“A compelling, great first novel, with soaring highs, poignant side stories and laugh-out-loud anecdotes. You’ll be sorry to finish it.”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

This is one of those books that shakes you out of passivity and makes you really think.

It haunts you with its portrayal of life in 1960’s America, which was rampant with blatant racial discrimination and no civil rights for African Americans.

It highlights why every stride made in the war against this discrimination is so important and such a big deal.

It educates you on why segregation of people on the basis of nothing but the colour of their skin is so abhorrent.

The story, set in Jackson, Mississippi, is told in the voices of three women –

Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, a white woman,who returns home with a college degree and ambitions of being a writer, but is frustrated by constant reminders that she should concentrate on finding a husband and making a family.

Abeleine – a dignified black maid, who has found the strength to go on despite losing her only child, and gives all her love to the white children she looks after. She cares about molding them into kind and fair minded individuals who do not imbibe the prejudice all around them.

Minny – a sassy black woman who cooks like a dream but cannot hold down a job because she always says what she feels and that doesn’t go down well with her employers!

The book tells the story of their lives and the daily trials they face. These are women who cook, clean, look after the babies and do pretty much everything for their white employers but have to watch every word they say and every step they take because anything could get them beaten, jailed or in the worst case, killed.

This is a happy book, one full of hope, friendship and above all, faith, as these three women decide to do something about the situation and come together in one bold act of rebellion that changes their lives forever.

You want to reach out and hug each and every one of these women and share in their sorrow, their fears and their triumphs as they live them. That’s the best part of this book which is a 10/5 for me!

 

Reviewed by:

Priya Prakash

Added 19th November 2017

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

“ “Once upon a time they was two girls,” I say. “one girl had black skin, one girl had white.” Mae Mobley look up at me. She listening.

“Little colored girl say to little white girl, ‘How come your skin be so pale?’ White girl say, ‘I don’t know. How come your skin be so black? What you think that mean?’ But neither one a them little girls knew.

So little white girl say, ‘Well, let’s see. You got hair, I got hair.’ ” I gives Mae Mobley a little tousle on her head. “Little colored girl say ‘I got a nose, you got a nose.’ ”I gives her little snout a tweak. She got to reach up and do the same to me. “ ‘So we’s the same. Just a different color’, say that little colored girl. The little white girl she agreed and they was friends. The End.” ”

Black stands for many things, and its meaning might vary from one person to another. Some might consider it a symbol of sadness and grief, while others might see a kind of mystery in it. Few will merely see it as a phenomenon of light that gives an object a distinguishing aspect, just like red, blue, or green. However, for a great number of people, black is history; it is the struggle that African-American had to endure in order to obtain their freedom and be treated like human beings.

In her famous novel entitled The Help, Kathryn Stockett elaborates on this idea by giving a very personal account of the situation of black helpers who, at a time where black people had no choice but to work for rich white families, faced abuse, humiliation, and severe punishments, simply due to their skin colour.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the book draws a daily-life representation of the long-time conflict between black and white and the climax of the racial segregation in the mid-20th century. The story is narrated by three different characters: Aibileen, the loving helper who has raised about seventy white child, Minny, a stubborn and hot-headed maid who’s always in an entertaining dispute with her mistress, Miss Hilly, and Skeeter, the controversial white woman who wants to share the maids’ stories about racism and the unfair treatment they’re receiving in a book she’s writing.

What’s interesting about the book is the realism attached to every detail and every character, with their flaws, problems, imperfect physical aspect, and manifestation of the cause that prevailed back then. Moreover, the book is dedicated to the “help”, a group of black maids who take care of the upper-class white people’s homes and children and painfully watch these children grow to become as racist as their parents.

However, many of them try to change this mentality and prevent the children from becoming hypocrites and cruel, including Aibileen, whose attachment to baby Mae Mobley and her motherly instinct make her jeopardize her job and her life, in the purpose of teaching the child that race shouldn’t separate them.

In this book, Kathryn Stockett explores different kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, happiness, mirth, heartbreak and many more, and the casual, everyday incidents seem to be very credible and engaging.

Thus, it would be absorbing and untypical to read something that has a different perspective, which introduces the reader to the minds of these unfortunate maids who, even today, still lack some of their freedom.

 

 

Reviewed by:

Sana Abou Ali

Added 13th December 2015

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