The Help – by Kathryn Stockett

15 03 2014

I’d seen the film, but it was quite a while ago and I didn’t really remember it, so in many ways, this was like reading a new book.

The story is set in 1960s Mississippi, and looks primarily into the lives of a few white women, their maids and their children. Now I wasn’t anywhere near alive in the ’60s, but I thought I knew a bit about what had gone on. I know about Rosa Parks, I know about Martin Luther King, and I know about Apartheid in South Africa. I did not know that a white woman would consider, let alone actually build a separate toilet outside her house for her maid to use so that she wouldn’t catch diseases from her. I didn’t know that to serve a white woman her coffee you would set it on the table rather than give it to her for her fear that her hands may touch yours and catch something. I am privileged to have grown up in an environment where this would never be tolerated, though I know that in some places things still aren’t quite right.

It was really encouraging to find out at the end that while it this wasn’t based on the authors life per say, she did grow up with a black maid who she was close to around this time, and so in general it was based on life at that time, though the book itself is fiction. It does close with a nice little account of her story in the back though.

The book itself has three women sharing the job of narration, two black maids and one white woman who isn’t quite like the rest of them. Just home from college and living back with her mother while her friends are married and enjoying high society life, she is far more interested in what life is like for the maids.

Definitely a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – there’s time for laughter, sadness and anger definitely, but it really opened my eyes to what things used to be like compared to what they are now, but also was genuinely a great read. One of those books you carry around with you incase you find a chance to read a few more pages!

the help

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