Synopsis (from Amazon)
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…
I first heard about The Help on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, I was intregued enough at the time to add it to my wishlist but it wasn’t until reading a number of positive reviews from other bloggers that I really wanted to read it. All the same it could still be just sitting on my wishlist if it wasn’t for the fact that my sister leant me a copy.
It’s been quite a long time since I last read a book that I wanted to read above other things that I wanted to do, but The Help was definitely one of these. I really did not want to put it down, but despite that it still took my a while to read.
At first I was unsure of Aibileen’s voice, it seemed like the way a white person would write a black person’s speech, and kind of fake. After a while it either toned down or I got enough into the story for it to cease to matter, I’m not entirely sure which it was.
I grew to love the characters. I think Aibileen was my favourite, she wanted to change things, but not so much for herself as for the people she loved. She did it in small ways, like her stories to Mae Mobley but I really respected her for it. I thought Minny was really strong. I respected her for not taking any rubbish, I found it difficult to understand why she stuck with her husband, but I guess there’s a realism there that love just isn’t that simple.
There’s obviously some autobiographical element at play. I could see bits of Stockett’s own maid (from her childhood, who she speaks about at the end) in Minny, Aibileen and Constantine. Does that make the book a ‘cheat’ as fiction? No I don’t think so, and a certain realism gives more strength to the topic. Skeeter is very undoubtedly based on Stockett herself, I mean even the names are similar! I’m interested to see if she comes outwith anything else as there was so little real fiction in The Help.