March 13, 2010

The Help - Audio

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Historical Fiction
2009 Penguin Audio, Unabridged Edition
Finished on 2/16/10
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

From AudioFile:

Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. White ladies playing bridge and sipping ice tea. Colored maids cooking, cleaning, and loving the white babies. The separate, intertwined paths of these worlds are going to collide. Audio is THE way to be inside this story, brilliantly cast with four voices. The separate casting of the three voices of Stockett's debut novel is astute. Jenna Lamia embodies Miss Skeeter, the young aspiring writer who starts a project that disrupts her privileged and predictable world. Lamia's genteel Southern tones can pass off ingrained prejudice with chilling comfort, screech with outrage, and subtly reflect Skeeter's growing resolve and self-discovery. Bahni Turpin and Octavia Spencer contrast the voices of hot-headed Minny and thoughtful, inspiring Aibileen. Their musical speech and emotional connection to the characters are riveting. Listeners are swept up in the story--shocked and reminded by the times; inspired and proud of these women. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.

I reviewed The Help just about a year ago this month (read my review here), but wanted to post a quick write-up about the audio version. I very rarely listen to audio books. My commute is less than 15 minutes each way and I just don't spend that much time in my car. However, a good friend loaned me this audio book and said I simply had to give it a listen, even though I'd already read the book. She was so enthusiastic, I couldn't turn her down. And I'm so glad I didn't. What an experience! I fell in love with the book all over again. The readers are all superb and I quickly became engrossed in the story, looking for reasons to drive all over town so I could continue listening. (Why I didn't just copy the discs over to my iPod, and listen while walking on the treadmill, is beyond me. Next time!)

One of the advantages to listening to an audio book is hearing the pronunciation of names and locations, as well as hearing the accents and emotion in the dialogue. I don't know if it's due to a second "reading" that the story is more ingrained in my memory, or whether it's due to the process of listening to it being read aloud, but I feel like I'm able to recall more detail about the plot and remember the characters' names better than when I just read a printed book. Whatever the reason, I'm quickly becoming a fan of audio books and have decided this is a great way to "re-read" some of my favorite books.

Final thoughts: Even if you've already read The Help, I urge you to listen to the audio book. What a superb performance.

Oh, and if you haven't heard the news, Dreamworks Studio has acquired the rights to The Help. You can learn more here.

And, if you've got some free time, take a listen to this marvelous interview between Kathryn Stockett and Katie Couric.

Can you tell I'm a huge fan of this book?! I can't wait to see what Stockett has in store for us next.


  1. Anonymous1:04 PM

    I don't have all that much time in the car anymore either, but I bought this audiobook because you said it was so wonderful. I'm re-listening to the last Harry Potter right now, but after that, I'll listen to The Help. I'm looking forward to it. I highly recommend listening to favorite books. I think it adds an element to experience.

  2. My friend is loaning me her copy later this month. I'll keep the audio version in mind!

  3. curious incident of the dog in the nighttime is another book that you should hear on audio.

  4. I don't spend any time at all in the car! Darn. Someday, I'll get to the book, though.

  5. Great post! I agree with you, and will add that The Help is now my favorite audiobook -ever!

  6. I agree, some books are even better when they are listened to. My commute is even less than yours, but I listen mainly when I am running errands or driving to the grocery store. Since it's only about once a week, I usually listen to non-fiction since there is no plot to keep track of!

  7. Kay - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! It's one I know I'll listen to again in a few years.

    I love the Harry Potter books on audio! I still haven't read the last 3 or 4. Maybe I'll just listen to them. Thanks for the idea.

    Staci - You're in for such a treat!

    Jodi - I read Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime when it first came out. I didn't love it, but maybe the audio is better. Thanks for stopping by!

    Nancy - Maybe on one of your road trips...

    JoAnn - Isn't it the best? I loved Aibileen's voice and found myself choking up on several occasions.

    Pam - Ooh! Nonfiction would be good, too. I want to give that new Lisa Scottolini (humor) book a try. Maybe I'll get that one next.

  8. I work for AudioFile Magazine, a magazine and website dedicated to audiobooks, and THE HELP was one of our top audiobooks of 2009 for exactly the reasons you're describing. It's such a great production—thanks for writing about it! You can find our review here:

  9. I loved reading this book but I've been wishing I'd listened to it. My book club is reading it for this month and I've been recommending that people that are getting it from the library get the audio version.

  10. Katie - Thanks for your comment. I've bookmarked your website and know I'll become a frequent visitor. I've become quite the fan of audio books this year! I just finished Maisie Dobbs and have Birds of a Feather ready to go next.

    Lisa - I think the book is excellent in both formats. I almost want to say everyone should read the printed book first and then follow-up with a re-read with the audio 6-12 months later. It's definitely worthy of both! Do you plan to listen to it yourself?

  11. Anonymous6:58 PM

    Being sick in bed for the past two days, my fever was too high for me to even read. (That'll show you how ill I felt!) I listened to Little Bee on my iPod, which I'd downloaded from our library's eBooks, and the voice added immeasurably to the story. It's about the experiences of a sixteen year old girl from Nigeria, in case you don't know (which I doubt), and the narrator was African American. I felt like Little Bee was telling me the story personally, which I can imagine would be similar to The Help.

    I've also heard that Harry Potter is worth listening to on audio, if you have an additional, say six weeks to spare. ;)

  12. I don't re-read books, but this audio book may be the exception. I loved The Help. I bet the audio is amazing. Thanks for giving me the heads up.

  13. I just keep reading good things about this book. I'm kind of avoiding it right now, though because of all the buzz. I'll probably get to it eventually when all the buzz dies down a bit. You've made me seriously consider the audio for when I do eventually read it.

  14. Bellezza - I'm so sorry you've been sick!! Especially since you weren't well enough to at least read between naps.

    I read Little Bee almost a year ago. What an incredible story. I'll bet the audio was even better than the printed book. You can read my review here, if you like.

    Yes, Harry Potter is great fun to listen to on audio. I've listened to the first in the series and just love the reader (Jim Dale).

    Kathy - It's definitely worth making an exception for! You'll love it.

    SuziQ - I know how you feel. I tend to stay away from the hyped-up books for several years. This is one I think you'll want to read sooner than later, though.


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!