Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Help Kathryn Stockett

SORRY! I know it's been a while since my last post. I've no excuse so hopefully here goes 3 blogs in a row starting with The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I initially found the book very slow paced, in a way mirroring the way of life of the deep south where the book was set. The pace never really went up a gear and I think a couple of us found it took a little while to get into. Although despite its lack of pace we found that it crept up on us and made us want to read to the end.

Most surprising was the fact that the book, based around slavery was set in 1960s the very decade of freedom in England. It seemed so strange that this was going on such a short time ago. How white women would leave their children almost entirely in the hands of coloured women but wouldn't share a bathroom with them was such a bizarre thing to get your head round. We therefore spent a while talking about America in that time compared to England. We are lucky enough to have an American in our mist who was able to provide an extra angle to the conversation.

A book based on slavery naturally found us talking about freedoms in particularly the both sets of women in the book and how in many ways it was the coloured women who had more freedom and deeper friendships. The white women had to behave in a set way or were excluded from society. In times of trouble the coloured women pulled together such as when they clubbed together to send the twin boys to college

We also talked about the role of men in the book and how weak they were yet how despite this they were still deemed head of the house without question. Miss Skeeters boyfriend who either wasn't brave enough/or simply just didn't understand why Miss Skeeter would want to write a book about the Help. Minnys husband who resorted to beating her yet whom Minny wouldn't leave because he was her husband.

I was fascinated with Celias character. She must have thought she had made it when she escaped Sugar Ditch yet really had a worse time of it than the coloured women being totally shunned by the white ladies who thought her beneath them. She was tough, the episode with the stalker showed that. Yet her upbringing really made her innocent/naive about the class boundaries that Miss Hilly and Minny stuck so rigidly to. She just didn't see the reason why she couldn't simply be friends with Minny and whoever else turned up.

We did think the book had its weak points - we didn't believe the women would actually talk and the excuse Stockett gave for why they all eventually did was a bit flimsy. We also thought the explanation as to Constances disappearance was a bit wishy washy and did Miss Skeeters mother just get better from the brink of death?

We were interested as to how much the book mirrored the authors life. Stockett is from Mississippi, had a coloured maid, became a writer and moved away (Sound familiar?). Not much was revealed however as to whether any of the stories were true.

We awarded it a 7.25 with a quite narrow band of scores which meant that we all pretty much liked it.

Our next book is The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern.