The Help Book Review              by Kathryn Stockett

The Help Book Review featured on this page is designed to give you an understanding of the plot, it's themes and some discussion questions. It also gives the opinions of our Book Club.


The Help Book Review



"The Help" is one of those books which is likely to stay with the reader for a long time.


It will also evoke a variety of emotions including anger, admiration, pain, despair, warmth, a sense of danger & of friendship & laugh out loud humour.


It is an excellent Book Club choice because there are so many issues to discuss.

The Plot

The Help Book Review



This easy to read story is told from three different perspectives;

Aibileen's & Minny's, two black servants, & Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan's, a  young white woman who eventually manages to persuade a group of black "Helps," including Aibileen & Minny, to  describe their experiences at the hands of their powerful white employers.

The method of using three different points of view, gives the story credibility as well as breadth.


Skeeter is the catalyst for the story. She is a white graduate who fails to follow the normal pattern of young white women in her community, marrying well & having children; she longs to be a journalist & hopes that by submitting her manuscript of stories, the first ever to explore this subject, she might realise her dream. However, as she listens to their stories, they have a profound effect on her, for she has never seen life from their point of view.

Characters

The Help Book Review


Aibileen & Minny are delightful characters with a strong sense of injustice.

Inspite of working hard & their exploitation at the hands of their white bosses, they provide us with such a lot of humour & show us what true friendship is about.

They contrast with their white counterparts who dispense with friendship on a selfish whim & are frequently  petty & nasty to each other. None of them, apart from Skeeter, win our affection.

They have been brought up by their black "Helps" with great affection & care, often suffering neglect from their own parents, yet, depressingly, they become like their parents as adults in their attitudes towards their black servants.

What helps the characters to be more believable is that some of the servants tell of great kindness & concern from their white employers, sometimes even in retirement.

Themes

The Help Book Review



Racism: This is what the whole book is about; the segregation of white & black people in America, focusing on Jackson, Mississippi, in the 60's. For the older non-American reader, it's hard to believe that it existed to this extent in their own lifetime.

There is great emphasis on the need of white people to provide outdoor toilets for their black servants in the mistaken belief that they might pass on nasty diseases. The effect on this reader is profound; how could decent, hard working people be treated in this way? The whole story is punctuated with  examples of the degradation & humiliation of the black people.

Humour: Much of the story is dark & sad & deals with serious issues but it is also very, very funny, so necessary for the reader. The humour is often laugh-out-loud humour & frequently comes from the black characters. The story of Minny's pie & the one about the many toilets on the lawn are hilarious.

Power: The black people are completely at the mercy of the white people; they hold complete power. To answer back could mean instant dismissal & a quick word to the rest of the white community could result in no work ever again. At the bottom of the pile are the black women, for at home their husbands have the power & supposedly, because the men have no other power in their lives, they make the most of it.

Friendship: In adversity, there is great friendship between the "Helps" specially shown here between Aibileen & Minny. Their friendships are also about support against husbands who frequently beat them. The writer presents a very realistic & believable picture of their harsh & downtrodden  lives. Yet they smile easily & are so supportive of each other; it's often quite touching.

Contrasts: "The Help" is a story of contrasts, the major one being about  blacks & whites. The way they both live, their incomes, the size of their houses, their status in life & the power they have, or don't have, all contrast & make for a good story.

Suspense, Danger & Fear:These permeate the whole story & help to make the story a real page turner. What will happen if it becomes known what "The Helps" are up to? Will Minny be found out? Will Skeeter's liaison with "The Helps" be discovered & what will happen if she is? Will the black servants tell their stories & so on.

Weaknesses: This is probably nit-picking but there is such a build up about the stories being told to Skeeter yet it takes too long to get to publication. Then, having eagerly anticipated the effect it would have on the white community, there was very little said about this. The writer had made her points before this moment.

The Help Book Club Questions

The Help Book Review

1. Does including Stuart & his family in the story fulfill any major purpose?

2. Why does the writer make Miss Celia so different from the other white women?

3. Did you find any weaknesses in the story?

4. Do any of the characters lack credibility? If so, why?

5. Do you have a favourite character in the story? If so, who?

6. Do you think the writer is too biased one way or the other?

7. Do you think there is any other white woman, apart from Skeeter, for whom we can have some regard?

Like? / The Help Movie

The Help Book Review

Our Book Club enjoyed this easy read and were astounded at some of its content. We gave it 7/10. (it's not a particularly great example of literary genius but it is a fab read.)

The story is full of thought provoking moments:



  • the list of rules for black people
  • the story about the toilets
  • the black man having to urinate in the bushes
  • the story of Constantine & the cruelty of the mother
  • the white children turning out like their parents


And that's just for starters. Many of us went on to watch "The Help" Movie. It followed the book quite closely and made the characters come to life beautifully. We really enjoyed it and thought it was an excellent example of a film that is just as good as the original book.


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