Natalie Vellacott's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

"I know there are plenty of other "colored" things I could do besides telling my stories--the mass meetings in town, the marches in Birmingham, the voting rallies upstate. But truth is, I don't care that much about voting. I don't care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver."

I watched the movie based on this book a few years ago so when I saw this book at a neighbour's garage sale I thought it might be worth reading.

The Help is fiction that reads like non-fiction--probably because it is in large part based on some of the experiences the author had as a child growing up in Mississippi. She explains this in an additional section at the back of the book.

The book tells the story of several black maids or house-helpers working for white families in the early 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi when racial segregation was the norm. The maids are at first reluctant to share their experiences fearing the backlash from their employers. But are persuaded by a young, ambitious white girl nicknamed Skeeter, who happens to be best friends with Hilly--the white girl who treats her own maid in an appalling manner. Losing friends, a boyfriend and falling rapidly out of fashion with the rest of her social circle, Skeeter eventually produces an anonymous book with fictional characters simply entitled Help. But what will happen in their small town if the book is published and people start to recognise themselves?

The book is related in the first person by several of the maids and by Skeeter herself. The chapters alternate between the different characters. The perspectives are incredibly realistic and the characters well developed on both sides of the racial divide. There are, of course, characters that don't fit the racial stereotypes or don't behave in the prescribed manner--characters who revert to human kindness and temporarily forget the entrenched segregation. It is difficult to see who is more shocked by this--their peers or the maids themselves.

"She clear her throat again and I'm wondering why she telling me all this. I'm the maid, she ain't gone win no friends talking to me."

The thing I liked best about this book was the fact that the author made it clear that the maids had both good and bad experiences depending on who they worked for. There were clearly employers who went out of their way to demonstrate care and compassion but others who treated the maids like trash on the street.

It is a good reminder for us, as Christians, that cultural division and attitudes are not an excuse for sinful behaviour. We all have a choice. Just because everyone is doing something doesn't make it right--we should listen to our consciences, not over-ride them. The Help is also a reminder that God sees what we are doing in secret even though others may not know about it. The book written by the maids exposed all of the behaviours of the employers that they had no doubt expected to be kept hidden--the good, the bad and the ugly. We need to remember that God sees all of our dealings with others and He will hold us to account.

This book is a page turner, the author somehow makes every-day details interesting and I was hooked. I wanted to give it 5 stars and I would have done but for the bad language and fairly regular blasphemy--there are at least fifty swear words in the book. There is limited violence and a scene where a man exposes himself which some readers might find offensive although it wasn't especially graphic. There are also some graphic details of a miscarriage which may upset some people.

I recommend this book.
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2016 – Started Reading
September 29, 2016 – Shelved
October 2, 2016 – Shelved as: fiction
October 2, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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Linda I loved this book. It's what started me on the adventure of reading fiction. Up until reading The Help I was a non-fiction reader, not knowing the fun I was missing. :)


Colleen Fauchelle I loved this book. But that pie-yuck.


Loraine I loved this book. Thought it was better than the movie although it was good.


Sondra Do you know where I can find the movie? This remains in of my most favorite books. Thanks.


message 5: by Loraine (last edited Oct 05, 2016 07:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Loraine I'm pretty sure you can get it from Netflix if you subscribe. Also noticed it was on either Fox Movie Channel or Turner Classic Movies the other night.


June Natalie, yuor review makes me want to re-read the book. I liked how faithful the movie was to the actual book. I did watch the film before reading.


Natalie Vellacott June wrote: "Natalie, yuor review makes me want to re-read the book. I liked how faithful the movie was to the actual book. I did watch the film before reading."

Hi June, try it again then and see if it's as good as you remember!


message 8: by Lucy Carroll (new)

Lucy Carroll My mum read that book.


Natalie Vellacott Lucy Carroll wrote: "My mum read that book."

You should try it too, Lucy...


message 10: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy Tuell I was not interested in reading the book until I read your review. I like what you said about our life and deeds being exposed, and how the book demonstrates this in the way some of the family's treated their maids.


message 11: by Nora Charles (new)

Nora Charles Interesting. I thought the book was in poor taste and was exploitative. Not a fan of this one.


Natalie Vellacott Wendy wrote: "I was not interested in reading the book until I read your review. I like what you said about our life and deeds being exposed, and how the book demonstrates this in the way some of the family's tr..."

Thanks Wendy, it's worth a try if you can cope with the strong language in places!


Natalie Vellacott Nora Charles wrote: "Interesting. I thought the book was in poor taste and was exploitative. Not a fan of this one."

Hi Nora, thanks for your comment. In what way do you think it's exploitative? Surely it will make people consider their own behaviour...


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