Ruth's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Mar 10, 2009

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Read in May, 2009

Chick lit with a conscience. That's what I decided this book is.

What I really disliked about it: the extremely jealous, competitive relationships among white women in the town. Perhaps it's an accurate depiction of social life among Southern women of the era, but these adolescent attitudes are quite annoying. The relationships among black women, on the other hand, are generally mutually supportive.

Also, most of the characters were painted with rather broad brushstrokes: e.g., one character ALWAYS wears pink, one powerful character is ALWAYS obnoxious & bigoted.

What I really liked about it: it's a novel about writing, about race relations in the South during the civil rights movement, & about relations between women of different social classes. Topics of great interest to me!
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Sundry I know what you mean about the broad brushstrokes in the characters other than the three narrators.

I'm curious about your last line. It sounds rather like you're saying the author didn't make note of race/class differences until an editor told her to...but it seems that that's what just about every line in the book is about.


Ruth Ah . . . sorry it's not clear. I mean I edited my review to add that, because it was a major element that I didn't originally mention. I'll clarify that. :-)


Sundry Ha! Thanks for clarifying! :D


Joan Ruth, sad to say ~ but i believe a lot of women in the south were that way. i grew up in the south and (sadly) witnessed quite a bit of saucey attitudes... equal to hilly. if you read some of the author's interviews she states that there are some people "back home" that are none too pleased about the book. i knew a lot of lovely people when i lived in the south, however there were the few that made me really "know" who hilly was. isn't it sad that women can really be that way?
as for the strong personalities, i think she was just trying to have each character stand out ~ so we would know exactly what their personality was like.
i enjoyed reading your review, please take my opinions lightly ~ i just wanted to let you know that this type of woman does exist.... or did in Louisiana a "few" years back.


Ruth Joanbwhite wrote: "Ruth, sad to say ~ but i believe a lot of women in the south were that way. i grew up in the south and (sadly) witnessed quite a bit of saucey attitudes... equal to hilly. if you read some of the ..."

Joan, I'm SORRY to know that! But I appreciate your comment & will sadly take your word for the snippy/petty attitudes. Thanks for reading my review.


Emilie The horrid Junior Leaguers in the book WERE rather broadly written; however, having grown up in North Louisiana in the 60s, I can testify as to their overall accuracy. Southern matriarchal society was what it was and is what it is. Those women were pretty dead-on.

The good news is that many of us have managed to learn the lessons that Aibileen taught.


Ruth Emilie wrote: "The horrid Junior Leaguers in the book WERE rather broadly written; however, having grown up in North Louisiana in the 60s, I can testify as to their overall accuracy. Southern matriarchal society..."

Nothing like corroboration by someone who was there! I'm so glad there are more & more women who resist that subculture. Thanks for sharing your insights.


Sundry This comment stream has been really great!


Ruth I agree, Sundry!

When my daughter was a preteen (or maybe when I was a reader of young-adult books myself), I started noticing how many stories for girls get a lot of their energy from situations of rivalry & snottiness. Even my beloved Little House stories had them (the recurring Nellie Olsen encounters--which were amplified & made slapstick in the Little House TV series). Usually such stories end in the protagonist's victory over her rival (rather than conflict resolution, forgiveness, growth). When I started reading The Help, the feelings those stories stirred up came flooding back.

It has been SO helpful (though also sad) to know that this aspect of the story does have verisimilitude & is not just a cheap ploy.


Emilie Perhaps another way to view the white women in The Help is to look at "old" New York society (think Edith Wharton). Those women were also living in a confined social structure based on class where staying "on top" was a combination of your husband's status and your own ruthlessness -- or your willingness to kiss butt. Although that strategy didn't work for Celia Foote, but she was "outclassed" (smirk).


Becky Well hate to break the news to you but that is what the well to do women in South were like in the 60's. They were childish, self-centered & treated others not of their so called standing with disdain.

This book should be an eye opener for all people who somehow feel they are better than others, whether it be from their race, money, religion or education.


message 12: by Ruth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ruth Emilie & Becky, thank you both for your comments. It is really helpful to think of this in a broader perspective--in terms of the social structure in which the white women characters were embedded.

Yes, the ending of the story is a satisfying "nah-nah-na-na-nah" one for those who love the underdog.


message 13: by Nina (new)

Nina Having really liked reading this book, I very much enjoyed reading these opinions of different readers comimg from different areas. At least this book aroused feelings and that is what a good book does. And now, Joy, could you tell me how I get to Goodreads home pages; what books are in your list of readings etc. I tried and got confused. How do I get to My Account. Internet, google??? nina


message 14: by Ruth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ruth Nina wrote: "And now, Joy, could you tell me how I get to Goodreads home pages; what books are in your list of readings etc. I tried and got confused. How do I get to My Account. Internet, google???"

Hi Nina: You can get to anyone's Goodreads home page simply by clicking on his or her name. For example, above your message I see "message 13: by Nina" & I could click on your name to go to YOUR page.

Also, toward the upper right of the page you should see "hi Nina," a link. If you float your cursor over it, you'll see two options: "my profile" & "my account." Hope that helps!


SheWunders Just to reinforce - the broad strokes about the Junior Leaguers were pretty accurate. I lived in MS for my first 22 year and I currently live in AL. Those women are Crazy.

I love Emilie's comment about the confined social structure based on staying on top. That's a perfect description. These women need to get out more!


Christine Jolley Have you ever watched any of the Real Housewife shows set in the south? (Dallas, Atlanta,etc). Watching one of these shows and seeing the way the ladies act shows that Stockett is right on with her description.

Its not just in the south though....I think many rich people are like that (not all). I mean how many times...has charity benefits been thrown just so people can 'be seen' and how many of the attendees have any idea of what the cause is for??

I definitely think Stockett was right on in her portrayal of the white southern 'elite'.


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