The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I just finished this book and I am torn. I like the book. As a first novel it is impressive. Yet I cannot shake the feeling of ‘where does she get off’.
This novel is written from the point of view of three Mississippi women, in in the 1960’s. Two of them are black and one of them is white.
Fundamentally the novel is about black women who work as ‘help’ for white women, telling their side of the story. The catalyst for this is the one white protagonist, a woman who is portrayed as different and enlightened. She goes by the name of Skeeter which I cannot help but point out is a blood sucking insect. This magnanimous white woman helps write a book giving a voice to the black woman of her town and then gets a job in publishing and moves to New York. I have hated the word ironic since I first saw the film Reality Bites, but I cannot think of a better word. The whole novel seems ironic.
Ms Stockett strives to functions as a ‘hybridity’ author, a postcolonial literature term which refers to writers belonging to both cultures. However, she endeavors to give a voice to a group of women which essentially she is unrepresentative of. In my opinion this is a chancy and bold move.
If you read this novel with suspended belief then it is a neatly packaged story. If you read it as I did with ‘cum grano salis’ then Ms Stockett is a mosquito.
This is a great article which includes a synopsis, an account of why different book covers were used in the UK and USA and an interview with the author:
Here is the NYTimes book review: