I am in complete awe of Kathryn Stockett right now. This is her first book! I think I might be in literary love...
The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's - a time when African Americans were technically "free" but trapped in a terrifying world of modern slavery. This is a story about two groups of women. The white society ladies and the black maids who work for them. The house help is mostly ignored by their employers. They raise the white children, clean the white houses and know the intimate details of the white families. When a young white woman gets the idea of writing a collection of real stories of experiences form the maids' point of view, we see the danger of telling tales in the Deep South.
This is not a Caucasian-trashing book. Some of the employee/employer relationships are abusive, but there are also those that are touching and close. Instead, it is a book about the imaginary lines people draw to separate ourselves from others. There have been many books written about the racial troubles in the pre-Civil Rights days, but The Help provides a fresh, new perspective on commonly known tale. Think Gone With The Wind if told from Mammie's perspective in complete honestly.
The characters on both sides of the racial divide, were varied and well rounded. Just when you thought a person was a villain, Stockett would trick you up with a redeeming quality. The same goes for the heroines, they aren't perfect. Miss Skeeter, the white writer working to interview the maids, starts off as a naive girl, opens herself to the horrors going on around her and somehow manages to find hope in the end.
Overall, I'd give The Help:
Literary merit - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Plot development - 5 bookmarks (I think this is my first five!)
Historical detail - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Agyness Deyn (Miss Skeeter), Mo'Nique (Minny), Rosamund Pike (Miss Celia), Dawnn Lewis (Aibileen)