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The Help - Book Review

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by Evangeline Gardiner (subscribe)
Introverted recluse currently residing in Brisbane, Australia. University Student and aspiring journalist.
Published February 12th 2013
As a walking, breathing, prime example of an introvert, reading quickly became a hobby of mine that has stuck with me my whole life. From attempting to read books upside down at the age of 2 to picking up classics whenever I enter a bookstore at the age of 17, the art of reading has molded itself into me.

Two months ago I embarked on my first trip to the United States without my family. At Brisbane airport, making my way towards the departure gate, I was drawn into the airport bookstore - as I always am. As I looked around, scanning the bookshelves intensively, my eyes fell upon a big yellow covered book, with the beautiful Emma Stone on the cover. The title read, "The Help", in bold, purple font. I stood there admiring the front cover, my memories jumping back to when I saw the trailer for the release of the movie adaptation. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see the movie, but it had sparked my interest from the minute the trailer rolled.

After I decided to pick up the book, I purchased it and sat down, waiting for my plane to depart. As I begun reading, I could feel the book absorbing reality, the airport chairs around me being pulled into the metaphorical whirlpool created by my brain. Soon, I was no longer sitting at the departure gate waiting for my plane: I was in Jackson, Mississippi watching Aibileen Clark delicately watch over the adorable, young Mae Mobley.

The Help, is written through the use of three distinct narrators: Aibileen Clark, a nanny of African-American background, who has raised a collection of white children from their birth, Eugenia Phelan - or "Skeeter" - the bright, college-graduate who becomes acutely aware of the injustice regarding the racism and subsequent violence in her hometown and Minny Jackson, the loud-mouthed, sassy maid with a rough family life. Regardless of the unlikely odds, these three individuals have something in common - their distaste towards segregation being the "norm" in their hometown. This common frustration inevitably causes these three lives to cross in a way that is dangerous yet passionate.

The book begins by allowing readers to familiarise themselves with the three narrators as well as allowing for the identification of which characters not to be too fond of - including one of the main "antagonists", Hilly. Once these factors were established, the novel begins to revolve around Skeeter's new idea to write a novel from the perspective of the Help, with vigorous aid from Aibileen and Minny. Skeeter's memory of her old maid, the warm and loving Constantine, fuels her desire to work on such a project. After overcoming the initial resistance of other maids, including that of Aibileen and Minny, these three characters successfully work together to publish their dangerous, but somewhat life-changing novel. The book is not the only end product of their teamwork - a strong, mostly unheard of during that time, friendship is made between them.

The Help does not delve into the deep end of the details of racism during this time period. Rather, it deals with basic everyday issues the Help had to deal with - such as utilising different bathrooms from that of their employers to avoid "disease spreading". Besides the occasional referral to Martin Luther King Jr. and his Civil Rights Movement, this novel deals more with the storytelling of the lives of the three narrators, rather than an attempt to dive into the harsh reality of life for African-Americans during the 1960s.

Ultimately this novel is a great read if you are seeking to escape your arduous reality, or if you enjoy hanging onto each and every word of a text. The Help is exciting and Stockett's easy-to-read sentence structure and use of words make this book fun to read without needing to think too much - great for when your brain is dead and you want to relax. The only downside to Stockett's writing style is her incorporation of three different narrators. Stockett dedicates a few chapters for each story and narrator, continuously changing the voice in our heads.This can be difficult as once you are engrossed in one of the characters story, it is difficult to get back into another's. Although an interesting approach by Stockett, it became too hard to be intensely engrossed in the novel hours at a time. The themes, characterisation and plot of the novel are also outstanding, adding to the uniqueness and enjoyment of the text. As someone with a short attention span, this book kept me interested each time I picked it up.

This novel has become one of my favourites. An easy read which dips its feet into the shallow-end of the life of African-Americans during the 1960s.
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Where: In all good book stores
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