This is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel. And what a debut - this is a strong, intelligent book.
It’s Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and Miss Skeeter is home from college wanting to be a journalist, yet having failed (in her mother’s eyes) to find a husband. The woman who raised her, the coloured help Constantine, has gone with no explanation. At the same time, two other maids, Aibileen and Minny work for her friends. They raise the children, care for the home and cook for everyone, yet are expected to use separate bathrooms to their white employers.
As Skeeter starts to question the very life into which she has been born - the segregated south - she, Aibileen and Minny embark on a journey to tell the story of the ‘help’.
It’s poignant, sad, astonishing, frightening and funny. It makes you question how white people could possibly be so ignorant and racist. Then you stop to think about the history of the USA, Australia, South Africa, Europe, etc and you realise that we have been at it for many years. Having said that, next week’s book (The Novel in the Viola) reminded me that race may actually have nothing to do with it, but rather money or status - more to come on that!
This book is well worth the read, both for the wonderful piece of writing that it is, but also for the eye-opening piece of history that it offers.