The Help (Book)- 8GPPs
“The Help” written by Kathryn Stockett was first published in 2009 and went on to become a major motion picture in 2011. While not my usual genre of book to pick up and indulge in, I found that I could barely put it down.
The story starts from the perspective of a maid called Aibileen and here we set the scene; 1963, Jackson Mississippi. Aibileen is getting on in years but is working for a rich white family and looking after their love hungry daughter, so soon after losing her own son. The segregation between coloured and white people is as strong as ever, with cotton picking and maid work as the main source of income for the latter. We watch as Aibileen and her best friend Minny struggle to find a feeling of content within this town.
As the story continues, we get to see the perspective of not only Aibileen, but also of Minny; younger in years, with a sass mouth that could rip anyone’s head off, and a family that fills her house to bursting. Then, enter Skeeter; a young white girl who, right from the outset, is deeply unhappy in the way things are and the inequality that coloured people are subjected to on a day to day basis.
From here we set off on a wonderful journey of bonding between both black and white, with barriers being broken and rules that we now know to be wrong, not being followed; and the rise of the political movement; with mention of Rosa Parks, the JFK assassination, black people being beaten for using a white bathrooms and the dehumanisation of Blacks by the white majority.
Together, these two maids and Skeeter, the white girl who doesn’t fit, set off on a mission to write a book. A book that shows all the inequalities, the bad, the good, the downright ugly. Through trials and turmoil, troubles and triumphs, they get it written, and it is eventually published by the no nonsense Missus Stein in New York. The book becomes bigger and bigger, yet no one knows who any of these people are, until, a fateful TV appearance of the book where the host hints it may be about Jackson.
While reading the book, I felt totally immersed, like I myself was sat at Aibileen’s kitchen table, worrying about who was going to find out it was them and what would happen to them.
The more that these three women bond, the more you bond with them, cheering them on and hoping all will turn out ok. Towards the end, you start to see tiny changes being made within the community; the maid’s boss sitting at the same table and listening to her stories, but we also see that some things might never change, as Aibileen loses her job over “stolen” silverware.
The ending of the book leaves you with a bittersweet taste writhing through your mouth, with a realistic edge of nothing being changed overnight, as some white people will simply not change their way of thinking; but there is hope in the small things beginning to happen.
I felt a sense of sadness, joy, terror and excitement. All the emotions they would have felt while writing their book; I felt like a part of something huge. The setting was perfect, the characters were perfect and the message the book sends out is perfect; resonating not only in 1963 but in 2012 also: through trouble and turmoil, if you want change, all you need is a little help from your friends.