I have not written for a few weeks, despite promising myself that I would. Alas, migraines hit and then it took a while to recover. Am feeling like I can now string words together. I am at this weird stage of life when I seem to have trouble sleeping. Well, I go to sleep ok, but then I awaken at 1.30 or 2am wide awake and bursting with energy. So I turn on the light and start reading. I read voraciously and live in a household of readers. Both my boys will curl up with a book and vanish for hours. Most of my reading is done at night but sometimes I think it would be pleasant to go to sleep and not wake up until the alarm rings at 6am. Yes, it is early.
One of my work friends Cathy shares similar tastes in books to me. I know when she recommends a book that I will love it. A few weeks ago, she handed me The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It is one of those books you can not put down – perfect for night time when sleep eludes.
It is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 about the black maids who worked for their white mistresses. It is a story about the great divide of that time between blacks and whites and it is harrowing and disturbing. The main characters are so real and alive, I feel like I met them and entered their world. Aibileen is looking after her seventeenth white child, a little girl Mae Mobley who was born in August 1960 – same as me and is more a mother to her than her own mother. She recently lost her own precious son in a tragic accident but this does not stop her raising Mae Mobley lovingly and gently. Minny is an excellent cook, but has a sharp tongue and can’t resist saying exactly what she thinks – not a good idea when you are a black maid in the 1960s. Miss Skeeter is white, has recently returned from a college education and wants to write. Her mother wants her to marry and settle down, but Miss Skeeter has questions she wants answered. One of them concerns what happened to Constantine her own beloved maid who has raised her. She has mysteriously vanished and her mother is curiously silent as to what happened to her.
The story of these women is inspiring and beautifully told. I can’t believe that I look back on it and think “this was a delightful read” – but it is. I did not want to leave their world – when I finished it, I wanted to return to the beginning and reread. It is a story we all should read as it provides much insight into what life was like for black people in the 1960s and that was not that long ago – I can remember that time. I fell in love with these black maids – and wish I could meet them.
My son Michael put me onto the second book I couldn’t put down – Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer is also about relationships between blacks and whites, but this time, it is set in Sydney during World War 2. Pearl is eighteen, beautiful, a talented saxophone player who plays at the Trocadero in an all girls jazz band who meets and falls in love with James, a black GI another talented musician. Pearl has a twin brother Martin and it is their story. The relationship between James and Pearl is not supported or encouraged by anyone – the main reason being that she is white and he is black. James is sent to fight in New Guinea and Pearl decides to follow – all the while playing her saxophone in an all male jazz band. Their story provides a fascinating insight into life during the war in PNG – I was completely captivated.
It is wonderful having Michael working at Journeys. I have a pile of books beside my bed, but I do long to sleep all night almost more. I have been told that my hormones are messing with me and that one day they will leave my in peace. All I can say is – I can’t wait!