The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…
I have this terrible habit of avoiding books that have become massive bestsellers. I don’t quite know what it is – whether I don’t want to read a book surrounded by hype because it will almost always lead to disappointment, or because I just don’t really want to be reading what everyone is reading at that time. But The Help is one book in particular I have been meaning to read for a while, and my holiday seemed like the perfect excuse to do so.
I’m not going to write a huge review for this as most of you have probably either read it already, or seen the film. But what I will say is that I am really glad I made time to read this. It’s probably not the sort of thing I would usually pick up, but after recommendations from colleagues I thought it may just win me over, and sure enough it did. I’m not usually a fan of stories told from various viewpoints, but I do think it worked particularly well here, as Stockett has created a wonderful cast of characters that not only touch you, but certainly tickle your funny bones too! It’s hard to pick a favourite – I loved Skeeter, the white wannabe writer for her courage to produce a book on what it’s like to be a black maid for a white family, I loved Aibileen, a black maid who is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her only son, but who has taken that emotion and put it into a project that could change the lives of everyone she knows, and of course I loved Minny most of all for her outspoken personality that often got her into trouble! There is an awful lot in this book that you will undoubtedly learn about what it’s really like to be a black maid in Mississippi in the 1960s, not only for the terrible treatment they often endured, but also for the way they end up loving these white children as their own, knowing that they will one day view them just as their parents do, and unable to see past the colour of their skin. But this book definitely isn’t all doom and gloom. There is also another side to this book highlighting the good that can come of it too, and the way some black maids were treated as part of the family; as someone depended on and relied on, and not just for the cleaning. They were valued for their friendship as well, especially to the rich white ladies who had no careers or much to fill their days with, and who sought companionship more than anything else.
I could definitely see the whole thing as a film whilst I was reading it, and although I’m not a huge fan of book to film adaptations, I think it could really work well here, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’d really recommend The Help if you haven’t read it yet. Don’t do what I did and avoid it because of all the hype; it really is a great book that deserves to be read, and it’s easy to see why everyone loves it so much! I have to say, with it being said that The Help depicts the other side of Gone with the Wind, it’s making me really want to read that for the first time too! If anyone can recommend it (or not) please leave a comment!
The Help is published by Penguin.