My best pal let me borrow her unabridged audio book version of this fascinating perspective of a period of what is now history but to many of us, was our infant years. The close to 18 hours of mellow voices, with defining southern accents was so enjoyable. You get hooked wanting the nemesis to get her comeuppance, wanting those done wrong to to triumph, but don’t expect any great Hollywood happy ending because it is not quite like that.
The book and film have received much criticism from the advocates of African-American social groups for over playing some aspects and misleading in others, but for every great work that is based around truth there are those who oppose. For me, it is a book to listen to again and does high light how we, even today, treat certain elements of society differently without foundation.
The plot synopsis from wikipedia does a rather good job without giving the good bits away.
The Help is set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi and told mainly from the perspective of three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen is a black maid who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families. Her first job since her own 24-year-old son was killed on his job, is caring for toddler Mae Mobley Leefolt. Minny is Aibileen’s confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them. Her actions have led to her being fired from 19 jobs. Minny’s most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League. She is the nemesis of all three main characters.
Miss Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African-Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. Skeeter has just finished college and comes home with big dreams of becoming a writer; her mother’s big dream for her is to get her married, although Skeeter is not interested. What does interest her is that Constantine, the maid who raised her, is nowhere to be found: Skeeter’s family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit and went to live with relatives in Chicago. Constantine had been writing to Skeeter the whole time she was away at college and the most recent letter had promised her a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter does not consider Constantine’s unexplained absence a good surprise and wonders what happened, but nobody will discuss Constantine.
This discussion awakens Skeeter to the realisation that her friends’ maids are treated very differently from how white people are treated. She decides that she wants to reveal the truth to the world from the maids’ perspectives by writing a book about it. Written in the first person from the perspective of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, the struggles Skeeter experiences to communicate with the maids and gain their trust is revealed, as well as the issues of overcoming long-standing barriers in customs and laws by all of the characters. The daily lives of Southern Housewife and their maids during the early 1960s in Mississippi are explored. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African-Americans speaking out in the South during the early ’60s hover constantly over the three women.