Sunday, 4 March 2012


This post is about the book The Help. You can read my review of the film here:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is another book that I came across thanks to the TV Book Club, and actually, it's another one that I resisted for a long time. I just wasn't really interested in the subject, until I found out about the film, at which point I became fascinated. I don't know why that is, but I bought the book a few months ago and finally got around to reading it this week.

Set in the 1960s, aspiring writer Skeeter decides she wants to write a book about the experiences of black maids who serve white families and raise their children, but aren't even allowed to use their toilets. At first, nobody will talk to her, but finally Aibileen decides to tell her story, and soon everyone wants to be involved.

I know I've lifted that last paragraph directly from my review of the film, but it is still applicable because the film was an incredibly faithful adaptation. Reading the book was like watching the film with a few little bits added in here and there, such as why is Skeeter, whose real name is Eugenia Phelan, called Skeeter? I'll tell you why, when she was born her brother saw her and said "It's not a baby, it's a skeeter!" (as in, a mosquito). It kind of bugged me in the film that the reason everybody called the character Skeeter wasn't explained.

There was a part of the book that I found incredibly irritating, though. It's all told from the perspectives of Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, another one of the maids. It switches from one narrator to the other every two chapters. Except there's one chapter that's told from the perspective of an omniscient third-person narrator. I understand why Stockett's done this - it's a big event, the Jackson Junior League Annual Ball and Benefit, and all of the narrators are there but they witness different events throughout the evening. Instead of walking us through the ball three times to show us everything, Stockett's switched to the omniscient narrator. I completely understand why she's done this, but it's jarring and horrible. I think I would have preferred to see the ball three times over.

Other than that, it is a very good book. It's quite long, but it's an easy enough read, and I found myself completely immersed in it. It's not as funny as the film, I have to say, but maybe that's because I saw the film first and knew all the funny bits. Still, I'd highly recommend both of them, though I'd advise you not to read the afterword by the author - there was something so smug and self-serving about it that it really cheapened the end of the novel in my opinion.

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