Monday, 5 September 2011

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Goodreads Summary: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

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.

Why I Read This Book: I decided to go for this book when I first saw the preview for the movie. It sounded like an interesting story, and I always regret seeing the movie of a book I want to read prior to having read the book (because you always imagine the Hollywood characters instead of using your imagination). So I bought this one for my e-reader that same day.

Review: I really liked this book, I liked the characters and the writing and the story. I can accept that it was not a perfectly factual book on how things really were, and I can accept that Stockett took a  serious topic (the civil rights movement) and wrote about it in a very light way. I actually really enjoy when authors do those. They often take a lot of criticism for novels like this, but I think they are a good thing, and I'll tell you why. First of all it is human nature to pay more attention to things we relate to. So, for me, as a white, 25 year old, Canadian who went to school with just as many black kids as white kids, and never really saw a day of racism in her life, I do not relate to it. I can recognize that they way black people were treated is horrifying, I find it awful and disgusting, but I do not relate to it. The same can be said for stories about the Holocaust, its a nightmare, and I feel for the history of it, but I do not relate to it. So, an author like Stockett wrote this book, and I found myself relating to the characters, both the maids personalities, that of Skeeter, and sometimes that of Elizabeth. This is important because once you take a topic in history and make someone like myself, who wasn't alive for it, feel part of the story it becomes part of their knowledge base. So, perhaps someday I'm flicking through channels on TV and I come across a documentary about civil rights which normally I would pass, now I may stop and say "Oh, I know about this, I read that book" so I stop and watch for a bit. And then I learn more, deeper stuff than what Stockett may have touched on in her book. Do you see what I mean? So, many people have criticized Stockett for "making light" of a serious historical topic (much like the backlash raised when 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' was released) I think it is a great thing because it breaks the ground into teaching people who don't feel like they relate, or may not have an interest in learning history, to dig deeper and really learn about it.

Now that I have that tangent out there, back to the book itself. I really liked Stockett's writing style, I enjoyed how she wrote the southern slang for Aibileen and Minny's characters, but I don't understand why there was no southern slang for the white women. I don't care how white they are, people from the South talk with a different twang than people in Canada, or New York, or Boston. This kind of irritated me a bit, but it was pretty easy to look past. I really liked the message of the book which showed how these white babies are raised by black women, and they love them SO much, but then they get to a certain age, and they stop, and they end up like their parents. I think that message translates to so many areas of humanity that it is really important to stop and think about.

And I will leave this review with that though. I recommend this book to anyone that isn't passionate about the civil rights movement, as they will probably hate it.


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