The Help - Kathryn Stockett

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The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Post by Graham on Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:32 pm

I’m not sure why I avoided this book when it came out – perhaps it seemed that liberal America was indulging itself in more self-laceration over its racial history. In any case it didn’t seem relevant. It was passed to me with a ringing recommendation by a family member and I am very glad I read it. Some of the encomium on the cover is misplaced. It is not ‘immensely funny’ (Daily Telegraph). The Telegraph also seemed to be most impressed by the ‘world of okra and fried chicken and peach cobbler.’ Perhaps the food critic had just been promoted to Book Reviews.

It may not be ‘laugh-out-loud’ (Marie Claire) but it is a vital, fascinating book and very much a page-turner. In 60’s Jackson, Mississippi, misfit Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan determines she will document the experiences of the city’s negro maids. She is clumsy, undatable, and hanging precariously to her social acceptance among the town’s young privileged white women. She engages the help of Aibileen and Minny two of the town’s maids and start on a course that brings danger to them all. This is at the dawn of integration and the Ku Klux Klan’s vicious rear-guard action to preserve white supremacy. The Klan drew no distinction between blacks and civil rights workers pressing for change and the several real-life murders referenced in the story bring the threat frighteningly close.

The character of Skeeter is immensely likeable but the standout for me was 'Miss' Celia Foote, a poor white girl who married rich and is desperate for the approval of the other white women. This will be a long time coming to someone who thinks nothing of sitting down to eat with the help.
After finishing the book, I watched the movie with Emma Stone (not exactly undatable) in the Skeeter role. It was a slight disappointment, but Jessica Chastain in the Celia Foote role is unmissable.

Graham
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