The Help by Kathryn Stockett

October 22, 2011
By 21bookworm21 BRONZE, Las Vegas, Nevada
21bookworm21 BRONZE, Las Vegas, Nevada
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."-Salinger

Just a warning, this review is a bit different from others, since The Help by Kathryn Stockett has recently been turned into a movie, which I saw before I read the book. In my defense, I had no idea that the movie was based on a book until I was on my way to the theatre to see the movie, and my friend told me that the book was even more amazing than the movie. I completely agree with his statement.

I loved the movie, it was funny and poignant, and really reminded me of The King’s Speech, which bodes well for it’s Academy Award prospects. Having seen the movie beforehand, I began the book with a very different mindset than I would have if I hadn’t, which is the only reason that I mentioned that I saw it first.

The book on it’s own, is a wonderful read. The way Stockett uses multiple narrators helps the reader to not develop a bias towards one character or the other. In other words, if the entire novel had been narrated by Minny or Aibileen, I think it would have been extremely easy to start to hate or dislike Skeeter, and if Skeeter had narrated alone, the hope and desperation of Aibileen and the other maids probably wouldn’t have come through because you wouldn’t have gotten into their heads as well. It would only be one side of the story. Especially towards the end of the novel, the switching between narrators becomes faster than in the beginning, making the apprehension of the characters jump off the page.

Character development is excellent in the novel. Whereas in the movie, the characters don’t change much, they stay very stuck in their ways, the novel takes place over an even longer amount of time, and there is more build-up to the publication of Skeeter’s book, as well as the aftermath of it, which is where most of the characters show their true colors. Hilly is much more evil in the book, venom just drips off the page whenever she is included in a scene. Skeeter who, in the movie, is portrayed as a hopeful college graduate who merely wants to make a difference in the world, evolves more in the novel, where she is not a martyr, but a scared young adult, who will do anything to succeed. Not that I don’t like Skeeter, she is a wonderful character. However, you can’t forget that the whole premise of her book that she sets out to write is not her idea: it was Aibileen’s son’s idea. She stole it. But she does have her redeeming qualities as well; My favorite thing about her is when she receives her copy of The Catcher in the Rye, and tells us that she, “always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.” I love that we learn this about her, all of her eccentricities that had to be left out of the movie.

Aibileen is a great heroine to this story, her bravery and selflessness had no bounds, even though she has seen the bad in society, and what can happen. The most striking aspect of the book was Aibileen’s voice; Stockett’s decision to write her and Minny’s chapters in broken, colloquial dialect, instead of organizing them into “proper” English. It gave their characters more depth, and made them seem more real. Minny, for her part, is hilarious. She deals with a hard home life, and a miserable job in stride, and is a wonderful friend to Aibileen.

Overall, The Help is a lovely book, it was quite easy to read, it only took about a week to get through it, and it has an important message to convey to it’s readers. While, yes, it did translate very well onto the big screen, nothing can substitute Stockett’s original, stunning vision.

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