My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Help seems worryingly cliché at first but a chapter or so in, it transforms into something refreshingly different. We see characters that feel so realistic it’s almost too raw to read about their experiences and though at first the line between the ‘good’ characters and the ‘bad’ is quite clearly drawn, this quickly begins to blur as we learn more about the lives these women (both black and white) lead.
Now, let me first say I’m in no way trying to distract from the race issue that is at the heart of The Help here but for what it’s worth, all the women in this book are trapped in their own cycle of frustration. It makes for hard-reading when you see them express this by taking it out on each other when it seems so obvious to the reader that everyone is hurting in their own way.
“She looks as her fancy kitchen like it’s something that tastes bad.
‘I never dreamed I’d have this much.’
‘Well, ain’t you lucky.’
‘I’ve never been happier in my whole life.’
I leave it at that. Underneath all that happy, she sure doesn’t look happy.”
– Page 44
It’s easy to see why many readers have felt this book has failed to live up to the hype, its build-up is subtle and slowly paced which could quickly become irritating if you opened the cover expecting fireworks. However, if you put the hype aside, you can appreciate how the subtlety of the book is exactly what makes it such a powerful, vivid read. Unlike many other fiction books that tackle the issue of race in 60s America, The Help doesn’t try to shock you into feeling. Instead, it gently coaxes it out of you, one observation at a time leaving your thoughts to join the dots long after you’ve put the book down.
Go into this book open-minded (preferably without reading many reviews) and read at least 20 pages before you start judging it pre-maturely. It’s well-worth the risk.