Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Waiting for “The Help”

on June 20, 2011

Isabel is taking a short break, but Our View From Here welcomes the return of Erin for this week and next!

My book club has had “The Help” at the top of our list for a year, but we waited until it came out in paperback this spring to read it. Perhaps a silly rule, but once we set it, we couldn’t back down! 😉 It came up as an option every month, as did a few other books we had to wait for.  There are so many fantastic books out there to read – we decided it’s good to have a guideline or two to help us choose!

I loved this book.  It was worth the wait.  Kathryn Stockett has quite a talent with language and dialects.  She creates three specific characters with distinct voices and alternates telling the story from each of their perspectives.  It’s a story told somewhat dispassionately, bringing very different personalities together to begin the slow process of change in the deep South in the early 1960’s. Each of the character’s hesitations and fears of disturbing the peace are experienced very clearly without becoming precious or over-written.  Throughout “The Help,” huge, national civil rights events are referenced fairly casually, giving markers for the storyline and lending credibility to the novel.

The few men in the novel are truly secondary, support characters.  The book’s focus is on women of Mississippi and the relationships between the colored help and the white women for whom they work.  These women, and the children they raise, are the ones who spend all day in the house together, while the men are elsewhere.  Most accounts of this time period are told from the male perspective and this is a welcome addition to the male-dominated history.

While the following quote doesn’t represent the plot of “The Help” especially well, it stood out to me, and I love the beauty of the language:

“He claps my hands to his hips and kisses my mouth like I am the drink he’s been dying for all day, and I’ve heard girls say it’s like melting, that feeling.  But I think it’s like rising, growing even taller and seeing sights over a hedge, colors you’ve never seen before.”

“The Help” offers an entertaining story from a perspective not often heard; sort of a “behind-the-scenes” of society life at the time. And quite an enjoyable read!

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