The Help

I’ve been languishing in the heat of Mississippi, wallowing in Southern belles and fried chicken, and feeling shocked at the genteel brutality and racism underneath the fine Southern manners in Jackson.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is her controversial debut about rich white Southerners and their coloured maids (often referred to as ‘nigras’). Even more controversially, she – a white author raised by a black maid in the south – writes in the voices of the black help and the narrative is driven by their rich accents.

There are three main characters: the two maids Aibileen and Minny, and the young white woman, Skeeter. Each chapter is spoken in the voice of one of these women as we learn of a terrible, closed world of race, discrimination and separation in 1962 Mississippi.

“Mississippi and the world is two very different places,” the Deacon say and we all nod cause ain’t it the truth.

The real stars of the book are those hard-working, often abused, unseen women: the maids – as characterized by calm maternal Aibileen and hot-tempered Minny. Skeeter gradually gets drawn into their world as she decides to write about the way the help is treated.

The friendship between these three women crosses the boundaries of the racial laws of the time – and it also puts them into danger as few people would tolerate, much less understand, it.

At times, it reads like a chick-lit page-turner; at other times, it is funny and shocking. Much has been written of the deep South in the 1960s, but this book focuses on the women of the time and on the female aspect. The white females come off looking the worse for wear – and it is the unsung songs of the ordinary maids that really shine.

The whole point of the book? In Stockett’s words, “We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”

And that is something worth remembering every day.

22 responses

  1. Kata

    As you know I love this book, and will look at chocolate cake with very different eyes in the future!!


    March 14, 2010 at 08:36

    • Oh yes… the chocolate cake. That was hilarious and disgusting at the same time…


      March 14, 2010 at 09:43

  2. That sounds like a wonderful book!! I shall add it to my list of books that I want to read over the summer 🙂

    Very true words at the end!

    C x


    March 14, 2010 at 12:06

  3. Loved this book. One of the best reads I’ve experienced in a while. Will make a great movie…


    March 14, 2010 at 16:27

  4. I haven’t read this book yet. Perhaps I will. I haven’t been pulled to read about how people dislike someone because of the difference in the pigment of their skin. But your description does make it interesting regarding friendships between women, especially in the horrid days of the 60’s.


    March 14, 2010 at 17:15

  5. I had heard of this book, but I didn’t really know what it’s about. It sounds interesting.


    March 14, 2010 at 17:46

  6. Thanks for commenting today on my blog! I look forward to reading yours. I recently read The Help and wasn’t very impressed with it — despite the interesting story I found it way too long and at times very tedious. It also made me wince whenever she “attempted” dialect…


    March 14, 2010 at 18:29

  7. I’ve been hearing a lot of this book. Yet another recommendation to follow up in my Copious Free Time (Ha!). Thank you – I think!


    March 14, 2010 at 18:53

  8. I haven’t read the book, but it looks good.

    Nuts in May


    March 14, 2010 at 23:16

  9. I read The Help a couple months ago. I wished the author had developed some of the characters a bit more, but overall, I really enjoyed the novel. Though I didn’t grow up in the South, I did come of age in the 60’s and could relate to that period in US history.


    March 15, 2010 at 00:16

  10. I have read this and recommended it to many people. That it took place in the early sixties when I was a teenager and we had a black maid in our home made it especially interesting to me. Maxine and I were good friends, but when I would ride with someone to take her home I would focus on how very different our worlds were and it bothered me. My mother became ill and died during the time Maxine worked for us and she was one of my main sources of comfort.


    March 15, 2010 at 00:39

  11. I haven’t decided whether to read this book or not. I like your take on it. And the one next to it in the photo ~ loved it in that isn’t this different and refreshing and real way.

    Looking forward to catching up on your posts. I was amazed how much I missed these authentic and beautiful places like yours.
    Thanks for that .


    March 15, 2010 at 03:15

  12. I’ve heard so much about this book, now I’ll add it to my “read list” for sure. Thanks for the review.

    Hope your week is good.


    March 15, 2010 at 04:55

  13. I am definitely picking up this book on my next visit to a bookstore. It was another book about the South that first made me realise that when you really look at it, we are all humans. The book was To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was about 14 when I read it.


    March 15, 2010 at 06:09

  14. I don’t often read the first novel by an author – and as you’ve used the words ‘chick lit’ to describe some of how you saw this book, well I really don’t think this will make it to my reading list. The only chick lit book I have read is a Marion Keynes book someone very kindly sent me when I was ill in hospital. That hit the spot then, so much so that when I was better I ordered another of hers. Either it was more poor than the one I had been sent or – being better – I had now returned to full brain.


    March 15, 2010 at 10:14

  15. This is on my list to read this year … I’m tired of hearing how great it is!!!


    March 15, 2010 at 19:56

  16. This was an excellent read.


    March 16, 2010 at 02:17

  17. kelli

    I am definitely reading this… it is already on my kindle, but waiting in line behind a few others…..thanks for the review!


    March 16, 2010 at 20:00

  18. hey Lady Fi, stopping in to say hi. Love the pink sky, wow! this books sounds like an excellent read, right up my alley. I’ll add that to my reading list, too!


    March 17, 2010 at 02:16

  19. Sounds great and e have it on our book club list for later this year.


    March 17, 2010 at 03:57

  20. very cool…sounds like a wonderful book…


    March 17, 2010 at 10:53

  21. The horse is FUZZY!!!! 🙂


    March 17, 2010 at 18:14

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