The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I yank my stockings up from sagging around my feet – the trouble of all fat, short women around the world. Then I rehearse what to say, what to keep to myself. I go ahead and punch the bell.

This is a novel about the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi; against a background of racist violence, three women (two black, one white) collaborate to publish a first-person account of domestic work in their town, and more or less get away with it. I liked the central concept of story-telling being in itself liberating, and the human geography of racial division is vividly and movingly captured. Many of the white women in the book are almost as nasty to each other as they are to their black servants. I did wonder how long our heroes would really have got away with it, though; the entire black population of the town knows what they did, and it doesn’t take much for these things to leak.

This was my top unread book by a woman and also my top book acquired this year. Next on those piles are Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road.