Book review: the Help

It’s one week till Christmas!!!!!!!!! I’m so excited!!!!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Paraphrased from Goodreads

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

3.5/5 stars

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me think (a bit), which are all things I look for in a book.

I loved all the relationships portrayed in this book. They were all very complex but realistic. I loved how this book explored the complicated area of loving your friends but completely disagreeing with their ideologies. I liked the romantic relationships in the book as well.

I really liked the characters. They were all well-developed and complex. They all had distinct voices and opinions. Celia Foote (my favourite tbh), Hilly, Minny and Leroy, Aibileen and Mae Mobley, Skeeter and Stuart. They were all so interesting to read about. I think the relationships and characters are really what make this book.

I also loved reading about the different experiences of the maids. They were good and bad, and I think they were all super interesting to read.

However, I have some fundamental issues with the overall message of this book (what can I say, I’m an opinionated activist at heart) and I think one reviewer on Goodreads summed it up very well so I’ll quote her below:

…the ultimate theme & message (i.e. “why, we’re all the same – there’s no difference between us after all!”) only reinforced my feeling that this is written from someone who has a very undeveloped or underdeveloped concept of race and race relations in the United States.

I definitely agree. While I think that yes, some black maids had good relationships with their families, they were still ultimately maids. They were still seen as lower than whites. The families, while they loved their Help, didn’t do anything to ultimately advance them in society. The experiences of black help were overwhelmingly bad. I think the author really tried to cover that up. My copy of the book has a bit at the end by the author, and she says she wanted to emphasize the “love” between the White women and the Black help. I think Stockett fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between the families and the help, and really missed the mark on actually explaining it.

Further, this book has a serious case of white saviour, which is one trope in media that I think has been way over done and needs to die any time now.

This review from the New York Times also sums up how I feel pretty well in the first few paragraphs. HOWEVER Kristin recently directed her readers to a Clutch review which highlights the best messages in this book. And I 100% agree with everything written here. “We’ve Come So Far, But Not Nearly Far Enough” is perhaps the best message this book (intentionally or unintentionally) promotes.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed reading this book. I just wish the overall message was slightly different and the white saviour trope wasn’t as much of a thing.

Thanks for reading! Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

11 thoughts on “Book review: the Help

  1. You seriously write the best reviews, I’ve never had any desire to read this book but now I’m like…maybe I could? I mean, I probably won’t, but your reviews are my favourites and now I pick it up if it’s on sale! 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

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