- Fizzy Thoughts: The Help

The Help

Thursday, August 13, 2009

the help
The Help
Kathryn Stockett
February 2009
464 pages

Mudbound put me in the mood for more Southern fiction. Lucky me, I just happened to have The Help sitting on my bookshelf screaming for attention. All I knew was it was set in the South and people seem to like it. Good enough for me.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s, The Help is the story of three women. Aibileen and Minny are black maids/nannies. Underpaid and at the mercy of their white employers, these women have no recourse because it’s the South and it’s the 1960’s…segregation, Jim Crow laws and all that nastiness. Skeeter Phelan, on the other hand, is a member of the white privileged class. Skeeter increasingly finds herself questioning the racist actions and comments of her bridge partners and fellow Junior Leaguers. Because Skeeter wants to be a writer, she comes up with the idea of collecting the maids’ stories and featuring them in a book. This isn’t so easy, though. First, no one wants to talk to her. Then, everyone wants to talk to her and there is the threat of discovery.

While Mudbound is more about subtle racism (although, yes, there are some brutally racist comments and scenes), I think The Help shows more overt actions. We see how the maids are treated…there is some good, and there is a lotta bad. We see how attitudes and actions dictate a woman’s acceptance into white society.  We see how force and fear can rule a person’s life.  And we see how much courage it takes to stand up to institutionalized racism, even when your stand is in the form of a book illustrating how black maids were treated.

Although quite different from Mudbound, I found this book to be equally fascinating and well-written.  Mudbound has a bit more diversity in characters (and slightly stronger characterization…but then it is entirely in first person point of view), whereas I found myself pulling more for the three main characters in The Help.  If you are at all interested in reading about life in the segregated South, I’d recommend both of them.

19 comment(s):

Care said...

Great! Then I'll read both.

Stephanie said...

I read The Help and it will probably go down as one of my favorite reads this year.

Kari said...

The Help is definitely my favorite read of the year. I gave it to my mom and sister to read (neither of them are very big readers), and they both finished it much faster than they're read any other book--they loved it!

This is definitely one of the books I frequently recommend.

sherry said...

Alrighty then, this book has moved up on my list.

Jo-Jo said...

I've heard such good things about this one. Thanks for the recommendation...I definitely want to read this one soon!

Ti said...

I won this one from Dawn. See? I'm stalking your reads again. LOL.

lilly said...

I really need to read this book, I feel like I'm the only one that hasn't yet.
The topic is so difficult for me though that I have to be in the right mood to read it. Even though I am white, the simple fact of coming from a different country made me realize how many different forms racism can take on and how destructive it can be and like you said, how much courage it takes to stand up against it.

bermudaonion said...

I love books set in the South and I've had this one for a while. A friend of mine has read my copy, but I haven't had a chance to yet. Now, I'm dying to read it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I wish it were on my TBR pile. Then again, maybe it is! It's sort of high and things tend to get buried....

Jenners said...

Everyone's been raving about this book. Seems like a thoughtful look at an important topic! I'm sure I'll check it out some time next year.

Diane said...

This is my favorite book so far of 2009. I have to try Mudbound; glad u enjoyed them both.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I really loved this book and felt it was one of the best books of 2009. Thanks for the tip on the other read!

Sheri

Lisa said...

I read The Help earlier this year and it is easily one of my top reads so far this year. Last year I listed Mudbound in my top three. Both books are amazing. Mudbound stayed with me for weeks afterward.

Julie P. said...

I absolutely loved THE HELP, but you really have me anxious to read MUDBOUND now too!

Melody said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this book! Need to move it up from my TBR pile!!

Dreamybee said...

You asked me about this book as part of the Weekly Geeks catch-up-on-your-reviews project back in June. Well, I finally reviewed it and answered your question! Glad you enjoyed it. I really did too. Here's my link.

http://subliminalintervention.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-im-reading-now-help.html

farmlanebooks said...

I'm planning to read this one soon, so am really pleased to hear you enjoyed it. I enjoyed Mudbound, so am interested to compare the two.

Literate Housewife said...

I have this one on audio and I'm hoping to get to it soon. Thanks for the previous review/tip on Mudhound, too!

Beth F said...

I've had this one for a while. Now why haven't I read it yet? Everyone loved it.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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