The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Someone foisted this book on to me, just as the film came out, telling me “you absolutely must read this!”. See my previous blog for how I respond to being told that I “must” do something. But, since my parents brought me up to have good manners, I politely said “thank you”, stuck the book on the shelf and ignored it for 8½ years.

The other week I was looking for something that was neither serious history nor a detective novel and unearthed this. In a way I’m pleased I did although I understand why Viola Davis has some regrets about playing one of the “help”.

I think the book does a good job of helping WASPs like me understand what life was like in a place like Mississippi in the early to mid-1960s. I understand the claustrophobia of living in a small town where everybody knows everybody but not the deep racial and racist divides.

I can imagine Skeeter’s frustrations and boredom that lead her to write her book but I find it hard to believe that the attitudes portrayed by her friends were acceptable in the late 20th century: they are barbaric.

As a white skinned Brit I think books like this are a useful way of getting a message out to a wider audience to make them think about how unacceptable racism in all its forms is. If I was a person with a different coloured skin, and possibly from another continent, I might be wondering why some of these abhorrent attitudes and behaviours are still prevalent nearly 2 decades into the 21st century.

In summary, I found this book interesting. I learned from it and it made me think. Perhaps what I need next is a book written by someone who lived the life of Aibilene and Minny.

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