Today was undeniably one of the most beautiful days I’ve experienced this summer. The temperature was a perfect 80 degrees, the sky was an endless blue, and an easy breeze came by at just the right moments. I had an inkling this would be if not the last, then at least one of the last true days of summer. I wisely decided to spend it by the lake with my new friend Michelle, absorbing the last few rays of sun and, most likely, a final dip in the lake.
On my train home I was mere pages away from finishing The Help; I nearly missed my stop as I was so engrossed in finding out how the novel ended. I have read a generous amount of books whilst living in der Schweiz. Some have been easy reads, a few have been disturbing, more than a handful have been an enjoyable story, but few have been remarkable, stand-out books; The Help falls into the last category for me. I mentioned last week that I hooked up my Kindle with this read and that I would start it over the wochender. Within the first few pages I had a hunch it would be a great story. I decided that I needed to pace myself through this one. I have a tendency to inhale books, often finishing them within a day or two.
I am reluctant to pick up historical fiction for fear the story will lack authenticity. This story, however, reads as such a genuine account of what it’s like to be a black woman working for a white family in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s (as if I truly know what this is like). Viewing this life from several different maids’ and one white woman’s perspective, the reader is privileged to an insight often neglected. The novel is written in a Southern dialect, of which I am usually wary. I find more often than not it detracts from the story as I must spend time translating and fighting my way through dialogue (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn anyone?). In The Help, however, the dialect comes across genuine and reader-friendly. I find it greatly enhances the story, yet doesn’t take away from the integrity of the voice throughout. I was immediately swept up in the story of the maids who work for these racist, catty, narcissistic women. It is such a deviation from any life I have ever known, I was amazed through the entire novel that this was the norm within our recent past. It is funny, thought-provoking, and disturbing on various levels. Certainly a book worth picking up.
I was trying to describe to the Mom this weekend how much I was enjoying this book and how interesting I found it. I knew she wouldn’t be able to relate completely as she didn’t grow up in the States, but I was hoping my description would help explain how traumatizing life was for so many people. She nodded and gave me a little verbal feedback, certainly not the Book Club interchange my own mom and I share. As I finished telling her how much I was enjoying it, what a great story it was she says in a serious voice, “Well, do you know what book comes out at the end of September?” I’m intrigued, I always love hearing about new books. “The latest book in the Shopaholic series. That Sophie Kinsella really knows how to write a book.”
“Please,” I say. “You’ll have to pass that along when you’re finished.”