Ellen’s review of The Help > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Ellen, your lan-fuckin-guage! I kid. This sounds like a book I would never read.


message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Lobstergirl wrote: "Ellen, your lan-fuckin-guage! I kid. This sounds like a book I would never read."

...I figured you were kidding. No, I don't think you would like this one. It kept my interest while I was reading it, but it's not worth the kudos it's been receiving.


message 3: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Ellen wrote: "Lobstergirl wrote: "Ellen, your lan-fuckin-guage! I kid. This sounds like a book I would never read."

...I figured you were kidding. No, I don't think you would like this one. It kept my inter..."


Thanks for the warning, Ellen. This has had a lot of hype, and that always makes me suspicious. :-)


message 4: by ilovebakedgoods (Teresa) (last edited Apr 17, 2010 04:26AM) (new)

ilovebakedgoods (Teresa) I have to say this is one of the most honest, open-minded reviews I've read about this book. Mind you, I'm only on page 70-something but already I'm feeling the ambivalence, not to mention the writing just feels SO contrived, as if the author is TRYING to write this earth-shattering story that will garner tons of publicity and perhaps a chance to become one of Oprah's book picks but it fails. I don't know, it just rings false and isn't grabbing me like I'd hoped after reading so much praise about this book. I'm struggling to get through it and after reading this review I'm considering skimming it because it sounds like I am not going to like it in the long run.


message 5: by Melinda (new)

Melinda The main problem with The Help is that the voices are SO inarticulate. The black maid's voices are rife with silly dialect ("so-nuff" and "Law") and the white women all speak the Queen's English. I have Southern friends who are very well educated and every other word out of their mouths are "y'all". I counted a total of 2 "y'all"s spoken by the white women in The Help. What a horrible book.


message 6: by Rhys (new)

Rhys Ellen, I don’t know the source of the outrage that seems to color your review, but I do appreciate your openness. I too felt the ambivalence you noted. I give the new author top marks for the book, but not the best mark for the very reason that you touch on.

One should write about what they know; and I guess that is why a Mississippi writer is caught writing about her state and its people. I also feel that writing about ‘the help’ in a 1962 setting will sell better if located in the Deep South. I mean put the story in Manhattan and see how it plays.

Most of the USA would forever like to direct attention to places like Mississippi when speaking of racism, squalor, poverty, poor education and illiteracy, etc.; but these things know no boundaries. Every place you go there will be these elements. Certainly the affluent in all places in previous American generations had servants’ quarters, ‘domestics’ had rules others did not have, and their employers ‘owned’ them. This story is selling big in the Deep South because it is true; it stirs emotions everywhere because it is true everywhere.

Kathryn Stockett is off to a fabulous start. She has her first book accepted by Putnam, and it goes to the top of the charts. Then Steven Spielberg calls her up and wants to make a movie out of the book. How much fun is this girl able to bear?! I just hope that she continues to improve in her next book and does not go soft in all her good fortune.


message 7: by Melinda (new)

Melinda 3 stars... I think you went too easy on the whole subject... Just my opinion though.


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Melinda wrote: "3 stars... I think you went too easy on the whole subject... Just my opinion though."

You're absolutely right. I just knocked it down to 2 stars.


message 9: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Good for you, Ellen! I recently found out that you can give ZERO stars to a book...and that tickled me to no end, because I read Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (of Life of Pi fame) and it was the WORST book I have ever finished!!!!!! So I knocked my one star review down to zero...and man, that felt good!
~~Melinda


message 10: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Melinda, No, we can't give zero stars. No stars means that a book is unrated. To trash a book give it one star and write a scathing review!


message 11: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Melinda wrote: "Good for you, Ellen! I recently found out that you can give ZERO stars to a book...and that tickled me to no end, because I read Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (of Life of Pi fame) and it was t..."

It was the right thing to do :), and I'm normally a low rater.


Lisa wrote: "Melinda, No, we can't give zero stars. No stars means that a book is unrated. To trash a book give it one star and write a scathing review!"

That's really a bummer, Lisa. I wouldn't mind negative stars, in fact, which I would reserve for Bridges of Madison County.


message 12: by Melinda (new)

Melinda I did TOTALLY trash the book and got like 50 comments. Are you sure that you have to give a book 1 star??????


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Bravo!


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Melinda wrote: "I did TOTALLY trash the book and got like 50 comments. Are you sure that you have to give a book 1 star??????"

I am sure. There are a whole bunch of threads about it over at the Goodreads Feedback group.

One star looks worse than a blank unrated situation, so you might want to give that hated book its one star.


message 15: by Melinda (last edited Jun 21, 2010 09:58PM) (new)

Melinda Oh...Thank you!!!! so much for telling me that! Even though it deserves negative -20 stars, I'll go back and give it a one. (under protest, though!)

:)


message 16: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Ariel wrote: "Bravo!"

Thank you, Ariel.


message 17: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Doolittle I've been giving lots of books one star. I took the little message that pops up literally--"Didn't like it." I'm not trashing anything. It's hard to write a book. But I read this review with interest because I've been burned 3 times now by books with fab reviews on the cover and absolute rubbish inside. I work for a bookstore so I think I'll just skim this one over lunch.


message 18: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Nadine wrote: "I've been giving lots of books one star. I took the little message that pops up literally--"Didn't like it." I'm not trashing anything. It's hard to write a book. But I read this review with intere..."

Well, the star system skews positive. Only one rating is truly negative: 1 star = didn't like it.

The remaining four stars are essentially positive:
2 stars = it was okay
3 stars = liked it
4 stars = really liked it
5 starts = it was amazing

I'd rather have a scale that was a little more balanced such as...

1 star = really sucked
2 stars = not very good
3 stars = it was average
4 stars = very good
5 stars - excellent

My average rating, 2.63, seems low but not in light of what the star rankings mean.


message 19: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl The second scale is more in line with Amazon's system. I find there's not much room between "really liked it" and "it was amazing." To compensate for GR's weak scale I added a to-be-burned shelf. I will admit to some grade inflation myself. I don't know why I do it. Maybe because people will see one star and think I thought it was the worst book ever written, when really maybe I just "didn't like it."


message 20: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Lobstergirl wrote: "The second scale is more in line with Amazon's system. I find there's not much room between "really liked it" and "it was amazing." To compensate for GR's weak scale I added a to-be-burned shelf...."

It is difficult, because ultimately, this book really repelled me, and the two star rating I gave it suggests that I thought it "was okay." It wasn't, but a 1 star is viewed as harsh.

I don't have a problem with the 5-star rating (I know some would prefer 10 stars) but I would like the definitions for the stars revised so that it is a more comprehensive scale.


message 21: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I like the scale the way it is. Readers choosing books is not a random activity! Star ratings are not likely to fall on the bell curve. I choose to read books I hope to really like or love (4 or 5 stars) and try to at least like (3 stars) the books I read, and I do really like most of them. Why spend time, unless it's for work or school, and even then, reading books we think are just okay or books we don't even like?! Goodreads members enjoy reading. I'm always surprised when someone has many low ratings.

Also, some members have their own definitions for each star rating posted on their profile page. As I get to know people here, I learn how they rate and can therefore better evaluate those ratings.


message 22: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan I am a half star fan though.


message 23: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Lisa wrote: "I like the scale the way it is. Readers choosing books is not a random activity! Star ratings are not likely to fall on the bell curve. I choose to read books I hope to really like or love (4 or 5 ..."

I see your point, Lisa, but I've often read books that I've found less than stellar. This book is a good case in point. I read it in an afternoon or so, and then couldn't stop thinking about why I found the book so unsatisfying and troubling.

Other times, I've read books that are getting a lot of attention. Good or bad, I tend to complete books. It's just a habit. So, from my standpoint, being able to distinguish a bit more among books that aren't wonderful would be helpful.


message 24: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Ellen wrote: "So, from my standpoint, being able to distinguish a bit more among books that aren't wonderful would be helpful."

For me, not, but I know others feel as you do, Ellen.

That's what reviews are for. They're always so much more useful that star ratings, especially because different members have such different criteria for the way they use the star ratings.


message 25: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Lisa wrote: "Ellen wrote: "So, from my standpoint, being able to distinguish a bit more among books that aren't wonderful would be helpful."

For me, not, but I know others feel as you do, Ellen.

That's what r..."


I agree. We use the star rankings differently, but our judgment is evident in the reviews we write.


message 26: by Mokihana (new)

Mokihana Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!! You said exactly what I felt while reading this but didn't know how to put it in words. I kept hearing people recommend the book and yet every page just left a sour taste ..while an "entertaining" read you hit the nail right on the head ..it was constantly disturbing that she would somewhat make it seem that slavery wasn't "that bad" ..even though I don't think that was her intention. Even at the back of the book the author said that no one can say means things about her state. However, this was such a horrible time in American history and it should be okay to say negative things about Mississippi or any other state. Great review!


message 27: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Thanks, Mokihana. It's interesting how much emotion this book inspires. Legions of people rave about its excellence. Their praise is almost cult-like, but I don't get it. This is one disturbing book. Kathryn Stockett plays it safe, and in so doing, the book becomes condescending and false.


message 28: by Jessica (new)

Jessica "What was wrong?
Most of all, I think it was the book's ambivalent tone."
I think the ambivalence you sensed reflects the ambivalence of the time... not the author's own ambivalence. I feel that the injustices and hypocrisy described in the book are too complex for the author to have written about in any other tone. It's not the way she wants it to be rather the way it was. Since I didn't live in Jackson during that era I cannot say for sure... but that was sense the book gave me. So pretty much the exact reason you did not like the book is the reason I, and probably many other people, thought it was excellent.

Nevertheless, I appreciated reading your review to consider a different perspective on the book.


message 29: by Ellen (last edited Aug 23, 2010 05:47AM) (new)

Ellen This is why Stockett needed to write this book honestly, Jessica. Read this review by a member of Goodreads:
Once again, nearly all the white people are lazy, cruel, selfish, and/or stupid, while the black people are loving, pleasant, and hard-working. Lordy, we bin down dis road befo. Think “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” or, more recently, “The Secret Life of Bees.” Yes, we know black people had it hard before the civil rights movement took off (although they had more intact families and higher rates of literacy than they have now), but good heavens, if white people were so evil, they wou ...more Once again, nearly all the white people are lazy, cruel, selfish, and/or stupid, while the black people are loving, pleasant, and hard-working. Lordy, we bin down dis road befo. Think “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” or, more recently, “The Secret Life of Bees.” Yes, we know black people had it hard before the civil rights movement took off (although they had more intact families and higher rates of literacy than they have now), but good heavens, if white people were so evil, they wouldn’t have bent over backwards to give black people their “rights.” (Think affirmative action, racial preferences, etc.) I sort of enjoyed the cultural references to life in the early sixties, but I sure got tired of feeling sorry for them po black folks.

When writers, like Stockett, perpetuate stereotypes and oversimplify a complex time period, they merely fuel racism, and fail to educate someone as racist as the reviewer above. The only ambivalence in this book was Stockett's dithering - she couldn't quite bring herself to acknowledge that there was real evil going on and instead resorted to framing the treatment African American domestics received as the kind of "difficulty" that always occurs when there are unequal power relationships. Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. Skeeter risked these women's lives.

Thank you for your comments, though. I hope I've clarified my position.


message 30: by Tyrone (new)

Tyrone Swanson You nailed it.

Reading this, I always felt there was something off about it. Like it was always attempting to reveal this horrible situation but at the last moment she would switch over to something light and airy, or simply unimportant in contrast. Ah, well.

Perhaps she was trying to avoid being too sensational?


message 31: by Adele (new)

Adele McVay I felt the same as yourself when I began reading the novel. However, I couldn't help but recall a bit in Malcom X's Autobiography: a young pretty blonde white girl expresses her feelings regarding the treatment of blacks by whites, she is ashamed of the past, ashamed to be white and wants to help to change things etc. Malcom X pretty much tells her to take herself to...(well, I paraphrase, I read it a long time ago). But his opinion at the time was that someone who was such an integral part of the problem, the bourgeoisie, had no part to play in the solution. (It was an opinion that changed with his years, he recounted the story of the girl as he subsequently felt badly about it himself, it may even have been an attempt at an apology).
Anyway, her help and sadness at the situation was not appreciated. Blacks did not need her. Blacks did not want her. She was part of the problem, not the solution. I think the girl made me think of Skeeter. Her help & support was not wanted, needed or appreciated by the maids. They too repeatedly distrusted her as a white woman and saw her as using them to further herself (when in fact I felt Skeeter was too trusting of them at times). I felt that their opinion of her and their willingness to talk really changed and stepped up a gear when they saw her being ostracised by The League. If they were a Venn Diagram, their circles were suddenly overlapping just a fraction!
I liked the speech about 'lines', the lines are in our heads. While in no way wanting to belittle the horrific plight of the black maids, there were many other 'lines' that had to be toed by white and black people alike While it may have been more fulfilling from a 2010 viewpoint to have had one of the League members stand up to Hilly and tell her where to shove her Nigra toilet, would that have happened, in a small town in the 60s? would a 60s housewife have crossed so many lines & stuck her own neck out? I doubt it. I did find it interesting that other big issues were just bubbling away: homophobia, sexism, socialism, even cross dressing... We have a fluffy nostalgia for the 60's but ultimately I think it must have been a suffocating era to have lived through. I think the author captured that atmosphere, while providing an engaging and enjoyable read in the process.


message 32: by Merle (new)

Merle How old are you, Ellen? If you had lived during that time in the South, you would have seen the realism of this story. Was it right that people were treated this way? Of course not, and you can see that throughout the story. Ms. Stockett did not approve of the racism that was real during that time, but she did portray it very well in her book.

I was a young girl during that era, and there were many people who loved their "help," fed them, clothed them, and even bought them homes. Unfortunately, the system had been ingrained for many years before, and it was a process that took a long time to overcome.

We all like to think that we would have been the one to stand against the injustices of the time. Maybe you would have. But that is not something that you can know. You can only stand up for the injustices of today.


message 33: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Hi Ellen I have just bought a Kindle from Amazon to here in new Zealand and I love it. I live in the country and can't always get to the library and a paperback can cost $40!!! So I find I can find a book I like the sound of and be reading it in a minute. I love books and will always collect cookbooks and other gorgeous books. :-)


message 34: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Melinda wrote: "The main problem with The Help is that the voices are SO inarticulate. The black maid's voices are rife with silly dialect ("so-nuff" and "Law") and the white women all speak the Queen's English. I..."

That is exactly what bothers me so much about this book! I, too, know educated white people from the south, and "y'all" is just the tip of the iceberg.


message 35: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Sarne I wonder why you would say any dialect is silly - do you just have trouble relating to it? We all speak with different voices and accents bu tI like to think that very often we are singing the same song.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Victoria wrote: "I wonder why you would say any dialect is silly - do you just have trouble relating to it? We all speak with different voices and accents bu tI like to think that very often we are singing the sam..."

I know you weren't asking me, but I, too, was bothered by the dialect. I am almost always bothered by dialect unless the author is a "native speaker" (and thus entitled, I suppose) or unless it is terribly integral to the plot (think part of Cloud Atlas or Riddley Walker [not that I finished the latter--the dialect was still too annoying]). It makes a book difficult to read but not in a good, thought-provoking manner, and I always feel like it's a bit insulting to my intelligence: I can imagine that characters are talking in accents perfectly well, thank you, feel free to remind me as often as you like, but please don't literally spell it out and bog down my reading.


message 37: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Sarne As a writer and a poet I think it's a pity that you have that viewpoint. I will always believe that all voices are fascinating and far from annoying if you understand them. I found the book eminently readable and didn't even notice the dialect but perhaps that's because even though an ex-pat I have lived in the Caribbean for 20 years so it sounds pretty normal to me. Can't help wondering if your accent whatever it is might be strange to others - I know mine might be - being oh so very English.


message 38: by eq (new)

eq OH MY GOD YOU READ MY MIND. Except you didn't because if you did, it would not have been as eloquently put. I completely agree, I thought there was this weird haze to the racism, the violence, and hatred of the era. The real protagonist should have been Racism and Segregation and instead they ended up becoming caricatures, practically subplots.


message 39: by Christine (last edited Apr 12, 2011 09:48AM) (new)

Christine i can't help but just say i disagree and feel like the review missed the essense of her point of the story, the why and how of the perception from which it's written. yes, there's some holes; it's certainly not perfect, scholary, earthshaking but it's not meant to be. it's written from an emotional and subjective view point of three women in the clash, clamor and hush of jim crow meets dr king in jackson, mississippi. some things are all mixed up and complex and not what we'd like them to be, past or present. i think it's an emotional account, a journey of sorts and i thought it was remarkable for what it is, not what others think it should be, or should not be. but thank god, times have a'changed and we are (most) all entitled to open and public opinions. just thought i would offer my different perspective : ) btw, did you read the end section "in her own words," this was obviously written from an ambivilent place within the author, so yes, your assesment seems right, but it doesn't make the author wrong. that's the whole point of the story, to me anyway, and i thought it was a well done emotionaly journey. at least it wasn't blind side or gone with the wind. i certainly don't put it in that catagory and for me, that's progress for popular books.

p.s. i get it if you are nervous that this is what is going out to the "greater" population. i have read a lot of books, stories, essay's, read about mlk and malcolm x and w.e.b., dubois, peanut man carver, etc. on african american history and experiences. i even took an incredible african american history series in college for a year, which just covered the tip of the iceberg. i did all this because one time when i was younger i read some book like this, or maybe like "the bluest eye" by toni morrison or i saw roots, and i was flabbergasted, i just couldn't believe it, i needed to learn as much as i could to understand how it happened in the first place, then how that crazy sh*t ever came to an end, then more to see that it's still happens, at times, in ways. so, i see both sides and this IS NOT educating me, it's a sweet, moving novel from a woman working out her south, her family, her "help," and all the ambivilence that has unmasked and probably made her question so many things.


message 40: by Mare (new)

Mare I mostly agree with you, but here's my problem with the book: It's tone/message seems to be, "all black people are good and kind, and all white people (except Skeeter) are bad." It's not as -- forgive me -- as black and white as that. So that's rubbing me the wrong way. That said, I still can't put it down. Stockett is an excellent writer. ps - i'm not done yet, so feel free to comment/write to me, but please save any spoilers!


message 41: by Mark (new)

Mark have seen lots of hype and am still not sure whether I will chance it or not but thanks for a very powerful and heartfelt review


message 42: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Thomas I completely agree, Ellen. I was very disappointed with this book. Great review.


message 43: by Mark (new)

Mark as luck would have it my bookclub has plumped for this as one of the reads for our Nov group so even though your review was fast steering me away I have been painted into a corner. Having read the thread that goes with your review though i shall be fascinated to read in the light of evryone's opinion so thansk to all the contributors


message 44: by Candida (new)

Candida Pugh Thank you, thank you, thank you!


message 45: by Dani (new)

Dani Although I appreciate your opinion, I have to disagree on the premise of your dislike of this novel. Although I am a young Pacific Northwestern girl who has never set foot in the South, I think I understand the dynamic that Stockett is trying to replicate in her novel: the dichotemy of the loving relationship between the help and the white children, and the relationship between the help and the white families they work for. the issue at hand, I think, that is being discussed, is not simply the issue of slavery in 1960s Southern towns; the issue is the startling and disturbing irony of the power shift starting from the love between white babies and colored help that reverses itself when those babies become the cruel "owners" of the colored women who raised them. It would be impossible to portray this disturbing shift without detailing both the good and the bad of colored help in the 1960s.

Stockett, in my opinion, uses the switches between loving, heartwarming moments between tolerant white children (or Skeeter, in some instances) and the cruelty of white men & women to the same colored women who raise their babies and keep their lives running smoothly, in order to portray the bitter irony surrounding the equality movements during this time. I think this thesis is further supported by Stockett's use of historical contexts (noting grandparents or parents of colored narrators that have lived in full-out slavery and comparing them to the in-between stage of slavery & freedom that the novel is staged in), references made to the "kind" actions white women do, while they let the help fall by the wayside, and lastly, by the portrayal of white babies growing up to be just as bad as (or worse than) their mothers, even when they were raised nearly solely by colored women.

I don't believe that all books about slavery or African-American civil rights have to be gloom & doom 24/4. I think that Stockett's addition of heartwarming bits adds to the strength of the rhetoric going on inbetween the lines of the narrative.

I hope that clarifies what I belive to be the "point" of the book. If you can agree that the book aims to talk about that, I think that you can see how it's a good read.


message 46: by Candida (new)

Candida Pugh Some who respond positively to The Help write about it as if any dislike for the book consists merely in a failure of this or that reader to appreciate it on its own terms. Perhaps that point of view naturally extends from myopia regarding offensive aspects of the text. For a certain class of white women, in particular, the book appears to offer reassurance that old-fashioned notions of race and privilege remain extant and even reasonable. I do not mean this as an attack but use of the archaic term "colored", for example, signals a relationship to the world inaccessible to some others.

Some who bristle at the word "colored" also bristled at much in The Help. That both the book and the language may stem from innocence does not make their impact innocent. That is a distinction too few can comprehend.

Any reader can love a book, which is part of the contract when you purchase or borrow it. But to proselytize from condescension to those whose experience differs markedly--to that, no fan of The Help should feel entitled. Yet most seem to.

I am conscious of a degree of condescension in what I write here. I would apologize for it, but it stems from the frustration of being unable to share with folks of a like mind bafflement and contempt for the book without being subjected to lectures about what we have overlooked.


message 47: by Rhys (new)

Rhys Dani wrote: "Although I appreciate your opinion, I have to disagree on the premise of your dislike of this novel. Although I am a young Pacific Northwestern girl who has never set foot in the South, I think I u..."

I think you have a lot to learn about the South, but also about many other "non-slavery" parts of the US. In the '60s there was no more slavery for the blacks in the Deep South than in Boston, Philly, Detroit, NYC, LA, or hundreds of other places throughout the USA. The KKK was a national movement that had been grand in the north as well as in the south, east and west; and was a dominant segment of the Democratic Party. You should educate yourself, for it would heighten your enjoyment of The Help, even more. Miss Stockett has merely written about her relationship; a marvelous telling IMHO. The backdrops of people at odds with their existence and conditions and societies make the reading that much more interesting.


message 48: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Louise I agree that it doesn't work, but I can't quite figure out why. I came away with the strangest feeling that nothing actually happened, which is weird because there was a lot of action.


message 49: by Candida (new)

Candida Pugh Rhys wrote: The KKK was a national movement that had been grand in the north as well as in the south, east and west; and was a dominant segment of the Democratic Party.

Racism permeated the politics of the Democratic Party, but the KKK didn't "dominate" it. If it had, FDR would never have become a candidate, let alone president. JFK, a Catholic, wouldn't have had a prayer (pardon the pun). True, the KKK was extremely active in states like Indiana, but not quite "throughout" the North. The KKK and the White Citizens Councils controlled the black population in the South. While there was plenty of racism and oppression in the North (primarily coming from the police and business), it couldn't compare to the terror inflicted in the South. To make it all seem the same is to distort history. As for slavery, it still exists and in the early 1960s was alive and well in the South, disguised as "share cropping," something that never took hold in the North. To me, this is the sort of generalizing about black experience that makes "The Help" offensive.


message 50: by Caryn (new)

Caryn Thank You, Ellen. That was the best review of this book I have seen.


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