Wednesday, 26 October 2011
The Help by Kathryn Stockett **possible spoilers ahead**
This book is set in Jackson, Mississippi (yes, I did the 'Matilda' rhyme trying to remember that spelling) and focuses on two black domestic servants: Aibileen and Minny and, seemingly, the only white woman in the entire town who thinks there may be something wrong with the segregation laws: Miss Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan. This book follows the story from all three points of view as they, with the help of other household maids, decide to find their own way to fight against what they know is wrong in this 1960's suburbia - the treatment of the household help (as it seems the underlying problem is kept at a safe, family-friendly distance).
Opening this book I was rather shocked at how Stockett seemed to slip in to the stereotyping of writing the black woman's dialect but didn't even consider giving the white, southern women an ounce of an accent which I'm sure they must have had. I'm sure this may be just her way of making sure we, the readers can differentiate between who's talking when - but it did seem just a bit off to me.
On saying that, this book has a warm tenderness to it that makes you feel gooey inside from the inner sweetness that the main characters exhibit, even when faced with adversity that comes in the form of Miss Hilly Holbrook (think Wicked Witch minus the red slippers... at least they weren't mentioned in the book). The relationships that show up in this book, from Aibileen and little Mae Mobley to the outspoken Minny and Miss Celia Foote, have you thinking that there's going to be a good outcome for all of this hard work and, in some cases, there may be but as we're reading with some relative historical knowledge we know that it's only a small drop in the pond.
I personally found this book to be very family friendly, focusing less on the risks and the events happening in the outside world and instead talking more about their lives. It didn't push any boundaries that haven't already been pushed, steamrollered and tarmaced over but you can instead curl up and read through what these people have to put up with, the secrets that they become privy to and the outcasts that they may become if it all goes awry.
This is definitely a feel-good book. It doesn't want you to have your mind blown but more tries to hold your hand and guide you through the everyday lives of these women as they try to chip away a town's barrier. If you read this book PLEASE read the author's section at the back as it helps to explain where she's coming from. I'm now going to see what book Jess next throws at me :D