Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"The Help"

I love reading. My bookshelves are overflowing with books and there are still more relegated to boxes in the garage. So recently I have resisted temptation to buy yet more and avoided bookshops and charity shops. Discount book catalogues have been resolutely consigned to the recycling. (My Wartime Farm book doesn't count. Honest.) So I was secretly delighted when I was given a Waterstones gift voucher for my birthday. I could indulge my passion without guilt!

One of the books I bought was "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

I am not normally very good at trying new authors - I have definite favourites and don't usually waver from them. But this was strongly recommended so I gave it a go.

It is written from the viewpoint of three women from the American South set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement during the early 1960s. The two black women, Aibileen and Minny, are maids, or "the help", to white society women.  The third woman, Skeeter, is an aspiring journalist from that same white society who is uneasy about the way the black community is treated. Together the three women start to write a book that will explore the relationships between white and black women, both positive and negative.

At first I found it hard going. It is written in the first person and I had to slow my reading right down to understand the dialect. I am so glad that I persevered because I really enjoyed it. There is plenty of period detail. Several sub-plots were woven around the main storyline. The tension built steadily and I really cared about the fate of the characters.

As a modern white British woman I don't pretend to know much about the American Civil Rights movement or the society of the time. I now feel that I know a little more.

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