There are hints of what is happening in the wider world, references to the march on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech for example. So, I think this would make an excellent novel to read as a companion to a study of this historical period. But it is a compelling page turner in its own right. *I was reading on an IPad, so that page turning was silent :) *
While the stories of the mistreatment of the maids are compelling, it is the kindness of these women to their charges that also stays with the reader.
Aibileen is raising her seventeenth child, and she teaches her all that she is "good and kind and important", lessons her mother does her best to undermine. She has recently lost her son, and this has been a catalyst that makes her change. She is a woman who shows the power of commitment and faith.
Minny, has a "sassy mouth", is an excellent cook and is regularly beaten by her husband. She takes some pretty memorable revenge on the nastiest of the white women in the book, Hilly, and this is the impetus for her placement with another employer who doesn't know her reputation, and doesn't really know how to treat 'the help.' She cares more for this silly woman than you would think possible, and they have a friendship which seems remarkable given the circumstances.
Skeeter has just graduated from Ole Miss, and despite earning a degree and wanting to become a journalist, is pushed into blind dates by her friends and overbearing mother, until she has that ring on her finger. The mysterious disappearance from the family plantation of the woman who raised her makes Skeeter look closer at the lives of the black women around her. This is an awakening for her and the start of the book that brings them all together.
I really enjoyed this novel, it was a quick read, but a really satisfying one at the same time.
4 hoots/ 5