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Book Review: The Help

November 5, 2011

In a very brief, and incomplete, (and probably unfair) nutshell, The Help is the story of African American women working as maids in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, the injustices they suffered in their positions and the courageous efforts of some of those women to change things.

Based on the hype, I expected a lot more from The Help. While the plot was interesting, I didn’t think the story was particularly well written and I found the characters poorly developed, one-dimensional and weak. I was also disappointed with an ending that left me feeling unsatisfied. While I chalk all of that up to a first time writer, I also wonder if the book was ever edited before going to print to check things like the accuracy of a 50-pound Corona typewriter, the constant sighing by all the characters and the dialect.

Worst of all for me was that I finished the book without having any idea if the story was historically accurate or not. Since the author admitted in her acknowledgements to taking liberties with time by referencing a Bob Dylan song that wouldn’t have been written for another year (while ignoring Dylan’s Oxford Town, a relevant song to the story) I wonder how many liberties she took with the history and experiences of domestic servants.

I did like the visual I got from the description of Skeeter’s understated frizzy hair as, “more pubic than cranial… like hay”.

If asked, I would probably recommened the book based on historical interest in the time the story took place only. I think The Help might be one of those rare times when the movie turns out better than the book.






5 Comments leave one →
  1. Lissa permalink
    November 5, 2011 7:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your review (I found your post via the NaBloPoMo thread at BlogHer). I’ve had The Help on my bookshelf since July and haven’t been inspired to pick it up yet; based on your notes I’m content to leave it on the shelf for awhile. I’ll focus instead on the pile of memoirs I brought home from the bookstore this week.



    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 6, 2011 1:16 pm

      Hi Lissa and thanks for the comment! It’s not like The Help is a ‘bad’ book or anything, I just didn’t think it was all that good.


  2. November 5, 2011 4:13 pm

    I love how you can find a song for everything. I loved the book, and every woman I know has too. Maybe we identify with it more….?
    I do remember when I was very young, the Lady next door had a black maid named Ruby. She was very nice to all of us. We were petrified of the lady that lived there. I wonder how she treated Ruby?


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 6, 2011 1:19 pm

      Hopefully she treated Ruby well. I’ve liked other books that were supposed to be women’s books so I don’t know. I think I just had more of a problem with how the book was written as opposed to anything else. But maybe it is a matter of identification because there really weren’t any male characters of substance in the book.


  3. Elaine LK permalink
    January 26, 2012 5:54 pm

    I haven’t read “The Help” or seen the movie, but your comment “I think The Help might be one of those rare times when the movie turns out better than the book” struck a chord with me. I just saw “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” and I think this is one of those cases. I might be being unfair, but I found the boy in the book to be “incredibly” annoying, whereas in the movie I had much more sympathy for him. As a rule, I tend not to care much for books written from the POV of a child; it seems very few authors get it right (Harper Lee did with Scout) and end up writing children who are “ten going on forty with a Ph.D.” Seeing an actor on the screen playing the boy makes it a more objective experience. All of which has nothing to do with “The Help” but just something I wanted to get off my chest.


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