BOOK REVIEW : The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 10th 2009.


synopsis

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.


review

I was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver the other day. It was on the subject of climbing Mount Everest. A major point of the discussion was how without the Sherpa – who have little choice but to risk their lives to earn their livelihood – it would be impossible for any climber to achieve this feat.

There was a clip included of a TV presenter who asks a Sherpa whether he thinks it’s wrong what they have to go through for the sake of the climbers. After a moment’s pause, the Sherpa humbly begins to say that they consider the climbers their family during expeditions. Before he can end his answer though, the presenter hugs him as if he got the answer he wanted.

So when at the beginning of The Help, Aibileen is asked by Miss Skeeter, her employer’s friend, whether she wishes things or rather the status quo could change, that clip of the Sherpa and the presenter came to my mind. Skeeter’s intentions are good when asking the question, as probably were that of the presenter’s. But the question sounds so laughably ignorant and naive when seen from the other’s point of view, you can’t help but shake your head.

The Other. Us and them. I learned about these terms and conditioned mentality while studying anthropology in college. We all have this sense of ethnocentrism – how we feel we are the better ones. What I loved most about The Help is how this conditioning is clearly present in both the parties. Even the black characters have a sense of moral superiority over their white employers. For the women working as the help, their white employers are the other. For the white community, the former are the other.

Another admirable aspect of the writing was that not for one moment you feel there is a white savior component, even though it is about a white woman interviewing and writing about the black women working as help. But it’s not the former doing the saving. No, it is about the black women doing their own saving. It is about all these people uniting to serve their own purposes.

There is no glorification here. It does not glorify the black women serving as the help. They are humans just like us. They make mistakes and bad choices too. The employers are not vilified either. They are humans too. And that is what makes this story stand out.

Going into this book, I was afraid of it being too preachy or perhaps boring. But instead, it was engaging to the point that I was glued to the pages and completed it without taking a break. The story and the main characters spoke to me and made me root for them.

I am sure I have not said anything that has not already been said about the book. I’ll just end it by saying that books like this are makes reading worth it at the end of the day.


ratings

★★★★

BOOK REVIEW : IF I NEVER MET YOU

Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary; Romance; Women’s fiction/
Release Date: January 1st 2020.

synopsis


When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend..


review.

Brace yourselves, people. I’ll be pinging this book every chance I get from here on. This book was everything it could be. Bear with me while I try to articulate my incoherent feelings of adoration for this book into words. Let me try that by listing down some of the things I loved about the book :


The best and most realistic portrayal of a breakup I’ve read
The protagonist is blindsided at the very beginning when her boyfriend of 18 years breaks up with her. We see Laurie go through all the feelings – disbelief, shock, denial, betrayal, anger, sadness and acceptance. I felt like I was going through the stages with her. I also wanted him to want her back when she did. And when she realized that he’s no longer important, I was right there with her too. That more than anything else is telling of the conviction in the writing.


The heroine and her satisfying journey
This book is above all about Laurie and her journey. And how beautifully is it written! Laurie is incredibly likeable. She’s also smart, self-aware and outspoken. The only flaw she has? She doesn’t know her own charm. You’d think her journey would be difficult. But more than anything, it was satisfying and believable. To see her evolution and development was perhaps the most satisfying reading experience for me so far in this year.

The best execution of a fake-relationship trope
This is the best fake-relationship romance I’ve read in a long time if not ever. Every little encounter that leads the couple to having a fake relationship is as organic as it gets. Not for a moment did I find the reasoning illogical as is usual with me. And that is because, the characters themselves debate all these things. The heroine is very self-aware of why she’s doing this. She also has her best friend cautioning her about the repercussions. There are no loopholes here. This is very smart writing, I must say.


The conversations
The conversations in this book are just so hard hitting and relevant! Every conversation is meaningful and engaging. It often happens while reading romances that I lose focus when reading casual conversations between the main couple. But when Jamie and Laurie talk, they talk about their views about relationships, work and even ethnicity. Every conversation they have helps unearth their inner layers and forge a very believable connection between the two. And the conversations between Laurie and Emily about women and relationships are oh so relatable! Actually, majority of the conversations in this book are meaningful and satisfying to read about!


The friendships
There are three friendships in this book that I absolutely loved. The friendship between the main couple Laurie and Jamie, and their individual friendships with their best friend. Laurie and Jamie are each others champions in more than one occasion. But Laurie’s friendship with Emily, was just on another level. They are friendship goals. And while we see very little of Hattie, her friendship with Jamie is equally special too.

The Hero who’s respectful, earnest, funny and honest
Jamie Carter is a conventional playboy at a glance. Laure initially is very judgemental about him, thanks to workplace gossip, until the fated day they get stuck on an elevator. That’s when she and we realize how unconventional he is. He calls himself a communist in relationships. He has an unbeatable logic when it comes to his views on monogamy. But then at the end, he’s also smart enough to realize his own ignorance.

To add to it all, Jamie is respectful of Laurie unlike the other men in her life. He has an earnestness which shines in many an instances, for example, there is a part where he is talking to Laurie about the correct terminology about her mixed race won me over at an early stage. He’s also hilarious!

The themes of feminism and gender politics in workplace
The themes of feminism are prevalent throughout the book. Despite being one of the best lawyers in the firm, Laurie also deals with gender politics multiple times in the male-dominated profession of law.

This book made me think
It’s a rarity when romances make you think. I knew I’d like this book, but just as a run-of-the-mill romances. But it made me think of so many things – relationships, power play in relationships, love, gender roles, gender politics, feminism and what not.

If I haven’t already made it clear already, I love this book. The synopsis does little justice to this gem of a book. It’s just a very satisfying read.


ratings

★★★★★