Book review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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This beauty of a book is my all-time favourite. It is set in America, 1962, in Jackson, Mississippi and deals with the problem of racial discrimination at the time. Kathryn Stockett writes a passionate piece about her hometown but does not restrict the issues she covers to only that of racial discrimination. Stockett explores the problem of domestic abuse, the social hierarchy and prejudice over the poor, and the problems faced by young women who were pressured into the life of a housewife when all they wanted to achieve was a decent career for themselves.

Stockett writes from the perspective of three individual characters: Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. Through these three different pairs of eyes, Stockett captures what life was real like for women in Jackson, who also happened to be individually fighting battles of their own. Stockett successfully brings each of her masterfully created characters together for one wild and completely illegal adventure of their own: to publish a book of dozens of accounts from black housemaids, giving them a voice in society.

What makes this novel so intense and powerful is the truth behind it. Stockett does not write with the sole aim to capture the dark days for black housemaids working in America during racial inequality, but she captures the reality of life. There are battles between the two communities divided by skin colour, but there are also conflicts within each of their societies and, most importantly, Stockett writes of friendships between the employer and employee. Not all black housemaids were treated badly by those who hired them and Stockett gives justice to that, especially through the storyline of Minny who helps the woman she works for, Celia, to get through the struggle of going through a third miscarriage, and teaching her how to cook better, improving her health and lifestyle. It is no secret that life was hard for these women but through the struggle of survival and keeping up a living whilst being paid the minimum amount, there was also a helping hand within the African-American community and acts of generosity would shine through and give them hope; Stockett partially captures this through the generosity of the church and the community that religion provides as a place to feel safe with everyone together.

Stockett writes perfectly moulded characters and takes them on a journey together through dangerous times, drawing in the events of the time also, such as the assassination of JFK and how that affected the African-American society by creating an atmosphere of fear of the KKK and others alike. Nevertheless, these three women create a bond together and with determination they are rewarded with a book they all collaborated with by the end of it.

With Miss Skeeter’s young ambitious heart, Aibileen’s determination, and Minny’s sass, the three of them create a partnership which crosses the boundaries of society and together Stockett makes them unbeatable. This novel by Stockett is a remarkable one which has so much passion in it and joy that you will no doubt laugh and cry whilst enjoying the dramas and risks that were unfolding in Jackson, Mississippi.

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