Monday, June 18, 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Paperback: 444 pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin 2009
Source: Gift from a friend
First Sentences: 'Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in august 1960. a church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime.
Review Quote: “Lush, original and poignant, Kathryn Stockett has written a wondrous novel set in the deep south told through the authentic voices of Aibileen, Minnie and Skeeter, three unforgettable women whose lives and points of view intersect vividly against a landscape of hopeful change in America. You will be swept away as they work, play and love during a time when possibilities for women were few but their dreams of the future were limitless. A glorious read.”Adriana Trigiani, BestSelling Author.
Favourite Quote: “Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought.”
My opinion: A future classic.

My favourite quote above also just happens to be the author's favourite as well because it sums up the essence of this brilliant novel. A future classic this is one of those novels where the story and characters will live on in your memory long after you've finished the book.
At first I found the American African vernacular dialect a little difficult to follow but it clicked after a few pages and helps towards a proper feel of the environment. Of course I knew about the treatment of African Americans and that it was still going on even when I was a little girl in the sixties but I have never read anything from the point of view that this novel gives us. This story is not about the big picture but about the nitty gritty of everyday life that these domestic staff had to face. It is both horrifying and sad yet there were moments when I also found myself laughing. A real insight into the prejudices that were part of everyday mundane life, that the white women they worked for really believed were fully justified! The characters are all extremely well developed, even the more minor ones and the historical background and local environs are well described.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early sixties the story is narrated by three female protagonists, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson two African American maids and Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan a young woman who has just returned home with a degree in journalism. It is the unexpected friendship of these three women that results in the publication of a book that gives a previously unheard of voice to the community's suffering. These three women are drawn together by a secret project of 'Skeeter's' to help her fulfil her dream of becoming a writer and moving to New York rather than staying in Jackson to be married off to a rich man from a good southern family. Eugenia is drawn to Aibileen a maid in her fifties, who despite enduring many hardships and discrimination remains dedicated, kind and loyal to her employers and the children she raises for them. Minny the third in the group is a complete opposite to Aibileen, she is younger and finds it harder to keep her opinions to herself when her employers discriminate against her. Therefore she  finds it hard to get suitable positions within the local community due to her attitude. These three make quite a team!

The Help is fiction by and large but as Kathryn was raised by an African American in lieu of an absentee mother, she herself admits in her own words at the end of the novel that she had taken her childhood carer Demetrie for granted, it was just everyday life. Kathryn says she wished for many years, that she had been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask her exactly what it was like working for a white family. Unfortunately she died when Kathryn was just sixteen and for many years she has thought about just what her answer would have been. That is the reason she wrote this brilliant and compelling novel, which I am sure I am one of the last to read. If you have not done so yet, I urge you to do so. I am now looking forward to seeing the film which from what I hear from friends has transferred well to the screen.

Author Profile:

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. The Help is her first novel and was published in 2009 having taken her five years to complete, it was then rejected by 60 literary agents before she found someone prepared to represent her. Since its successful publication The Help has been published in 35 countries in three languages and had sold over five million copies by August 2011 when the film version was released.

Information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.

Goodreads Author Profile

Kathryn Stockett - Wikipedia

Kathryn Stockett - IMDb You can view two film trailers on this site.

Kathryn Stockett - Official Website

Amazon Author Profile Page

I have chosen to read this title as the letter H for The A - Z Book Challenge which I have decided to attempt to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from our bookshelves, it will be interesting to see how far I can get before I get stuck. You can follow my progress here 

I have also linked this review to Literary Friday


  1. I read this book when it was first published and enjoyed it immensely. Any book that has me thinking about its characters after I close the last page it s keeper for me and this one is in that category. Your review captures the essence of the book and its message. I could be a classic!

  2. I'm so glad you liked this one. It's one of my favorites from recent years. I think you will not be disappointed with the film. I agree that it captured the essence of the book quite well.

  3. So, finally the review is up here.. I feel like I have.been waiting for ages to read your review. I think we red the book at around the same time. I loved the book.. One that will remain in my favorite list..

  4. I loved this one. It was really great one audio.

  5. This is such a great book. I am happy you enjoyed it! I was a child of desegregation in the South, and I, too, had an African American nanny as my mom had a career.

    Very well-written review. Have you seen the movie yet? I think that the adaptation was very good. Also, Kathryn Stockett's friend and Alabamian Octavia Spencer, was the inspiration for Minnie, and she won an Oscar for her performance!


  6. Thanks for the review, been looking forward to this one for a while


  7. The comments box is driving me mad here at present I have been unable to reply to you individually!
    Patricia@ Thanks so much for your kind comments,it was indeed very special.
    Pam@ I am looking forward to seeing the film because so many people have commented it has indeed kept well to the book.
    Jyoti@ My apologies for having taken so long to get the review published.
    Melissa@ Interesting that you listened to the audio, I am curious as to the language sounded?
    Ricki Jill@ So interesting that you had an African American Nanny yourself so empathised and loved this, not seen film yet but really want to.
    Lainy@ It is a pleasure, sorry I kept you waiting. I have written all my reviews now just need to get them published.

  8. This book is one of my all time favorites!!

    1. I am not surprised, I think it is a story that is going to remain with me, not easy to forget this one.

  9. By the way.....I am now hosting a Literary Friday linky every Friday!!!

  10. Nice blog and now following. I will also check out the book.

    If you wish you can follow me at

    Also my facebook page is

    My book which has been published for 2 weeks on Amazon is based on true events and called Wrong Place Wrong Time and if you would like to review, please feel free to contact me.

    Good luck with the book and nice to connect.

    David P Perlmutter

    1. Thankyou for showing an interest in the blog by following. I will not take up your offer at the moment but thanks for asking. I am not sure what you are wishing me Good Luck for? Maybe I will be able to review for you at a future date when I have caught up with current requests.

  11. Hi Linda,

    I must be about one of the few people remaining on the 'blogosphere' who hasn't actually read this book, or seen the film.

    I really do intend to get it to the top of my list, I am just not sure when.

    I really do like books that get behind the facade of the characters and the setting for the story and get down to the real 'nitty gritty' of a particular scenario and place in time.

    I suppose my one lasting memory of the treatment of African Americans, when I was growing up in the sixties, would have come from watching the television series 'ROOTS', which as a family we followed avidly every week.

    I think that as 'Brits' we tend to conveniently forget that our own record and treatment in the worldwide trade of slaves, wasn't anything to boast about by a long stretch of imagination.

    It must take you an age to actually prepare a post, as you put so much thought and detail into them. You provide any information or link that I could ever possibly need to find out all about a book and its author, and more besides.

    I tend to dilute my efforts more, by drip-feeding information about a book I am reading, across several different memes.

    Different means to the same end I guess, but your review posts always look impressive.

    Glad that this book will live on in your memory and perhaps we are right in considering this to be a modern day classic.


  12. Just lost my reply to you, just love it when blogger swallows them! I will try again. I do also remember 'Roots', I think you will enjoy this one so hope it reaches the top of your pile soon Yvonne.
    As for your kind comments about my posts, they are appreciated as they make me feel it is all worthwhile, as I do sometimes wonder if is.

  13. I recently completed this book, Certainly a good read.

  14. surbhi@ Thanks for your visit and for taking the time to leave a comment.


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