Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review - The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Date of Publication: 10 February 2009

Legacy: This is the author's first book. The book has been since adapted to a movie, which won several Oscar nominations and awards.

To be frank, I only heard about this book when the movie on which it was based, was nominated for several Academy awards. And although I openly admit that few Oscar-winning movies appeal to me, I was intrigued by the subject of the movie, and hence, the book - In spite of all the difficulties she faces in a narrow-minded town of Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s, a white girl interviews a dozen different black maids, and publishes their sometimes sweet, mostly bitter stories in a book that turns out to be a surprising success. (P.S. Etiquette urges me to use the phrase 'African-American' instead of 'black', however, the former phrase will make no justice to the story of the book.)

Anyways, as I laid my hands on this book, I was soon drawn into the world of Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, an unconventional white girl who is well ahead of her times and her peers. The only girl in her group of friends to finish college, she is more interested in achieving her dream of becoming a writer, than getting married like all her other friends. True, she feels lonely when her girlfriends proudly show off their husbands and children at parties; she feels ecstatic when she breaks her jinx of not having suitors and goes on her first date ever; but what she feels most, is awkwardness - about how her friends and folks and relatives treat their colored nannies and servants, in spite of how much they rely on them. This awkwardness, coupled by a burning desire to write something that will get her a job at a prestigious New York publishing house, pushes Skeeter to take the biggest risk of her life.
I was further engulfed in the world of Abilyn, Minny, and Constantine, the three helps around whose lives the book mainly revolves. The author has painstakingly described their trials and tribulations, their fight for something so basic, that one would scarcely think of it as possible conflict material, and their difficult journey of revealing the worst while continuing their respectful behavior towards their unreasonable masters and mistresses - all of this sans the melodrama! Yes, no preaching, no tear-jerking descriptions, hardly any philosophy - the simplicity of narrative is the best thing about the book.

On the flip side, the book could have used a little more editing: it does tend to drag just the slightest bit. Also, the ending is mostly too easy; however, I guess that enunciates the simple charm of the book - had it been a little more difficult or twisted, it would have seemed contrived and dramatic.

I would definitely recommend this book, not only for its literary value, but also for its emotional quotient.

Rating: 4 on 5

Positives: Simple, yet interesting concept, great story line, strong but believable characters

Negatives: Slightly slow narrative


  1. I just finished reading the book and I loved it. I saw the movie first and then ordered the book :) Lovely review you have written here.

  2. Thanks a lot Shweta! Glad you liked them (the movie, the book, and the review)... :D