I just finished one – “The Help” by Kathryn Stocket.
I decided I had to blog about it (even though my book blogs rarely get a response) because it is one of the best reads I’ve enjoyed in a long time and I read A LOT!.
Based in early 60s Mississippi, it’s a story based around one white woman and two “coloured” maids and their perspectives of life in that time. If you think back to the early 60s, it was the era of Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, segregation, the KKK, lynching’s, the events the movie “Mississippi Burning” is based upon, and the time white women went to college to find husbands – aka Julia Robert’s movie “Mona Lisa Smile.” Definitely a colourful period of time to be writing about and, hopefully, a time no more.
I’m not going to tell you too much about it l’est I spoil it, but Skeeter, the white woman, is a typical Southerner – as far as I know – wealthy and everyone’s goal is for her to be married to a rich, nice, white man. Unfortunately she’s tall and not considered traditionally pretty. She’s friends with the local society ladies though and she plays bridge every week, tennis at the club, and life isn’t about questioning too many things. The difference is Skeeter had an amazing maid called Constantine who raised her and she loved this woman. But Constantine is gone from her life and she misses her. Constantine was fired when she was at college and no one will tell her why she’s gone – not even her mother.
When she starts asking Aibileen – her friend’s maid – the reaction is pretty strong and Skeeter knows there’s more to it. To cut a long story short, Skeeter, Aibileen and her friend Minny, eventually get together to write a book in secret about what it’s really like to work as a coloured maid for the white women of Jackson, Mississippi. There are a lot of non-starts, threats, and if they get caught they will probably be killed, but with all the risk, they go for it and the story unfolds as it goes.
Aibileen is an older woman who lost her only beloved son in his early 20s in a work accident. Broken hearted by this loss, she’s a brilliant, wise old dame who quotes simple philosophies on life that make you smile. You know how some people just make life simple but there’s so much wisdom in their simplicity? That’s Aibileen and she’s the sort of character who makes you feel ashamed for being lazy. My word these women worked hard.
Minny is a mother of five, with an abusive husband and her work never stops. But she’s a cantankerous woman who doesn’t take shit from no one, even though she’s lost multiple jobs because of her attitude – I loved her. She also knows how to get her own back, and she did that with one of Skeeters best friends – this awful woman called Hilly. Hilly represented everything ignorant (in my mind) of that time. Definitely a colourful character in the book.
It’s an amazing book. It’s about ignorance, how human’s can unquestionably follow unwritten rules, how we accept the norm, how differences on the surface divide us and what we miss by that separation, it’s about trust or lack of trust, and it’s also about a brutal time in America’s history.
I really loved it but a word of warning. If you have an exam, something you need to finish, obligations that require your attention – don’t read this now. Steve kept interrupting me and I wanted to smack him – it’s just one of those rare yarns you want to immerse yourself in. If you get it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Yours, without the bollocks