April 10th, 2020

Book 24 - 2018

Book 24: The Help by Kathryn Stockett - 451 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver . . .

There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...

This book is...I can't come up with the appropriate adjective to describe it. I am glad I read it. I enjoyed it immensely. It made me think deeply. After recently watching First Man and Forrest Gump, after reading Hidden Figures last year...well I'm enjoying hanging out in 1960s America, because I think there are some valuable lessons there for today.
I am Australian, and so my understanding of race relations in America is always at a distance. Its something I struggle with because a person's skin colour to me is no different from their hair, eye colour or height - a physical characteristic which means nothing about who they are as a person. A naive point of view perhaps, maybe one easy to hold when you are white and middle class, but nonetheless, how I see the world. So, I think its important to read books such as this. In my copy, Stockett includes an afterword where she notes that she can never know exactly how it felt for a black woman working for a white woman in Mississippi but that its important she try. I agree wholeheartedly - this book gave me a different perspective to consider, something to add to my understanding of American race relations. I'm still not sure I'll ever understand how one human being looks at another human being and treats them in such a way, but I appreciate the perspective.
I also just found this a good bloody book to read. The three women's perspective provided the right level of difference versus consistency and pushed the story along well. All three women were interesting and well fleshed out, and I missed each of them as I read about another. Skeeter's evolution, as she came to see the world in a different light was important and well done. Moreover, I know some people have said this book treads the whole 'white woman saving black women' trope, but I never felt that - Aibileen saved Skeeter as much as Skeeter saved anyone. Aibileen and Minny's relationship was wonderful, and the challenges Minny faced regarding the issues in her marriage were nuanced. I also really love Celia Foote and how much her husband Johnny loved her. The other white woman, bullied by Hilly as much as the maids, provided a small insight into how people go along with bad situations in order to protect themselves.
Ultimately, from my very small perspective, I really loved this book. I think I also read it at a time when I needed it - troubled by issues in my own life, it was a perfect book to give me perspective on how people cope with problems much bigger than mine. I also realised how well done the film adaptation was, as it mirrors the book, the dialogue and the characters more closely than any book I've ever read.

24 / 50 books. 48% done!

7622 / 15000 pages. 51% done!

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