Wednesday 5 June 2013

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Enter a vanished 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, Abileen 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 search of the truth. And together they have an
extraordinary story to tell...

 Is The Help Worth A Read?

The Help is one of the most fantastic, gripping books that I have ever read. I have read it about four times now in a very short space of time, and have seen the film literally about eight times (almost nightly.)

I am completely obsessed with this book, and all the characters within it, and have read The Help to death just to keep re-analysing the characters, and squeeze as much excitement and enjoyment as I possibly can from this story, like one would with Harry Potter.

The Help is so incredibly touching, quirky, heartbreaking and easy to read, that I should expect anyone to just be able to pick this book up, and dive into the action, and find their own character to either love, hate, or even just connect with.


The Characters

There's Miss Hilly Holbrook, the popular rich white lady who runs the Junior League, and who is a terror to the town and those who work for her. What with the Home Help Sanitation Initiative Hilly has begun, The Help had better watch out. Thank god for Minny's pie and Skeeter's toilets...

There's Miss Leefolt who doesn't know how to stop her own child from crying, and who takes very little interest in her own daughter until she copies her coloured mother figure and uses the coloured toilet.

There's ditzy 'white trash' Miss Celia who is completely colour blind, and is the sanctuary for Minny when her sass-mouthing gets her fired from Miss Hilly's. Celia is helpless, skill-less and 'really needs a maid.' However, she not only married Hilly's ex boyfriend, but also hasn't told her husband she has hired coloured help.
What with Miss Hilly's hatred of Celia Foote, and Minny's horrific 'pie incident' will this spell trouble for them?

There's Minny, a sassy black maid who's tongue has gotten her fired far more times than she can count. Whilst suffering with constant pregnancy to keep her safe from her violent, alchoholic husband, Minny has learned to hate whites and fear men, but still finds friendship with her new crazy white employer, and a young white girl desperate to change the world.

There's Aibileen, a motherly coloured maid who lost her own son Treelore, and after him being treated so horrifically, loses hope and faith in the world. Aibileen is a specialist with the children and is a much sought after help, but she is on a mission - to make sure that Mae Mobley Leefolt, her last baby girl, knows that she is kind, smart and important before it is too late and she has to leave.

There's Skeeter Phelan, an ambitious young writer who was raised by coloured help. Skeeter was taught that she had the power to make a difference by her own maid Constantine, and later decides to challenge the rules and write a book from the help's point of view about their employers.

There's also Elaine Steine, senior editor of Harper & Row, and a powerful educated woman during the sixties in ambitious young writer Skeeter Phelan's eyes. Elaine Steine gives Skeeter advice and looks over her controversial work, for no other reason that someone once did for her.

Finally there's Skeeter's mother, Charlotte Phelan... constantly nagging her daughter about her hair and her height, her posture and everything else to make her daughter seem perfect, just to get her married off.
Charlotte Phelan has quite the story of her own regarding Skeeter's beloved childhood maid, and the pressure forced upon her by the other popular rich ladies at the time.

What did happen to Constantine? Why will no one talk about her?

See below the cut for the full review of The Help.

"You told me to write about what disturbs me,
particularly what bothers no one else.
I'd like to write something from the point of view of the help."

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, The Help is narrated by three women Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen and Minny are both coloured maids who are just trying to get by in life, Skeeter the daughter of one of those pillars of the community.

Miss Skeeter is an ambitious young lady who has longed to be a serious writer, ever since her maid Constantine convinced her that she had the power to make a difference in the world.
After landing a job writing as Miss Myrna for a cleaning column, Skeeter enlists Aibileen's help over some questions, but conversation soon turns elsewhere.

Determined to discover the truth about her missing childhood maid Constantine, and suddenly noticing 'things' in her home town after returning from college, Skeeter gets the inspiration to write a book about the coloured slave labour, and innocently asks Aibileen if she would like to change things.

The gravity of what she has just come out with, does not truly hit her until she makes an enemy of Miss Hilly Holbrook, and the other maids tell her of being abused, raped, fired, others imprisoned wrongfully, and taken advantage of to as much extent as possible by white people.

Such a radical project would have been illegal in Mississippi then because of the notorious Jim Crowe segregation laws, and fought against furiously by those opposing equal rights.

Bringing together women from all different backgrounds, increasingly difficult situations, and with politically divided opinions, The Help truly does show the rude awakening at the coming of age for Skeeter as she struggles to survive in a segregated world, and discovers the daily battles between the coloured help and their employers.

How the friends she once left behind for college have changed so much in her eyes, and how at the sudden realisation of the horrific conditions that the maids have to live in, cause her to lose faith and respect for the cream of society and fight even more for justice.

Why You Should Read The Help

Kathryn Stockett is an amazing writer, and has done a magnificent job of showing the sixties as they were truly meant to be seen; full of suffering and struggle for change, the bright colours, outfits and toy cars merely a distraction.

The Help is full of fantastic characters that you can just fall in love with as they develop over time.

Miss Celia, fun and quirky and ever desperate to please the high society, a broken woman who desperately longs to fill that void and simply cannot, but who can just pick herself up and carry on. The kind of girlfriend you would just long to know and keep forever in your heart.

Minny, the muscle, the tough love mother who despite her sassy tongue has a wicked sense of humour and a good heart, a deep character and whom you can see underneath still longs for friendship and change.

And even Miss Hilly, a godless woman who seems to never get tired of destroying the peace, doing wrong to make things seem right, and expecting the impossible of her friends.

I found The Help very educational, and was the kind of page turner I really liked to read. Personally I feel that this fantastic book should be made a mandatory study piece in schools and colleges everywhere, if just to show the massive contrast and yet even now the similar situations between the sixties and modern times, socially, politically and financially, depending on your take on certain situations.

The Help is also a very easy to read book. From the very first moment that I picked up this book, I knew that The Help was going to be a fantastic read, and not dreary or just informative.

I really struggle with reading because of a lack of focus or interest, it's terrible. But this grabbed me right from the very first few words and kept me reading it until I had finished, and then started re-reading it again immediately after I had finished the book.

I hope that this review has helped you to decide whether you should read this book or not. You may wish to check out the movie trailer, as that will give you an immediate insight into the wonders of The Help, seeing as the book and the film match 100%. Hopefully I haven't missed anything out above.

Thanks for reading

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review, Emma. I can feel your passion for the book! I've read it too and thought it was great.