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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

August 28, 2012

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.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2012 22:32

    I waited awhile too before reading The Help. It’s very enjoyable and the film is pretty good too.

  2. August 29, 2012 09:03

    I’ve learned from my “mistakes” and have realised that hyped books often are hyped for a good reason. Often they are books that appeal to many readers and since I read a lot of different genres, I find that these books usually are also fun for me to read.

    The Help is a fantastic book, glad you went and read it!

  3. September 10, 2012 17:38

    I absolutely loved The Help and read it fairly early on from what I remember. Glad you read and enjoyed it. I went to see the film with the usual nervousness about whether it would be miles away from the book, and actually, as adaptations go, I thought this film version was one of the better ones, it did the book justice in a lot of ways.

    • September 10, 2012 20:25

      I agree Lindsay! :) I watched the film recently and was very happy with the way it was done, and although the book will always be slightly better, I still thoroughly enjoyed seeing it brought to life!

  4. tortoisebook permalink
    September 11, 2012 09:22

    Hi, I’ve come across your blog via Jackie’s Farm Lane Books. I read The Help a while ago in my pre-blogging days and really enjoyed it. It’s interesting as since then I have moved to Dubai where a lot of people (not me) have live-in housemaids, generally from India or The Philippines and the issues in The Help are still the same this century. It is normal to see a couple out shopping with the maid two steps behind pushing the stroller. Or a family eating a McDonalds with the maid on the next table, not eating but ready to step in if the kids need help. There is definitely a them and us culture which I find uncomfortable. But then again there is a blur where the employer/employee relationship overlaps with the family relationship and different families will draw the line in different places.

    As for Gone With the Wind – you must read it! Slavery does feature as does the KKK but the book doesn’t seek to explain, question or justify them – they are just a fact of the times. Fabulous book and a great long saga though.

    • September 11, 2012 10:01

      Thank you so much for your comment! What you said about Dubai is extremely interesting – I had no idea! It is lovely that I’ve received so many positive comments on The Help from other readers, and it’s nice that I can now say yes I’ve read it and I loved it too! I can see why so many people recommend it. Thanks for your recommendation on Gone with the Wind!! I have been waiting for someone to tell me whether I should read it or not…I’m definitely adding it to the wish list now :D Thanks for your comment – hope you stop by again soon :)

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