Books

The Help: Book Review

Author: Kathryn Stockett

The Help

Book Blurb:

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi,1962.

Where the black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child after 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 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 search of truth. And together they will have an extraordinary story to tell…

Review:

I saw the help movie on Tv quite a while back (the review was posted here). I loved the movie so much, and so ordered myself the book. The book was even better than the movie as it helped me understand the story from even a broader perspective.

The book is set during the civil rights movement. If you are not aware of this movement or would like some information, you could watch this video by author John Green:

There were a few important points that were showcased quite wonderfully in the book:

– Though everyone agreed that there should be equality in the society, there still was a distinct differentiation. Like when Hilly was convincing others for having a separate coloured toilet for the help, she said it was ” Different, but Equal”. They believed that the coloured people contained different diseases, so they should have separate toilets, but at the same time saw no problem in having the coloured women in their homes to cook for them, clean for them and take care of their babies! Not one of them got up to ask if the coloured people have diseases, why do we encourage them to raise our children?

– Even for the white women, education and jobs were not as important as “landing a husband”. It was commonly thought that women who went to universities or applied for jobs, did so in order to meet men. Once they acquire a man’s attention they would leave their pursuits. Like Skeeter is always nagged by her mom to look presentable at all times, since she had wasted four years in a college by not being able to find herself a husband. Her question “would it be so bad if I never got married, mamma” was met with absolute dismissal and getting asked if she was interested in females instead! Even on her date, when she says she writes columns, the guy quickly says oh! I see, you do that to show guys how wonderful wife you could be..

– There was a stark contrast between racists and those who never understood racism. Like Celia and Skeeter, the way they interacted with the coloured people, brought out, quite clearly, the difference in the treatment by Hilly and Elizabeth. So much so that the coloured people are confused as to why they are being treated as equals. Like when Celia sits with Minny for lunch, Minny tells her she is supposed to eat at the dining table, not with her. Nobody trusts Skeeter, because she is white, everyone thinks she will use their stories against them.

The book is written in the dialect in which it is spoken, so Aibileen and Minny’s parts were written differently that Skeeters’. Since the book started with Aibileen’s Point of View, I took a few pages to be comfortable with the flow and the wordings. But, once I was a few pages in, it became a delight to read, as I could read each character in my head with a different voice and accent.

Impeccable story line and excellent characterization!

Who do I recommend it to?

Because of the change of tones, I would recommend it to a slightly mature reader, who is interested in reading about society and courage. If you like Khaleen Hosseini books, you would like this too.

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