I wish to thank whoever it was among my blogger friends who recommended The Help one fine day (although I think I remember). I ordered it from the library and forgot about it to the extent that at first I didn’t recognize it when it came in. A brief light of recognition flickered almost right away, but it was indeed a flicker let me tell ya.
Very briefly, it’s set in Mississippi in the early sixties and deals with race relations in that place and time. The plot has a young white woman deciding to write a book from the point of view of coloured women (coloured being the term of the day) who worked as domestics for white women. It’s a neat way to turn the plot because that is what the author is, herself, doing: being a white women writing (largely) about black domestic help. The difference is that Stockett’s novel is fictional and not one based on factual interviews as is the book that the protagonist, Eugenia, desires to write within The Help.
It was quite a page-turner for me and took me back to those days of segregation and peace marches of the early sixties. We’ve all read these kinds of novels before, In the Heat of the Night, for example, or perhaps we haven’t. Or perhaps it has been so long that it’s appropriate to be reminded of what it was like in the deep south not so very long ago, even if the memories can be a bit disturbing. It’s disturbing to me to think that’s what it was like within my lifetime. That being said, rest assured, that it is not a bleak and gloomy book.
As a young Canadian teen, I quite remember seeing Selma and Little Rock and Martin Luther King and peace marches in the news. But I was young and far away, and could only understand some of what it was all about. In point of fact, I’m sure that, even now, I can still only understand some of the situation. But I am grateful to now understand a little more due to this very rivetting first novel by Kathryn Stockett. I think, like the great wars and the holocaust, the days of Jim Crow should not be easily set aside and forgotten.
But it was a long time ago, and the times they have a’changed — with much a’changin yet to go, I imagine. Read the book. It’s a good ‘un. It’s the kind of book that you keep turning over in your head when you put it down — which is hard to do, by the way. And you’ll be prepared for the movie that’s due to come out in August.
While it’s not particularly relevant to you, I kept thinking about who I was back in the day. For what it’s worth, here I am — or was — in 1962. I am fondly touching our first car, a 1958 Pontiac, and eager to get behind the wheel. But that would have to wait until my sixteenth birthday, still almost a year off.
As you can tell from my attire, I was a long way from Mississippi and the coloured maids and the segregated society of The Help.