Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is the latest of many novels that I have read and really enjoyed! (Just a warning, I’ve tried not to put anything in that ruin this book for you if you haven’t read it, but I can’t guarantee that it doesn’t have any spoilers in it!)
Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, this book tells the tale of a world where “black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver”. For the characters of the book, it is a scary world but an unlikely bond is formed between white college graduate Skeeter and black maid Aibileen, as they join forces to write a book telling the truth about what its like to work for a white woman in Jackson.
There was a lot that I loved about this book. For a start I thought it was written with a considerable amount of grace. I really enjoyed that it didn’t just paint the white families with hate and cruelty, and that some of the stories told by the maids showed love and kindness.
The characters are brilliantly written. Miss Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen are so bold, and see something that many of the other characters don’t see – that it doesn’t matter who you are, kindness has no boundaries.
The cruel bitterness of Hilly is at times cringe-worthy but she is the fuel for the book that they are writing – it is her treatment of the maids that opens Skeeters eyes, and although she is the popular girl that everyone follows, you quickly learn that she is actually very naive.
All in all I thought this was a brilliant book. It had me laughing, crying and kept me hooked from the first page. I really recommend it.
When reading this book though, what you must remind yourself of is that this isn’t the story of racial segregation in America. This is the fiction story of racial segregation in Jackson, Mississippi. This book does not contain every single issue of racial segregation, nor does it pretend that the brave thing that the characters do, put a stop to it.
Whilst considering that last part there, I would also like to take a moment talk about what may have happened beyond the ending of the book. I always think about that when I’ve finished reading a book, or watching a film or a tv show – what might happen to the characters when we stop reading or watching. In this case I’m afraid I don’t think the book the characters write will have changed much at all. It is implied that the book starts to become successful but it ends quite soon after it is released. I think it may have opened the eyes up of some people to the cruelty, it may even have given the maids the courage they needed to take a stand, after all Minny leaves her abusive husband. But I don’t in any way, shape or form think this book that they write will have made a huge impact, not directly anyway. I think it would be like the ripple effect…
The film isn’t too bad either, in fact I really enjoyed the film. But that, readers, is something that will be discussed in a different blog!
Thanks for reading 🙂