A Sister’s Review: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett

by Kim on October 13, 2011 · 26 comments

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Earlier this summer, my sister Jenny and I decided to read and review The Help by Kathryn Stockett. We both read the book over our 4th of July vacation, and had a race to see who would finish first. We have a long-standing competition about reading speed that dates back all the way to the early Harry Potter books. It’s vicious.

In this race, Jenny beat me out… but just barely. She also very responsibly answered all of the questions we came up with for our review in a timely manner… while I procrastinated and was lazy! However, finally, I bring you the latest edition of The Sisterhood of the Summer Book Reviews.

The HelpWhy did you decide to read this book?

Jenny: I wanted to read this book because I had heard a lot of good things about it from some people that I knew. I also really enjoy reading historical fiction because I love learning about the past, but my favorite way to do that is through stories from the point of view of people who lived during that time. Now I know historical fiction is not true, but I like to imagine what it might have been like to live during that time, or to have some of the challenges that existed back in that time.

Kim: Because you picked it! Also, there’s been a lot of hype about the book, so I get curious about fiction when it seems so universally loved by the people who read it.

How was the dialect to you? Was it confusing to follow?

Jenny: At first I found it a little difficult to follow. I was stumbling over words, and having to re-read sentences to understand what was going on. But as I got further into the book got used to the dialect and reading became a lot easier and quicker.

Kim: Honestly, I don’t think I even noticed. I don’t remember ever thinking, “This is hard to read!” or feeling frustrated by it.

Do you think the story is worth all the buzz that this book has received?

Jenny: I do I think it is a strong book with good character development as well as the way that such a controversial issues is explored from so many points of view, was probably challenging to write but made the book a much more interesting piece to read and explore.

Kim: I thought it was a really good story. I sat down to start the book on a Saturday, I think, and basically read it straight through. The premise was something I didn’t know much about, most of the characters were fully-developed, and there was a good sense of tension in the plot. I liked reading the book a lot.

the help movie posterWhat did you think of the movie?

Jenny: I really liked the movie. I am always worried when I go to a movie based on the book that it just won’t be the same. However, after finishing this movie. I was satisfied. Obviously not everything that was in the book was in the movie, but what they chose to remove I did not miss (unlike a lot of other book movies I have seen) It was a movie that can stand on its own without the book, but which also can be enjoyed if you have read the book. That and I love Emma Stone, and the women who played Hilly was just frightening (all the actresses were great).

Kim: I thought they did a good job of reflecting the bigger points of the book while dropping out some of the plot lines that might have made it confusing. The acting was stellar, especially Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. I think I would have liked a little more subtlety in Hilly, but she’s pretty one-sided in the book so maybe that wasn’t an option.

Did the two of you have different reactions to the book? Different parts you liked the most? Different characters you related to?

Jenny: I really liked the entire book, however I most related to the character of Skeeter. The way she felt like she didn’t fit in, but had a viewpoint that she wanted to across, and something she believed in even if it was not what everyone wanted her to believe. My favorite part of the book was the changes that the characters went through. No one went from one extreme to another, rather they slowly transformed and change. They slowly became willing to share their stories, slowly realized perhaps the status quo was not the way things should be done. It is a more realistic and believable transformation. And I really loved the characters of Minny and Cellia and their relationships.

Kim: I also liked Skeeter, even if her role as a journalist wasn’t as big of a deal as maybe I would have liked (I’m predictable!). I’m not sure if I related to any character in particular though — they all really seemed of a different time and place than me.

As sisters, what do you think of this as a book about women? As young women, what do you think about how times have changed or not changed?

Jenny: I like how it empowered the women while not turning them into crazy feminists. I enjoy reading books with strong female characters who do their own thing. I think times have changed in terms of what the issues are our world is facing. However, I still think that their are more stories of people being mistreated and no one talking about it that should be told. I wish their were even more courageous writers female or male who would write about things that bother them and seem to bother no one else.

Kim: I think the biggest change is that we don’t expect to see such blatant racism today. Things are better than they were, but certainly not perfect. Although there is a tendency to think that racism and sexism aren’t issues anymore (which definitely isn’t true), I think we’re far less accepting of those things than we used to be. I agree with Jenny that more writers should tackle the things that bother them, and I do think that’s happening… we’re just not always as inclined to read it.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie @ Read Handed October 13, 2011 at 8:30 am

Great discussion! The Help has been so talked to death that it’s difficult to come up with a new angle sometimes. I love that you managed to do so – the sisters comparison was wonderful!

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Thank you! It’s fun for us to talk about books when we get the chance.

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Stephanie October 13, 2011 at 11:16 am

I love the picture of you and your sister reading together as kids! I loved The Help and agree that the movie adaption was great too!

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I’m glad Jenny was able to find it when we started doing this project last summer.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) October 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

This is a great review! I didn’t even notice the dialogue either – maybe because I’m used to it. I loved the relationship between Celia and Minny too and I think most people have overlooked it.

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Great point — I love that one too. That one was especially great in the movie.

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Joy Weese Moll October 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

Yay! I was really looking forward to this review and it didn’t disappoint. I also didn’t have a problem with the dialogue, but Missouri has a lot of southern speaking styles.

One thing I think the movie didn’t get across as well as the book was the power differentials. That to some degree the way the white women treated the black women was effected by the way that white women were treated by white men. People treat each other better all the way around when we are all more acknowledged as equals.

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Yeah, that’s very true. There was a lot going on during that time and the movie had to necessarily simplify a bit.

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Meg October 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

How fun that you read this book with your sister, and I loved your discussion! The Help is one of my favorite books ever . . . I guess because of the way it made me feel such a range of emotions. I also thought the film did a good job of taking the overarching themes of the story and translating them to the big screen, though I would have liked to have seen more of Skeeter’s journalism days myself!

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Yes and yes :) That must just be the journalists in us though.

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Jeanne October 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

This novel gave me a crawly feeling, because I felt like a lot of the people who were telling me about it in real life were using it to feel better about the way they treat others, sort of a denial of what you say–that sexism and racism still exist. That’s not entirely the fault of the novel, though.

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Kim October 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm

All of those things were definitely in the back of my mind as I was reading. There is a way in which seeing how bad things were makes today seem better, but I don’t think that takes away from a good story.

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Amused October 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I loved this review! Both your viewpoints about the book and the movie. You really fit it all in!

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

We talked about a lot more in person after we saw the movie, but this about sums it up :)

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Aths October 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I read this book more than a year ago, so there’s some stuff I didn’t remember, but I did watch the movie recently and I loved it. I thought it was great too, especially the acting. Hilly was pretty one-dimensional, but the other characters did well. Esp Minny!

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

I liked Elizabeth in the movie more than I thought in the book, I think. Overall though, the acting in the movie was great.

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Betty October 14, 2011 at 6:16 am

Great reviews and seeing how you differed in answering the questions. Love the pix of you two.
I grew up in this era in the Deep South so a lot of what was told were faintly familiar. My mother had help come in to take care of me when I was 5-7. She was sad when Willie Mae told her she was moving to NY.

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

That’s so interesting — this is a time and place in the country I just can’t quite wrap my head around.

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Care October 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm

YAY Sisters! Our book club read this and then went to see the movie. It’s even more interesting to discuss considering the backlash prompted by the movie that it is stereotypical. It does draw attention to issues that, as you say, people tend to dismiss.

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 10:14 am

I almost wish I’d read the book before all the controversy about it started up, since it’s hard to put that out of your mind once you hear it. However, I think it does make you a little more critical of a reader, which is good too.

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Lisa October 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

What fun! I wish my sister and I liked to read the same kinds of books! Oh wait – I just realized that my mom and I often read the same books. But then I can’t even get her to leave comments on my blog!

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 10:14 am

My mom doesn’t want anything to do with my blog either, but I’ve been working on her to send in a review :)

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Kailana October 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

It is so nice that you and your sister read together! My sister goes through spurts where she reads once in a while, so during that period I always have a million suggestions for her, but then she sort of fads off. The same with my mother, actually.

I read this over the summer, too, and really enjoyed it! I liked the movie, too. I went with three other people who had not read the book and they were all in agreement that they enjoyed it, too.

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

Jenny doesn’t get to read much when she’s in school — that’s why we tend to do this in the summer. And The Help is a good summer book, I think.

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Colleen October 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I am reading The Help now and so relieved it hasn’t disappointed – I worry when a book gets as much hype as this one. Great joint review with your sister – what a great idea! And the pic of you both as little girls is adorable!

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Kim October 16, 2011 at 10:16 am

This one did get a TON of hype, which is why I’m glad I wanted a bit to read it (even if it was getting hyped again because of the movie). I can’t wait to see what we’ll get to read next summer.

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