Book or Film? The Help

I have difficulties with films of books, so I don’t often watch them. I’m usually thinking as I’m watching – ‘it’s not like that in the book’ and irritated when the story is changed, parts are missed out or even worse new scenes/characters added in.

One of the books I’ll be reading in the coming weeks is The Help by Kathryn Stockett (our local book group choice for January). I noticed the film was on at our local cinema and with some reservations decided to see it. I thought that if I saw the film first it might not spoil my appreciation of the book. The book is described on the back cover as

Outstanding, immensely funny, very compelling, brilliant. (Daily Telegraph)

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver …

I can’t be that good, I thought, normally I wouldn’t read a book with so much hype.

We went last night – in a howling gale! I was completely wrong in my expectations – the film was that good! I just hope the book can live up to it. The audience laughed, and then sighed at the poignant moments as the film rolled on and even if I couldn’t quite catch all the words I thought it was brilliant. It’s essentially a female, domestic look at segregation, with brief glimpses of the contemporary political scene.

I was engrossed in the film and now just want to read the book. So much so that I got it off the bookshelf when I got home and began to read it. Actually I began at the back with Too Little, Too Late – Kathryn Stockett, in her own words, in which she writes about her upbringing and personal experiences. She writes that The Help is ‘by and large fiction’ and wondered what her family and Demetrie, their maid would think of it:

I was scared, a lot of the time, that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person. I was afraid that I would fail to describe a relationship that was so intensely influential in my life, so loving, so grossly stereotyped in American history and literature. …

Regarding the lines between black and white women, I am afraid I have told too much. I was taught not to talk about such uncomfortable things, that it was tacky, impolite, they might hear us.

I am afraid I have told too little. Not just that life was so much worse for many black women working in the homes in Mississippi, but also that there was so much more love between white families and black domestics than I had the ink or time to portray. (pages 450 -451)

She doesn’t presume to know what is felt like to be a black woman in that place at that time, but thinks

… trying to understand is vital to our humanity.

From my perspective I think she has achieved that.


7 thoughts on “Book or Film? The Help

  1. Margaret – I’m so glad you enjoyed the film! And I look forward to seeing what you think of the book. So far it seems you’re really enjoying it, and that’s great :-).


  2. I loved the book, in fact was one of the best books I have read. I have yet to see the film, probably be on dvd now.

    Normally I am wary of the film made of a book so will be interested in what you think.


  3. I thought The Help was one of the best books of the year and I’ve had trepidations about seeing the film. I sort of half heard something about it on TV the other day which made me think it is coming on DVD soon. I know I will cave in and watch it because I want my husband to see it.


  4. I hope you’re still enjoying the novel. I read an ARC a few years ago and absolutely loved it. The following year, I listened to the audio version, which I loved just as well. Great readers! There are four and they are all perfect for their characters. Then my daughter and I went to see the movie this summer. I wasn’t sure it was going to live up to my expectations, but it did. We both loved it. Now to find out if the soundtrack is any good. 🙂


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