Moppet's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Sep 05, 10

bookshelves: 1960s, chicklit, historical-fiction, southern-fiction, meretricious-rubbish
Read from September 04 to 05, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Can't remember the last time I was so offended by a book. Too angry to write a review - have to leave it a few days so I can cool down.

Edited to add: review doesn't have any spoilers as yet obviously but the discussion certainly does.
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Reading Progress

09/04/2010 page 194
36.0% "So far, a curate's egg. On the one hand, very readable and an interesting premise and background. On the other hand, poor characterisation, plain sloppy writing, awful mawkish dialect and the idiotic Skeeter. This looks like being 2.5 stars but I haven't decided yet whether to round it up to three or down to two. One thing is for certain: Mockingbird it's not." 7 comments

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Christy English I liked this one...I am curious to get your take on it, Moppet...


Moppet Most of the library copies seem to be out, but I could put a hold on it.


Rebecca Huston Youch. That sounds pretty serious.


message 4: by Moppet (last edited Jul 17, 2015 06:51PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Moppet Rebecca wrote: "Youch. That sounds pretty serious."

The white heroine persistently exploits and endangers the black characters for personal gain and the author doesn't seem to understand that there might be anything wrong with that and instead positions her as some kind of Lady Bountiful. The cherry on the cowpat for me was the suggestion that you can cure your own cancer just by deciding you don't want to be sick anymore. As someone who lost a parent to cancer, I found it beyond offensive.


message 5: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Ouch.


message 6: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Oh my. You cannot cure cancer by wishing it away.. BS. Moppet, I would be offended by that too.


message 7: by Moppet (last edited Sep 05, 2010 12:15PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Moppet Tara wrote: "Oh my. You cannot cure cancer by wishing it away.. BS. Moppet, I would be offended by that too."

I think there is a huge, huge market for women's fiction which deals with 'difficult' topics or issues and minimises them by providing unrealistic happy endings. (I'm getting deja vu as I write this because I'm sure I've said it before). It's comfort literature. I would put The Help in this class. The problem is, I don't want to read comfort literature about the struggle for civil rights, or the struggle against cancer for that matter. I usually get warned off this type of book by the cover. The US cover is very pastel and fluffy and if it had had the same cover over here I might not have gone for it.


Elizabeth Did you mean the mother? I received the impression that the mother's remission was temporary and she was going to die. I certainly didn't think this novel was fluff or sickening. (have lost my own close relation to cancer).
I suspect that The Help will duke it out with Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies for my best read of 2010.


Moppet Elizabeth wrote: "Did you mean the mother? I received the impression that the mother's remission was temporary and she was going to die. I certainly didn't think this novel was fluff or sickening. (have lost my own ..."

Yes, I mean the mother. I didn't find anything in the book that suggested the remission was temporary - the last mention I could find was Skeeter saying her mother was fine on p.417. I know remission happens - what I objected to was this passage:

"I have decided not to die."
"Oh...Mama. God, please..."
"Too late," she says, waving my hand away. "I've made my decision and that's that."
She slides her palms across each other, as if throwing the cancer away.

I thought I wasn't supposed to take this seriously until I read on p.415: 'I'm just grateful Mother's better. If my fifteen-second engagement to Stuart is what spurred Mother's will to live, the fact that I'm single again fueled her strength even more.'

To me that was the author saying that the mother was definitely going to get better and it was due to her making the decision to live. But YMMV.

The biggest problem I have with the book is that I can't believe that at least one of the maids would not have been brutally murdered as a result of speaking out. To suggest Hilly could fix it all somehow I think distorts and trivialises history, so I can't class the story as anything but fluff.

I think Stockett sacrificed probability and realism to a happy ending. She wanted Skeeter to go off and have a wonderful life in New York. If her mother is dying, that puts a damper on things, so mother has to live. If one of the maids, or their families, is killed for what Skeeter did, that again detracts from a happy ending, so it doesn't happen, even though it probably would.

And don't get me started on the pie incident. Revolting, out of character, demeaning to the people the author is trying to represent, and again, I do not believe for a second that Minny would have lived to tell the tale.

Although I would very much like a second opinion from someone who has made a study of the period - may mention this at HFO.


Elizabeth YMMV? I don't known that one.

Do you think she really did that with the pie? I took it that she was joshing.

I took it that Skeeter and he mother were deluding themselves over the cancer because it's so darned obvious no one gets better from something like that. I took it that her mother did find the strength go on for a bit longer, A recently deceased from lung cancer dear and close relative of my dh's (died April this year) was on the skids several times but rallied to see her daughter married (boy was she determined) and had something of Mrs Phelan's attitude. Her family, herself and my FIL kept saying she was getting better, and there were times when she seemed to be proving them right - especially on good days when she made it to the pub and got out to the shops.
I imagined the continuation beyond the final curtain on the novel, and I thoroughly expected the mother to die. I never thought she was going to get better and I took Skeeter's comments as wishful thinking and of the moment and her mother's attitude as something temporarily positive that wasn't going to last. So I guess it's how we individually see the novel and interpret what's on the page. :-)


Moppet YMMV=Your Mileage May Vary, meaning you may have got a totally different impression of the same thing.

I think it's only discussed from Skeeter's POV, and as you say, she may be deluding herself, but it wasn't clear to me that she was.

I definitely didn't think Minny was joking about the pie. She keeps referring to the Terrible Awful thing she did, not the Terrible Awful thing she said. She says to Celia 'I tell her what else I put in that pie for her.' and then Celia looks 'disgusted' and Minny panics that Celia 'will never trust her again.' I took that to mean that Minny was worried that Celia would not trust her not to mess with the food she serves. If Celia thinks it was a joke, why would she stop trusting Minny? And if Minny is panicked that Celia doesn't realise it's a joke, why doesn't she say that of course she didn't really adulterate the pie?

I think it's the trust issue that clinches it for me. I didn't think Hilly and her friends thought it was a joke either.


Elizabeth I certainly don't think Hilly thought it was a joke. For me, Hilly was the least real character of the lot.
I'd have to go back and re-read for the rest, but my mum has the book at the moment.
Mind you, even if she did, it wouldn't bother me that much.
I guess this is one novel where we agree to differ :-)
I will definitely enjoy your review though - and respect it. Are you going to add to the single one-star review at Amazon UK? (and that's because the reader couldn't get on with the Southern accent!)


Moppet Elizabeth wrote: "I certainly don't think Hilly thought it was a joke. For me, Hilly was the least real character of the lot.
I'd have to go back and re-read for the rest, but my mum has the book at the moment.
Min..."


Yes, I'll do an Amazon review at some point. They badly need a sensible one-star review - I think one of the others is complaining they bought the book for someone else so they can't review it, or something.


message 14: by Kate (new) - rated it 1 star

Kate Thank you. This was terrible. If it hadn't been a borrowed audiobook, I would have torn it in half and thrown it across the room.


Moppet Kate wrote: "Thank you. This was terrible. If it hadn't been a borrowed audiobook, I would have torn it in half and thrown it across the room."

Thanks Kate! I am in the minority of reviewers in general on this one so it's good to know I'm not alone. I did intend writing a full review on my blog quoting chapter and verse but didn't get around to it before the book went back to the library.


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