...

Kind of reminds me of the whole Edwardian structure--the contemptuous attitude towards maids. (Just rewatched Edwardian Manor House on PBS!)

Great review. Your endorsement makes me want to read it so bad.

bermudaonion said...

I actually lived in Mississippi from 1961 to 1964, so I'm dying to read this book. I think everyone has loved it.

Susie Sharp Librarian said...

Wasn't it wonderful!I too said that the only thing I didn't like about it was that it ended too soon.I wanted more!Maybe she'll write a sequel and tell us how everyone turned out.

TERI REES WANG said...

Isn't it wild that this topic is a history long topic issue?

Hanging on to the right story that makes sense to read in the right setting. You scored twice. Well done.

Molly said...

I think this book rates as one of my top two books read in 2009. And I totally agree --- it could easily have been twice as long and I would have enjoyed it just as much. She has a wonderful way of writing dialogue, don't you think?

ccqdesigns said...

WEll, I am from Alabama, and I was 10 in 1963 so I was right in the middle of things. And I guess I still am, but I can tell you it certainly is not like that at all now. We are so multi-cultural here, that there is no longer a black/white issue at all. Although there are still people who try to make it seem like one is here for their own agenda.

For me, the book filled in some blanks since I was neither rich enough to have a maid, old enough to understand or black. I do remember that the Sears where my mother worked had a Colored bathroom and water fountain. I was too young to think much about it. My parents were more like Skeeter than Hilly so it was not an issue for us.

But beyond all that The Help is just a darned good story with rich characters and flowing dialog and I read it in two nights. So, I didn't even think of it as a chunkster. Just one great book.

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Marie said...

Great review. So many people have loved this one! :-)

Lisa Schroeder said...

I LOVED this book. I actually listened to it on audio, during my commute to work, and I would highly recommend it. The accents and characters really came though and it was outstanding!!

caite said...

I didn't remember the book being long...like you said, I would have been happy if it was twice as long. Certainly a favorite book of the year.

Steph Su said...

Woww. I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I may have to buy it and take it with me when I go to Puerto Rico in January. Thanks, Lenore! :)

Mardel said...

I'm glad you brought up this book again. I definitely want to read it. I usually read Urban Fantasy, but when I do read something different I tend to enjoy books set in the 50's and 60's (for some reason - I was born in 1960, you'd think I had enough, huh?).

Thank goodness things are a little different now, in the south. The comment about Kenya though reminds me that prejudice and biases are EVERYWHERE. I remember being so surprised when I was younger, hearing a spanish person making a racist remark about a black person. I remember thinking that all the other "non-whites" should stick together and not be prejudiced to each others. In my naiive mine I thought the only racists were white Americans. It's everywhere, and still in pockets of America too. I've heard first person accounts from some of my afterschool students.

Well, I'm climbing off the soapbox now. I really do want to read this book now. I'll have to remember to look in other sections besides the scifi/fantasy section on my next bookstore trip.

beth said...

I read and loved this book last month.

And how interesting about the Kenyan perspective....

Anna said...

I must get my hands on this book! I love it when you wish long books could be longer. That's how I felt about "Galway Bay."

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Dar said...

So glad to see you really liked this book. It's been on my shelf for ages but like you I've been putting it off because of the size but I think I'll tackle it in the New Year for sure.

ccqdesigns said...

Oh Dar, It really isn't that long. It felt very short to me.

And as others have said, I have found racism all over the world when I was traveling, but for some reason, the south has been stuck with the stigma. We went through it very publicly with forced busing and the national media and we are way past that. Maybe I am an optimist, and I do admit that I work for a University, but I see so little racism against any race or religion here it is surprising.

I am very surprised about Kenya, but I have a good friend that just came back from teaching in Kenya for 6 months and the place camp was run by a rich Italian family. She said they treated the Black Kenyan's like slaves. I could not believe the way they were treated, the conditions they were made to live in. How could that still be happening today? We are so lucky living here.

Ladytink_534 said...

My mom and I love stories set down here in the south so I may have to give her a heads up about this one and see if my library has it in.

Allie said...

I have heard so many great things about this book! I will have to put it on my wish list!

S. Krishna said...

I loved this book - it's one that lives up to all expectations, despite all the hype.

Zibilee said...

I bought this book a few months ago and can't wait to get the chance to read it. I have heard such great things about it and am really looking forward to it. Thanks for the great review, I am glad you loved it so much!!