Steve's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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's review
Apr 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: racial-issues, fiction
Read in April, 2011

Since my wife asked me to, and because I want to make my wife happy, I piggybacked on to her borrow of The Help. I'm glad I listen to my wife.

As the movie Inception related a dream within a dream, The Help depicts the writing of a book within a novel, and the outcome is effective and clever. What must it have been like to be a black domestic worker in the home of a southern family in the 1960's? The story at the heart of this novel answers the question, but does so by placing us in the midst of both the novel and the story inside. Stockett writes convincingly, mostly allowing the emotions of the characters to stand on their own. The dialogue, in the voice of three different women, is realistic and painful at times.

A dilemma in reading historical fiction is trying to discern between what the story relates and the reality it is based on. Race relations in the deep south during the days of the Civil Rights movement is not an easy topic to explore without some sort of bias, and the temptation to err - especially in a work of fiction - may be too hard to resist. Is the depiction real? Who is the hero? Is the story, as one character said, just another case of a white person taking advantage of a black person?

That the author includes such honesty, and in the "Too Little, Too Late" epilogue, gives voice to her own prejudice, gives the book a fair sense of honesty. I nod in agreement as Stockett describes her response to those not from the south for their condescending attitudes and stereotypes of white southerners, or their oversimplification of our region as simply a beautiful place.

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