Book Stuff

The Help: A Reaction

I can’t review The Help by Kathryn Stockett because I gave up after a few chapters. I know that I’m in the minority. A very small minority. On Amazon, about 3000 people gave it 4-5 stars, and only a couple hundred less.

I would probably have read it except that I had 2 other ebooks from the library that would expire before I got to them, and I didn’t like The Help enough to wade through it.

So here, in brief, is my reaction. I’m not familiar with the southern dialect to know if it was accurate (though from what I read online it wasn’t). What I could see was that the dialect wasn’t consistent, the author’s voice breaking in with middle-class contemporary attitudes as well as phrases. And I didn’t really believe the maids as characters. They held me and lost me, held me and lost me too many times in 50 pages.

Unfortunately, the African-American characters all spoke dialect, the White characters standard English. That inconsistency makes no sense. Some people have criticized The Help for relying on stereotypes of the Gone With the Wind variety (another very successful novel). I didn’t get far enough into the book to have an opinion on that. What I can say is that for me The Help didn’t have sufficient entertainment value to overcome some weaknesses that became apparent early on.

Is this an interesting subject? Definitely. But I think it would have been a better book had Stockett immersed herself in the environment she was writing about. Living away from there, relying on her own adolescent impressions and memories (of a later era) wasn’t enough of a resource. Of course, at least according to Amazon,  I’m in a 6% minority on that. Stockett wrote to satisfy herself and she lucked out in satisfying a lot of other people too.

Family of African American Slaves, South Carolina 1862
Aunt Jemima, photo by Sally Stockhold
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6 thoughts on “The Help: A Reaction”

  1. I’ve also got a copy, but that’s okay. I’m good with books that provoke a little controversy. Also, I have absolutely no idea how black slaves speak as they don’t feature much in UK literature. Hopefully this will now prove an advantage rather than a rather sorry deficiency!

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