Reviews for the novel

Links for various reviews of the novel

Review by Erin Aubry Kaplan for Ms. Magazine in 2009

Excerpt:

“The Help is buoyant in its most sober moments, occasionally insightful. Skeeter Phelan is a misfit, a 24-year-old college grad growing uneasy with the social hierarchies of home; the two black women who risk their lives and livelihoods to help collect the interviews she seeks, Aibileen and Minny, are sympathetically if somewhat predictably drawn. Yet the buoyancy often undermines the book’s more serious intentions; ultimately, The Help can’t decide if it’s modern Faulkner or pop lit with some racial lessons thrown in for fiber.”

http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=4544

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Review by Janet Maslin for the NYTimes in 2009

Excerpt:

“The trouble on the pages of Skeeter’s book is nothing compared with the trouble Ms. Stockett’s real book risks getting into. Here is a debut novel by a Southern-born white author who renders black maids’ voices in thick, dated dialect. (“Law have mercy,” one says, when asked to cooperate with the book project. “I reckon I’m on do it.”) It’s a story that purports to value the maids’ lives while subordinating them to Skeeter and her writing ambitions. And it celebrates noblesse oblige so readily that Skeeter’s act of daring earns her a gift from a local black church congregation. “This one, this is for the white lady,” the Reverend of that church says. “You tell her we love her, like she’s our own family.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/books/19masl.html

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Reviewer Jesse Kornbluth, Editor of HeadButler.com. Cross posted in the Huffington Post

Excerpt:

“Smartest of all, Stockett has downplayed the horror that was Mississippi in 1962. Back then, it wasn’t just Medgar Evans shot in the back outside his home, it was the leaders of state government defining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as ”Niggers, Alligators, Apes, Coons and Possums.” And more, and worse.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-kornbluth/is-the-help-more-than-a-s_b_333448.html

**Not to be picky, but the reviewer lists Medgar Evers as Medgar Evans, with the error still uncorrected after over a year, since the review was originally posted on 10/2009**

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Publisher’s Weekly Review

Excerpt:

“The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.”

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Review by Sybil Steinberg from The Washington Post’s Book World/washingtonpost.com

Excerpt:

“Aibileen and Minny share the narration with Skeeter, and one of Stockett’s accomplishments is reproducing African American vernacular and racy humor without resorting to stilted dialogue. She unsparingly delineates the conditions of black servitude a century after the Civil War.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/31/AR2009033103552.html

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Review by YaddaYadda for Newsvine.com

“On page four, Aibileen is talking about “congealed salad”, yet on page 84 when Aibileen is telling Miss Skeeter how to keep dogs from getting into a trash can, she tells her to use “pneumonia” instead of “ammonia”. Aibileen knows how to say “congealed”, yet is confounded by the pronunciation of “ammonia”? Please.”

http://monsterskin63.newsvine.com/_news/2010/01/25/3809001-book-review-the-help-by-kathryn-stockett

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Review by TopherGL for his blog It Was Uphill Both Ways.com

“There’s also been some complaint that Stockett works with a lot of stereotypes in her black characters. This may be true, but the white characters don’t come off looking any better or less stereotypical.”

http://www.itwasuphillbothways.com/2010/09/review-help-by-kathryn-stockett.html

** And yet again I have to interject. Are there any white characters with a venereal disease? aka spoilt cootchie? are there any white characters with an extremely large and loud family? Are there any white characters that steal and go to jail? Are their any white males called “no-account” or any of them absentee fathers? And do any of the white characters, even the white trash Celia talk as if English is their second language? I mean, are we even reading the same book here?**

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Review by Karen Valby for EW.com (Entertainment Weekly.com)

“If Skeeter is one to root for, the muscle and heart of the book belong to the maids Aibileen and Minny, tough, funny, vulnerable, conflicted women who know they are risking everything by sharing their stories with a skinny, naive white woman. Stockett jumps effortlessly between her women’s voices. She has created a world 
of memorable supporting characters — from the bitch 
in the Junior League to Skeeter’s oilman suitor — to
 surround them. When folks at your book club wonder what to read next month, go on and pitch this wholly 
satisfying novel with confidence. A– “

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20258471,00.html

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Review by BTSF  from her site By Their Strange Fruit

“Stockett wrote in what she supposed were the words of black women, but if you really want to hear a black voice, empower a black voice to be heard. Support black artists that create wonderful works that will express exactly what the world is like for each individual, rather than trying to voyeuristically peer into what your imagination supposes it may be for a group.

The Help has rocked the charts, and yet there have been plenty of opportunities to read fiction and non-fiction on similar topics. Check out Octavia Butler or Maya Angelou, for starters. Then go to ‘White Readers Meet Black Authors‘ and immerse yourself in the rich options before you. Once you have read several of those, re-read The Help and decide whether it is still as ‘revolutionary’ as you once thought.

At the end of the day, with soring sales and an upcoming movie, Stockett is profiting very well from The Help. Thank goodness for all those Mississippi maids that made the story possible. I wonder where they are now.”

http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/2011/07/help-review.html

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4 Responses “Reviews for the novel” →
  1. I agree that this novel is very much a poor illustration of The Help in the south in the sixties. Seems to me that the world of racism Stockett describes sounds like it existed later than the early 60’s and after the Jim Crow laws were technically abolished more is the pity. All I kept wondering was why Stockett didn’t really just go ahead and really do what Skeeter book idea was an interview “The Help” as of today in current time. One note that the writer of this current critique has problems with racism but anti-semitism is okay. Kornbulth never gives his/her religion in article for “The Help” you have decided it to be Jewish is anti-semitic. In reference to your remark the Holocaust as a topic to be used for humor. I to mention the film “Life is Beautiful” does indeed play the holocaust and concentration camps for laughs. DottermbYou also fail to mention the NY editor a stereotypical Jewish New Yorker ignoring the facts that only 33% of the work force in NY at that time were female much less in that type of power position.

    Reply
    • Hi Comm123456,

      Thanks for your comment. “Life is Beautiful” as well as “Inglorious Basterds”, and even Mel Brooks “The Producers” are fairly recent takes on finding humor among those who are anti-semitic. Prior to those movies, the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes” portrayed bumbling, slapstick Nazi guards who guarded witty american prisoners of war (which included an African American actor by the name of Ivan Dixon).

      Please understand that the point is that for far too long African Americans have been either the butt of offensive jokes or either the character who must provide the laughs at the expense of demeaning their own culture, and really in no way central to the book or film’s story, which generally involves the trials and tribulations of the lead character, who’s usually a non-minority.

      Link: http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/a-history-of-being-misrepresented-marginalized-and-made-a-fool-of/

      In 2012 its getting way past tiresome. African Americans have for far too long been the buffoons or cowering, bug eyed lackey in road trip movies by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as well as the typecasted careers of Louise Beavers and Hattie McDaniel.

      Unfortunately, with books like The Help we seem to be going backwards in the imagery and dialogue as well as story lines of substance for black actors. Stockett’s inspiration for all three of her maids can be traced to old movies like “Imitation of life” based on Fannie Hurst’s 1934 literary blockbuster and Oscar nominated film. Aibileen’s loyal, sweet but slow personality is similar to Delilah, wno was renamed Annie in the 1959 movie. Juanita Moore was nominated in 1959 as she also played the humble, loving surrogate mother/maid while Lana Turner played the beautiful actress whose storyline was front and center while race was thrown in as a tantilizing addition. Other best selling novels which did the same thing:
      Edna Ferber’s “Showboat” and Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” (Mammy, the prototype for Stockett’s Minny imo).

      The maids of The Help were simply there to push Skeeter’s romance and quest for a good job. That’s my opinion, for more differing reviews on the movie, some of which reference the novel, please click this link: http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/the-help-movie-cleans-up-after-itself-the-novel/reviews-on-the-help-movie/

      And really, movies like The Blind Side slyly did the same thing, by making Michael Oher who was a football player and superb athlete before the Touhy’s took him in, into a shyly infantile young man, much like how Aibileen and the some of the other maids are depicted, as if they needed Skeeter to lead them. Like The Help, The Blind Side (movie) made it seem as if he needed to be led because he was slow of mind, which wasn’t the case. Thus, much like Skeeter in The Help, Sandra Bullock’s character defaults into the dreaded white savior trope, when the story didn’t need that trope at all. What the Touhy family did and their wonderful relationship with Michael Oher didn’t need those embellishments which simply are used to manipulate moviegoers and reinforce tired racial stereotypes. Sorry this is so long LOL, I got on my soapbox again, but I do thank you for your perspective and info.

      Reply
      • I do understand your point and agree with it. However you show how easy it is to get into stereotyping by deciding the blogger / reviewer Kornbulth’s religion and how he/she should feel about this book.

        Reply
        • Hi comm123456,

          I agree that stereotyping is easy, that’s why the word should not be used lightly.

          In this particular blog post, nothing has been stated about Kornbluth’s religion. I pointed out that civil rights icon Medgar Ever’s name was listed as “Medgar Evans” for over a year by him.

          Now, if you have reference to another posting on here where I “decide how he/she should feel about this book” I think its worth discussing, as context is important to accurate communication. People may not always agree (and don’t have to), but its worth it to know what you’re disagreeing about.

          Edited to add: I believe this is the post you may have read, so I copied and pasted it here. Please note what I’ve put in bold regarding what I stated:

          “Thus the title of this post speaks for itself THEY JUST DON’T GET IT, and that includes Kornbluth, who identified himself as Jewish, and yet is still intent on praising a novel that denigrates the African American male, but elevates the white southern male at a time when black men heroically led the fight for equality. But you wouldn’t know it in The Help. I wonder, if a sympathetic writer who identified themselves as being the offspring of a Nazi guard wrote a book, taking on both the voice of the guard and the Jewish prisoners, but peppered the novel full of stereotypical depictions of the Jewish characters, would Kornbluth get it then?”

          Link: http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/they-just-dont-get-it/

          Could this be the post you’re referring to in your response?

          Reply

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