[Originally published on 31 October 2014]
“The Help”, by Kathryn Stockett, is a book about the non-official apartheid that existed in USA during the 20th century – but in a unique way.
The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, one of the places where the racial issue was most dramatic and it’s about two groups of women. One is a group of young white women that had been friends since they were little and had always have black people serving their families. The other is a group of black women that serve those families. These two worlds, although very close together, never mix. One day, one of those white young women decides to write a book with stories told by the black women about the white families they serve. This is a very dangerous enterprise – the white woman soon realises how dangerous, something she previously only had a faint idea. It’s also a story about true friendship vs false friendship, about how cruel people can be thinking they are just doing the right thing and about the courage it takes to change things.
The author was born in Jackson in 1969. Being white, she lived as the white women in the book and she had always wondered how it was for the black woman who raised her – hence the book. She manages to convey the paradox of white people being raised with love by black people and then treat them horribly when they grow up. On the other hand, we can feel the fear black people felt during those times. The book also shows how different both “sides” lived and how they acted in society – for instance, how white women would interact with each other in bridge games and in the organisations they belonged to was quite different from the interactions between black women in church and in some meetings they attended.
A movie was made based on the book. The movie very well captures the essence of the story. As usual, some changes were made. In my personal opinion, the ending is softer in the movie than it is in the book. And in the movie the fear black people felt gets a bit unnoticed, which is natural since in writing it is possible to develop the story much more.
Check other book reviews.