"I told Luanne I would write a review of The Help for her blog, because I absolutely loved this book. When I finished it, I did not want to start another book because I didn’t want to let go of these characters. I wanted to keep them with me for just a little bit longer.
However, I find I am having trouble describing all the emotions this book arouses. Let’s start with a description of the plot. The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s. A time when the light was shining on long-held beliefs and practices like segregation, and “northerners” were coming to Jackson to try to show them another way to do things. As with all great social change, there are still people living their lives, and trying to figure out where they fit in their changing society. This book is the story of three women living in Jackson: two maids, Aibileen and Minny, and one privileged white women, Skeeter. As the world around them starts to show the people of Jackson a different way of doing things, Skeeter starts to question her friends, and most particular Miss Hilly, the chair of the Junior League. Skeeter hatches a plan that she hopes will launch her career as a writer. She plans on writing a book about the experiences of black maids, and Skeeter and Aibileen manage to convince a number of the maids to tell their stories to Skeeter.
From the first page of the book the reader is wrapped in the language and accents of the three women whose stories become intermingled. Stockett moves easily from the accents of Minny and Aibileen, to that of Skeeter and the other white women. There are some touchingly funny moments in the book, as we learn about the relationships the maids have with the children they care for, who eventually become their bosses. Not to give anything way, just know that “toilets” are discussed several times throughout the book.
When we read about Jackson, Mississippi in 1960 it is hard to believe that the world was like that, just 50 years ago. The maids were not allowed to eat at a table with white people. If a maid was out in town during work hours, they had to be dressed accordingly (in their white maid uniform). Slavery had been abolished, but little else seemingly had changed.
There has been criticism of this book – some saying this is just another book by a white woman trying to explain the black experience. I think the important message from the book is about women and their relationships. How situations can throw people together to form unlikely friendships and support systems. Stockett has written a book about great change in the southern states, in an entertaining, personal, and intelligent manner.
I repeat what I said at the beginning; I love this book and have no hesitation recommending it!
Read an excerpt of The Help. The movie version of The Help will be released in August 2011.
What a great review! As always, thanks Julia!