This book is funny and gripping, unique in its colloquial expressions, one should buy it, read it, highlight it, and then keep it handy and refer to it just for a giggle if not for precious sound advice.
I have not seen the movie yet but I doubt it does it justice, so I am still hesitant if to see it or not, as I would not want to erase the bubbling joy I felt when listening to this book, a crescendo of laughter, the audio book being very beautifully read by different women (each with their own perspective – following the book trail) and that makes such a difference, for the originality of the language is preserved and thoroughly enjoyed.
The main story in itself is not too complicated and almost entirely revealed by the movie trailer. There is a Southern young girl freshly returned from college who realises more and more she does not fit in with her young friends, whose ideas of life involve getting a husband (primary reason for a girl to go to college in those days), making some babies, mostly a sense of duty and not necessarily desire of motherhood, and then shopping, hair parlour, having nails done, make-up carefully applied, and more frequent than not, torturing the help. The girl wants to write more than anything and gets the idea of writing about the help, controversial and dangerous subject but the only one approved by a publishing house. The time of the narration makes all things extremely inciting as it takes place during the civil rights movement in the United States, when and where racism is as hard as it gets.
The other stories are related and referring to the main story, they complete it via different perspectives, those of black women servants stripped of so much and having to stoop to the lowest of lows although inexplicably – even to themselves- they are also the nannies for the white babies, from conception to almost maturity. Life is hard but they keep on living, there is poverty, marital abuse, futile death and malicious unpunished injury, so much injustice that it makes you cringe.
And in the midst of all evil, of all sadness and lack of hope and escape, there is laughter. Through its wonderful language the book manages to be hilarious. Minny is my favourite, as I could hear women from the Mississippi of the 60’s speaking through her. She is quite unique in her way of being, her jokes are always delivered in a plate of seriousness, scenes that you truly want to revisit. Aibileen is the wise one, much older than Minny and Miss Skeeter. Though not as old as she portrays herself to be, she is the one who had a straight connection to God; being on her prayer list got you cured, with a far better job than the one you’ve lost, or vindicated for the evil you have suffered. Aibileen’s words of wisdom are useful in real life and it makes me smile thinking that I can chase racoons from our food garbage bins by putting ammoniac on top.
Miss Skeeter (the nickname she’s stuck with) is the white woman who although young and inexperienced manages to bring everything through. Her humour (and I’m thinking of Elaine May’s “never let them catch you trying to be funny”) is hidden and comes again from very serious situations that comically wrapped make this book light and appealing. A big bravo to Kathryn for being able to achieve this.
Please read “The Help”, it will make you feel better about your life, count your blessings, be kinder to others, as no one’s life is a fairy tale even though some of us try very hard to have it portrayed as such.
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