26 February, 2014

Book Review: The Help

From Goodreads: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Thoughts: I was half way through this when my Kindle broke...or more to the point, I broke it. I was devastated! However, thanks to a wonderful friend who had a hard copy I was able to keep reading! I found this engrossing. One of the things that spins me out is that the events the book drew on happened within living memory. The author has memories of "the help" in her own house growing up and while I am not suggesting there was any abuse in that house, it obviously happened in places. It astounds me people thought of African Americans as being less than they were because of their skin colour. I cannot imagine anyone today suggesting someone they employed to pretty much run their house and raise their kids use a different toilet, eat at a different table or use different crockery and cutlery. However, neither am I naive enough to think there are people who still think a persons worth can be judged by the colour of their skin - just doubt they would make it as public as the characters in this book did.
Reviews of The Help seem to fall into two categories; those who loved it and saw it as a dramatised, but based in fact, account of being a coloured maid in the American South in the 1960's and those who think it was stereotyped and the author presumptuous because she, a white woman, dared to write a book from a black point of view. I don't know who is right so I can only take the book on face value. I found it to be interesting, engaging and fitting with my very limited knowledge of this period of American history.  I for one will be looking for further work by this author.

Challenges: 5 from Forever in '14