Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Published: 2009; Pages: 444
Duration: 18 hours, 7 minutes
Narrators: Octavia Spencer, Bahni Turpin, Jenna Lamia
Whew it feels good to hit "Publish Post" on this puppy! I've had this draft sitting amongst my posts since April of this year. Since then I've also listened to the audiobook and seen the movie--can't see to get enough!
The Help in short: Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter Phelan, a recent college graduate who is looking to write something that will make a difference, interviews black maids on what it is like working for white families. Told from Skeeter’s perspective as well as the perspective of two of the maids, Aibileen and Minnie.
Why I read/listened to The Help: After telling so many people that they needed to read this book (based on your recommendations), I picked up a copy for myself and finally read with my mom and sister. I loved reading the book at the same time as them and hearing their feedback. I listened to the audiobook several months after reading the book because of the rave reviews.
Following my recent pattern of Q&A book posts...
Elise: Did you find the story predictable? If yes, did it change your overall thoughts on the book…I have a hard time considering it amazing or the best book ever when I could totally see where it was going. But maybe that shouldn't matter?
When I started The Help, I didn’t know very much about the story even though I had recommended it to several people and gave it as gifts to a few others. In fact, the only thing that I did know was that the book had alternating narrators and was set in the American south during the 1960s. Predictability doesn’t always bother me unless there is a twist in the story that I see coming a mile away, but I honestly don’t remember if I found The Help to be predictable or not. I do think that it’s easy to see where this story is headed, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment. For me the enjoyment of this book came more from the character development than the plot development.
In terms of it mattering whether you find a book predictable or not, I do think that sometimes it can affect how much you enjoy a story! Definitely something to ponder, but I wonder if this has more to do with what makes us enjoy a book in the first place or why we read. Hmmm… sometimes a book can be so overhyped that it is easy to feel let down when you don’t find the book to be the best book over. That’s happened to me several times and that’s why I try to go into each reading with as blank a slate as possible.
Laura: I would like you to draw a Venn diagram for The Help paper book, audio book, and movie. :) Just kidding about the Venn diagram, but I would like your thoughts on the differences/what you liked/what you didn't like about the different mediums.
Oh how I wish I could draw up a pretty little Venn diagram for you! Basically I loved all of the different mediums. The book was a little tough to get into, especially as its begins with a heavily dialectic narrative of one of the maids, but once I became use the rhythm of the book I found it difficult to put down. “One more section” was a common thought as I was reading The Help. I listened to The Help months after I read the book, mainly because the movie was coming out and I had heard such wonderful reviews of the audiobook. Hands down it was one of the best audio productions I’ve listened to. Stockett does such a wonderful job of drawing her characters and this became really apparent through the spoken version of the novel.
When I first saw the movie trailer for The Help I was afraid that the movie would be Hollywoodized and make light of the very serious topics in the book. Even though the trailer felt bubbly, and there were moments when the movie was bubbly, there were so many times in the movie when I had a pit in my stomach as the seriousness of racism and the Jim Crow laws and discrimination during the 60s was portrayed. I’ve heard people describe The Help as “so much fun,” but I disagree. When one looks past all of the faults of The Help (see controversy paragraphs below), the meat of the book crawls under your skin and makes you yearn to challenge the status quo even when it is not popular.
Anna said: I'd love to hear what you thought of The Help, especially given all the controversy when the movie came out.
Boy do I live under a rock! I wasn’t aware of the controversy until your comment. Thanks for pointing me to this post with some of the controversy. I’m sure I’m missing many of the points, but basically people are saying that The Help should not be read as historical fiction and that Stockett, a white author, took too many liberties by writing from the perspective of black maids during the 1960s. White woman saves the day. That’s the gist, right?
I think that these statements can be very troubling in so many respects. I typed up big long paragraphs about my thoughts on this but nothing I typed adequately portrayed the conflicted feelings I have on this topic. One of the points made in the post referenced above is authenticity and frankly I believe that true authenticity is hard to come by. (not trying to be dodgy, promise).
please define historical fiction for me), but shouldn’t every reader make it her responsibility to learn the facts or at least not make sweeping generalizations based on a single book she read? Though as with reading about any subject one is not familiar with, some will take the time to learn more about the subject and some won’t.
Bottom Line: Absolutely recommend. The Help will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Get your hands on the audio if you can—the performances are absolutely fantastic, especially Octavia Spencer as Minnie.
So…what did you think?
PS—I’m really liking how easy this Q&A format makes posting about books (even if it does make my posts much longer than normal). If you have any questions you’d like to ask about Percy Jackson (books 1 and 2), Crooked Letter Crooked Letter, or At Home, please leave me questions below!