The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Pam opened and welcomed 13 members to this postponed meeting which had been unavoidably moved to this week due to THE SNOW last week and that, although the original meeting had been arranged to take place on World Book Day, today was actually International Women’s Day!!! She gave apologies for those 7 members unable to attend but added that ALL of those members had given her their views and thoughts on the book!!

It became very apparent quickly that this was a book that all our members had thoroughly enjoyed reading. Comments such as very emotional; overpowering; moving, funny; sad; shocking; poignant; heartbreaking; a real page turner; so well-written, were voiced by absolutely everyone leaving some members unable to find the right words to describe their love of the book which had not already been mentioned. This had only ever happened once or maybe twice previously in our 10 years!!!

Several members had read the book for a second time and found it still, if not more as engaging as the first time of reading it. The language and humour was thought to be fabulously authentic and powerful and it helped that each of the main characters were given chapters of their own with several members saying that it was easier to be able to see so much more in the lives of both sides of the story. With the maids, the hardships and prejudices, their absolute love and devotion to their charges, the abuse suffered and of their total acceptance.

Several members loved the quotes from Minny “yes ma’am. I tell her” (in about 100 years!) and many others. “That’s what I like about Aibileen, she can take the most complicated things in life and wrap them up so small and simple, they’ll fit right in your pocket” and Aibileen’s “You is intelligent, you is kind” to her little charge Mae Mobley when ignored by her own mother – so touching and definitely struck a chord with members. Hilly came out as a typical “star” bully who liked to be the leader but definitely got her come uppance which everyone absolutely loved! Skeeter’s role in the book was admired and everyone enjoyed the way that she was a woman before her time and her courage.

Members found the social history of the time interesting but also very shocking, with comparisons made of their own fairly carefree lives in the 1960s. They commented on their own “sort of ignorance” of this life on the other side of the world and its very real open racist prejudices – within their own lifetimes! Members found it very shocking too that women “morphed” into horrible women and could treat other women that way. As in the case of Skeeters mother’s behaviour towards Constantine because she is “told” to deal with her by her peers and needed to conform!! But everyone had memories of the case of Rosa Parks in the news and of course Martin Luther King’s work and relentless campaigning and his “I Have a Dream”. Several members said that it really made them feel ashamed of those terrible women. You would like to think things have improved and moved on but everyone had their doubts and there then followed a lengthy discussion on prejudices over the world today and all agreed sadly it was still a prejudiced sorld on many accounts.

Back to the book …… Everyone liked the ending of the book as it was realistic in that it was not all good going and things went wrong. It was sad and frightening that it was not actually set 200 years ago when history was what it was then and all agreed it was a really fantastic good read – daring; vitally important and very courageous and an immensely compelling read.