The Help

The Help

I’m just back from a weekend away which gave me the chance to read a whole book between getting on a train after work on Friday and getting home on Sunday evening. I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which was given to me by a friend who’d just finished it.

It is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and is about the lives of three women, the white daughter of a cotton plantation owner ‘Miss Skeeter’ and two black maids Aibileen and Minny. Their lives become intertwined when Miss Skeeter returns from College and starts to question the unquestioned racial divisions of daily life at the time.

It captures perfectly the suffocating atmosphere of a small town where women break off their education to get married, whilst finishing College and being single in your early twenties makes you someone to be pitied. It is a world pre Betty Friedan where women’s lives revolve around home and family. The book captures all too chillingly the bitchiness of the women in control of the lives of the white women of the town. These small-minded women are also, through the domination of their peers, in control of the lives of the town’s maids. Miss Skeeter navigates this dangerous territory, finding her role as a modern woman in a world where no-one else appears to be questioning the racial and gender divisions.

The voices of Aibileen and Minny come across very authentically and as the tension and temperature rise, you fear for their safety, risked through daring to talk about what it is really like working for the white women of the town and bringing up their children. It’s interesting on reading about the author in the back of the book to discover it is inspired by her upbringing and close relationship with her family’s maid.

I can see why it’s a best-seller and beloved of book clubs everywhere – it’s an excellent read.