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The Help – Kathryn Stockett

This book seemed to be everywhere for a while and that kind of popularity always puts me off. I’m sure it won’t live up to it’s reputation. However, several friends read it and loved it and I ran out of things to read on holiday (horrifying thought) so I decided to read The Help and despite the hype I loved it.

Here’s the blurb …

 Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

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.

Obviously I am aware of the civil rights movement in the US, but I am completely ignorant of the fine details. SO this story told from the view point of the maids (or help) was a real eye-opener for me. I’m dumbfounded by the way people spoke to the maids – like they were recalcitrant children (so patronising) and then there is the whole separate toilet issue! But the vital point was the intimidation and violence directed at the black people to maintain the status quo.

This novel is an entertaining and easy read as well as being informative. I do find it strange that the white women allow people they see as inferior to race their children. The novel is written from three different perspectives; Aibileen, Minnie and Skeeter. Each has a distinct voice and different experiences, which creates a well-rounded view of rural life in Mississippi in the early 1960s. Even the white women lived narrow and restricted lives – it’s all about getting married and being part of the Junior League. I’m glad I read this novel and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

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