Thursday, 27 October 2011
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - A Review
You may have already read Actually Mummy's guest review of the film The Help but now you can read my review of the book, and what a corker it is.
I was totally absorbed by the deliciousness of this book, the characters, the writing and the story line. Each dripped with a sweetness and lightness that, despite the dark underlying theme, brought smiles to my face.
Skeeter, the daughter of a cotton farmer in Mississippi, is an aspiring writer who lands a job on the local newspaper writing a household tips column. Knowing next to nothing about housework, she enlists the assistance of Aibileen the maid to her friend Elizabeth. Talking to her reveals her deceased son's idea to write a book about the black maids in service and their tales, and this gets her naturally journalistic mind plotting. Together with another maid, Minny who has a bit of a reputation locally for talking back, Skeeter sets out to write the book.
Set in the 1960's when crossing racial boundaries was not tolerated, the relationships that develop between the black Help and the white employers is startlingly rich, involved and sometimes very candid. It is interesting to see how the boundaries are crossed, a little here, and a little there, where a black maid is trusted to practically bring up a white child, just as Skeeter was brought up by her maid, yet they are required to use a separate bathroom because they are dirty and germ ridden. Today this seems completely outrageous and contradictory yet this was the way of life in this era.
I hate using the word 'journey' unless you are packing a bag and using some form of transport to get you somewhere, but following how Skeeter's character develops and grows as she returns from college and her career aspirations unfold, remind me exactly of a journey that is full of adventure. There are laughs along the way and a dalliance with romance, but the undercurrent of tension as each woman fears they may be found out, is perfectly balanced with day to day life.
All I can say is read this book. Even if you have seen the film, it is worth breaking the unwritten rule for. (The one where you should never watch the film of the book or read the book of the film).
(I've just written the unwritten rule now. Oh.)