Book Review: The Help

“Makes you feel warm inside.”

Written by Kathryn Stockett, controversial book The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, ‘where black maids raise white children but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver’.

The novel pushes the typical frame of equality for African-American women. In the plot the African-American woman is given her voice by a white heroine journalist.

Stockett has firsthand experience being raised by a black maid in the American South in the 1960s. The story is told to a racial segregation backdrop of the times of the KKK and real historical changing events of that phase.

It starts with the main character Eugena ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, a white freshly graduated woman who belongs to the “upper white circle”. Skeeter, also raised by a black maid, feels closeness to the black maids more than the other white women.

She becomes involved in a secret writing project with the black maids as she portrays their stories in a novel. The black maids are initially doubtful and scared to join the project until a fellow respected maid Aibileen tells her story to Skeeter and inspires them.

Skeeter forms an unexpected sisterhood with the black maids and when the book is published, their small town’s out-dated ethics and behaviour is forced to change.

Kathryn Stockett has been praised for her impressive style of writing which is a blend of rage and humour, setting the story out in a beautiful manner that brings the characters closer to the reader.

The author was recently sued by her brother’s maid Ablene Cooper. Cooper’s attorney is arguing that there are many similarities between the character and his client. Cooper stated that she has found the book and the use of her story without permission offensive. The lawsuit was filed in Jackson, where Stockett was raised and where the novel is set.

The book was made into a movie released August 2011 and starring Emma Stone.

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