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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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It was a lot to swallow. To be bossed around and disrespected by someone you've nursed as an infant and then to be called the "n" word by the person who hugged you and played with you can leave a sour pit in your stomach. Many women of color find it hard to let go of. My mother in law is not one of them.

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I haven't really read many books based on racial injustice so this was a bit of an eye-opener for me. It's fiction, but knowing that people had to go through the sort events the characters went through made me frustrated at times. The relationship between the three ladies developed well as the story progressed, and Minny's "Awful Thing" had me in stitches.

It wasn't just the lives of The Help that made me think though, it was also the lives on the white women. It's like they're both trapped in their lives and expected to act a certain way. I had a lot of respect for Skeeter when she decided to go against the norm and stand up for what she believed in, rather than settling down and having kids as was expected of her.

One of my favourite characters though was Celia. I could really empathise with her when she was left standing by herself despite her constant attempts to intergrate with her neighbours. The chapter describing the dead baby was disgusting, but it really evoked sympathy from me; she was trying so hard to be what was expected of a white woman in those days, and she felt like a failure for not achieving anything in her view.

 

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I know it's a couple of years since this thread was last posted in, but I've finally read the book after it was chosen for my book group this month.  I've just looked back through the thread, and I think I'm going to be one of the few to say I didn't really think it hit the mark for me.
 
This was a quick and easy ready for me, almost like a beach book that you'd read on holiday, and that's a big problem for the subject of this story.  Most of the story felt like surface work to me, with little depth and the I never felt totally connected to the characters of Aibileen and Minny, and when there might have been the opportunity to really show more breadth to the experience of the other maids, their contributions to the book were skimmed over and used for balance, rather than genuinely telling their story.
 
One of the other problems I had was how Aibileen's chapters were written.  She starts of writing in Aibileen's voice, for example, using "a" instead of "of".  I'm don't like this way of writing as a general rule, but my concern with it here was that it wasn't used anywhere near as much in Minny's chapters, except in her dialogue, but as we learn about Aibileen, we find out that she writes a lot and when possible, is an avid reader, and even writes her own story and helps edit the others in the Skeeter's book.  This seemed a contradiction to me, as if her chapters in this book are a representation of her, I felt the prose would be in correct English, even if her dialogue would reflect her spoken voice.  It did jar with me a lot, and it also seemed uneven through the book, but perhaps it's just because it's a style of writing I don't like, and I was therefore more conscious of it.
 
Do not read the spoiler if you haven't read the book and plan to do so!

It also felt like there was an attempt to find a satisfying ending for the three leads.  Aibileen may lose her job and be prevented from finding work as a maid in Jackson, but she's given the writing job on the newspaper, and is planning on starting a new life.  Minny finally has the courage to leave Leroy, and although she will continue to work as a maid for Celia, her life will be better.  Skeeter gets her dream to move to NYC and start a career as a writer.  It all just felt a little too easy.


 
I'm being very critical here, and making it sounds much worse that I actually thought!  I did like reading it, and like I said, it was a reasonably quick and easy read for me, and the plot moves along well, and kept me wanting to keep reading.  I liked that it was a very domestic take on a very important story, and loved that it was told almost entirely from the female perspective.  I definitely want to try and see the film adaptation now as well.  If anything, despite the reservations I've already talked about, it's made me want to read something with a bit more depth to it about the same subject.

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