930 of 951 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Brilliant
When a book makes you occasionally laugh out loud, has your eyes brimming with tears or has you shouting at the pages through empathy and anger, you know the author has a very rare talent. 'The Help' is one such book. I have not enjoyed a tome so immensely since Michel Faber's 'The Crimson Petal and the White'.
The story is told through three wonderfully real female...
Published on 28 Jun 2009 by Ben Ripley
66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sisters are doing it for themselves
I really enjoyed this book. It's like wearing your favourite slippers and sipping a mug of cocoa. I liked the way the relationships developed between the central female characters. Some of them had real gumption and courage, while others were just plain bitches obsessed with keeping up appearances. It gives you a slice of life in 1960s Mississippi full of hypocrisy and...
Published on 21 Mar 2011 by Mrs. S. Biddulph
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930 of 951 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Brilliant,
This review is from: The Help (Hardcover)When a book makes you occasionally laugh out loud, has your eyes brimming with tears or has you shouting at the pages through empathy and anger, you know the author has a very rare talent. 'The Help' is one such book. I have not enjoyed a tome so immensely since Michel Faber's 'The Crimson Petal and the White'.
The story is told through three wonderfully real female characters; Minny, Aibileen and Miss Skeeter. The location is Jackson, Mississippi and it's the early 1960s - a turbulent time as the civil rights movement thunders along to the chagrin of many bigoted fools. One visionary in the small town defies her heritage and vows to make a difference and with the aid of the local maids, begins a project which will create havoc for those with lofty positions and appalling attitudes. Within the pages of the book, we are privy to scenes of amazing warmth, great humour and delightful characters with whom you'd love to spend time. Kathryn Stockett has also created one of the most venomous villains since Cruella de Vil and at times I found myself cursing this woman as if I knew her personally.
Vital, engrossing and utterly compelling, 'The Help' is a book I'd urge anyone to read.
331 of 340 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of the future,
I have been hearing about this book and have read lots of positive reviews for the longest time but sometimes I get put off by books that have so much hype around them and end up passing them by. Oh how glad I am that I didn¡¯t do this with The Help. It is worth every glowing review, every recommendation and every superlative ever written about it.
The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and is narrated by three women in turn. Aibileen and Minny are black maids and Miss Skeeter is a white college graduate who mourns the disappearance of her old maid and wants to do something more with her life than marry a local boy and have her kids raised by maids.
The story takes us with these women as the embark on a dangerous journey to try and change decades of prejudice and pave the way for a better life for the next generations. Through the words of each of these women we learn how rife racism and intolerance was back in the 1960¡äs deep south. There are tales of unbelievable cruelty and humiliation but also tales of tenderness and real love. It was so good to hear a story told primarily from the point of view of the black maids too and refreshing to hear both sides in all its rawness; the distrust and even hatred on both sides. The book also successfully managed to avoid being sensational or over-egging the pudding. Despite the subject matter (which is so important) the book never feels too heavy or preachy: it is as light as one of Minny¡¯s famous caramel cakes and aswell as riotously funny and tender.
I implore you to read this book ¨C you will fall in love with Aibileen, roar with laughter at Minny and rootfor Miss Skeeter for 450 pages. And I guarantee that Miss Hilly is one of the best bitches you will come across in any book! She is truly awful but so brilliantly drawn and you will root for her to get her just desserts (pun intended).
I feel like I have lost friends now I have finished this book. It is a true gem and I highly, highly recommend.
207 of 220 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely brilliant!,
116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect read,
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book...don't be put off,
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This review is from: The Help (Paperback)As a bloke I found this a bit of a 'difficult purchase'; It's pitched (quite strongly... and wrongly) as a book for women, which rather does the book a total disservice. Even my wife looked at me oddly and said, "really?" when I made my mind up to buy it. Good leap on my part, that's all I can say!
To any blokes out there who are hesitant, teetering on the edge, this book is *not* a book for women. Nothing of the sort. It's about women. And, in my opinion, it should become compulsory reading in schools. Although it deals with the plight of black maids is 1960s Mississippi it is striking how the stories can still be superimposed over lives even today...and that is frightening. So it's relevant, but also it's funny, sad, shocking, and moving. Don't be fooled (I know I shouldn't have been) by the picture of a pretty blonde on the back cover, you'll discover that Kathryn Stockett's writing is beguiling and captivating. I really couldn't put this book down. The relationships are, at times, uncomfortably revealing, and the characters are so brilliantly crafted you know you're going to miss them at the end...
My wife now wants to read this, and my sister. But they'll have to wait or buy a copy, as I'm going to give it to someone else I know first. Someone I've known for 20 years, who may see himself and the world a little differently after he's read this book. :-D
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read,
This review is from: The Help (Paperback)My favourite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, so I have inherited a love for books about the Deep South of America.
I have noticed most of the negative reviews mention the southern dialect used within the book, however after the first couple of pages I found a really began to understand the language used and felt it added to the understanding of each character. Without the colloquial language, the book wouldn't have the raw and personal feel that it has.
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Help" and found I couldn't put it down! I have since been on the hunt for similar books and hope to find one just as enjoyable! Highly recommended.
65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different approach to an old subject,
The book is funny in places and certainly makes the reader feel empathy towards the poor, the put upon and the neglected. The only drawback is the language used - as the authentic '60s American style is not so easily read by a 2009 Englishman! Still, I praised the book for its authenticity so you can't have it both ways.
If you like this I also recommend other books about race and the struggle for freedom:One Love Two Colours: The Unlikely Marriage of a Punk Rocker and His African Queen by Margaret Oshindele (my wife) - a book about a successful inter-racial marriage and Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany - the true story of a mixed race boy growing up in Nazi Germany. Both are extremely interesting reads that leave the reader thinking about their own prejudices and stereotypes.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I could go on and on about all the elements of this book that touched me,
I'm not American and I don't have any links to the deep south...I therefore don't have any authority to say this but...I felt a strong level of authenticity in the 'voice' of all three of the narrative strands, which made the book a delight to read. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a white writer to be able to step into the shoes of those black maids but for me, Kathryn Stockett has pulled it off.
The Minny/Celia elements of the narrative were my favourites. I loved Minny's brash humour and the fact that her 'sass-mouthing' got her into all ends of trouble! I also liked Stockett's juxtaposition of the race debate with the exploration of white-trash/society prejudice throughout this section of the narrative. For me, this gave an extra layer to the hypocrisy of supposedly civilised societies all over the world. - I particularly loved the scene where Minny was decrying the fact the Celia "...just don't see em. The lines." forcing Aibileen to 'philosophise' that those lines don't exist, that "...People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there. But they ain't". Aibileen finishes off with the lovely phrase "...All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries." I feel this sentiment reached its climax through Aibileen's final scenes with Mae Mobley, following on the back of the earlier stories about 'Martian Luther King' and the candy wrapped in white and black wrapping. You know when reading the ending that Mae Mobley has some hard times ahead of her without Aibileen protecting her precious self-esteem with those words of wisdom.
There was a wonderfully written bittersweet river that coursed its way throughout the novel providing added depth to the whole story. I loved the inner beauty of Celia and Johnny's relationship, which was cast against the sadness that they'll never have children. The complex love that Skeeter's mother held for her daughter cast against serious illness and her treatment of Constantine. Stuart's laudable attempts to protect Skeeter's reputation but his final inability to follow through and marry the woman he obviously loved...and the irony that his final act helped to set her free to pursue her career in New York. The strength of Minny fighting injustice in her own inimitable way while at the same time putting up with such terrible treatment from her husband. The cruelty of Hilly's outward-facing persona contrasted with her obviously superior skills as a loving mother. The extraordinary kindness of Lou Anne Templeton to Louvvenia when her grandson is blinded after being beaten for using the white bathroom cast against her own sadness and mental health issues. The surprising levels of comfort many of these women get from each other that defies the boundaries of class and colour...I could go on and on and on about all the elements of this book that touched me.
When all is said and done the relationships between these women is far more complex than I'd ever imagined and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read about them in this novel. In a perfect world I'd have liked to see Stockett deal a little more deeply with the effects of the extreme violence throughout the period of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. The historical, factual detail wasn't there in enough abundance for me - the shooting of Medgar Evers for example was an opportunity missed. And the lack of recriminations from the publication of the book was a bit of an anti-climax, much as I enjoyed seeing the Hilly Holbrook stranglehold loosened ever so slightly!
I would strongly recommend this book - I think this is one I'll re-read in a few years time and I know that it's going to stay with me. Overall and extremely satisfying read.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Help (Paperback)In many ways, this is a wonderful book, as attested t by its many five-star reviews. The three main characters are all warm and sympathetic and yet individual, and the story both moving and original. But unlike many other readers, I had several reservations. The first was the American negro patios, faithfully reproduced in two of the three first-person accounts, which I sometimes found jarring, albeit no doubt authentic. I can see that this was necessary, but I still found it a bit much at times. The plot, too, seememd to straggle a little, and while the ending wasn't (and could never have been) a neat, happy-ever-after ending, I thought that it lacked something. Perhaps with so many lives affected by the events in the novel, it was impossible to create a better conclusion, but when I finished the novel I felt oddly dissatisfied. (I would be most interested to know whether anyone else felt that same as I did.) Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel, although it will never be one of my favourites.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Brilliant!,
This review is from: The Help (Paperback)This is the best book I've read in a long, long, LONG time. And that's coming from a girl who reads a lot. This incredible book is told in three separate and astoundingly clear first-person narrative voices.
The first voice belongs to Aibileen, a wise and godly black woman who is employed in a household where she is raising the child of her white employers. The little girl, Mae Mobley, is an adorable kid who seems damned to follow in the ignorant footsteps of her awful parents. That is, until Aibileen decides that she can save her; she can teach the child that black people ARE people. This is something that many of the white characters seem to have forgotten.
The novel is set in 1962, after Ms Parks decided she deserved to sit wherever she damn well pleased on that bus... but the white population of Mississippi begs to differ. Rosa parks might have convinced people that she was good enough to sit where she liked, but one of the key images of Stockett's text is that of lavatory segregation! The white housewife for whom Aibileen works has a separate toilet built so that they won't have to share a toilet! The idea that black people carry strange diseases is discussed and agreed upon by the cloistered, ignorant white housewives. This forced segregation is one of the catalysts for Aibileen's determination to make sure that little May Mobley doesn't grow up to be just like her mother.
Aibileen's is a calm voice, under which lies years of sadness, resentment, feelings of insignificance and above all, fear.
The second narrative voice is that of Minny. How I loved this woman! At first I thought that perhaps she was something of a stereotype: she's sassy, a great cook, proud, boisterous and she just can't keep a lid on her sarcasm. Her narrative cracked me up and saddened me at the same time. It's just so unfair that such a bright and vivid character sho be so subjugated by the brain-dead harem of ninnies who run the town. However, underneath all of that sass, Minny is a beaten wife with too many kids and an inability to hold down a job because of her smart mouth.
These white ladies are led by the vicious Miss Hilly, an antagonist who I thoroughly enjoyed hating. On the one hand, Miss Hilly is strong enough to be the queen of the stinging ants nest of white wives, so in that respect she's preferable to some of the snivelling "ladies" of the book. Still, I loved despising her.
The third narrative is that of Skeeter. She is a young, white college graduate who has achieved a lot for a woman of her time, but she has not achieved anything important, at least not as far as society is concerned: not as far as her mother is concerned. After all, there's no ring on her finger, is there? Skeeter's character provides a balance to the story, making it something more poignant somehow. The educated white woman is suddenly confronted with the understanding that not all is right in good ol' Mississippi. She feels trapped and this allows her to relate, if only just a little, with the black women of the town. I loved that she felt guilty about this sense of connection, knowing that she is still a privileged individual.
Instead of moping about her lot, Skeeter gets the idea to write down the stories of "The Help" of the town. The problem is, with the lynchings, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, talks of negro diseases, along with dozens and dozens of other more private horrors faced by the black women, they are too afraid to talk.
It's important to say that when the stories do start to spill out, not all of them are terrible. Plenty of the maids talk about the great kindnesses that their employers showed them. The book conveys the idea that the world in which it is set is a changing one. Not everyone is stuck in the terrible dark age of segregation or apartheid. White people aren't demonized and black people aren't deified. The villain of the text is ignorance and narrow-mindedness. The hero of the piece is the bravery of the women to break their silences and just try to make a difference.
This book is truly amazing. The only aspect which disappointed me is that it was written so recently. I wish it had been written fifty years ago because then it would truly reflect the idea of broken silences and bravery. As it stands, however, as an educated reflection on the past, it is a wonderful book. When I closed the last page, I instantly began to miss Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter. I hoped and prayed that Mae Mobley would turn out good. I even missed my animosities for Miss Hilly. I'll read this one over and over. You can pretty much guarantee that this is going to be on school curricula some day, being read alongside Rees, Morrison and Angelou.
If you want an extra special treat, I whole-heartedly suggest you listen to the audiobook. Stockett's voices are truly brought to life in this medium.
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Paperback - 13 May 2010)