I picked up this book at a farm believe it or not! The farm cafe they had a small table with books for sale on it for just £1 each.
As I picked up The Help a lady behind me said it was a great book. Now, it doesn’t take much to convince me to buy a book!
I had vaguely heard of The Help before buying it, but that’s most likely because of the 2011 film of the same name starring Emma Stone, although I haven’t actually seen the film.
The blurb on the back of The Help reads as follows:
Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962.
Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted
not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and 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 beloved 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 if a truth. And together they have an
extraordinary story to tell…
Now if that blurb doesn’t sell this book to you, then I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my review will! The Help really is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Written by Kathyrn Stockett who was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Kathryn graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing. She moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing for nine years. Kathryn herself remembers having a family maid and draws on some of her experiences of this to help her write The Help. Although Kathryn admits she could never know for sure what life as a black woman in the 1960’s was truly like, I have to say the way she tells these women’s story is so poignant, you won’t want to put this book down.
The Help is split into chapters that flit from Aibileen to Minny to Miss Skeeter and back again. I really like this style of writing as I feel it helps to move the story along whilst appreciating what each character is going through and how different their lives are.
Aibileen is a black maid who lost her own son under tragic circumstances. Mae Mobley is Aibileen’s seventeenth white child. Following the death of her son, Aibileen feels a change inside of her and the way in which she raises Mae Mobley differs from the way she raised her previous white children. I really enjoyed their ‘secret stories’ and the one about an alien called ‘Martian Luther King’ was particularly good. In teaching Mae Mobley that whites and blacks are the same inside, Aibileen is hoping Mae Mobley won’t turn out like her mother.
Minny is Aibileens best friend. She’s sassy, got a sharp tongue and doesn’t take any prisoners. Except Minny isn’t as strong as her character portrays, especially when it comes to her husband Leroy. Minny has worked for plenty of white families and has been fired by plenty of them too which leaves her struggling for work. When she does finally find another white family to work for, Minny discovers that her new white lady boss, Celia, is keeping secrets of her own.
Finally, we have Skeeter. The white lady who has dreams of becoming a writer. At 22 years old, Skeeter returns home from college to discover her beloved maid, Constantine has disappeared. No one will tell her why or where she’s gone.
As mentioned above I really like the way this book is structured. We hear Aibileen and Minny’s side of what it’s like to work for white families, and then we hear Skeeters side of things as she was raised by a black maid.
Skeeter decides that she wants to write a book full of stories from the maids about what it’s really like to work for a white family. However, in order to do this, she’ll need the help of the maids, but in a time of segregation, will Skeeter be able to convince the maids to help her?
Skeeters so called friends in the white community is an interesting read. It’s a friendship based on hierarchy, wealth and social status.
Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter’s relationship is an unlikely one, but together they tell a story of bravery, sadness and strength.
Overall, I really can’t recommend this book enough! It’s such an enjoyable read. It had me crying tears of sadness, laughing with joy at The Terrible Awful thing that Minny did and also feeling a warmth at the bond of some the women in this book.