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TheSite.org Book Club: Discussion on January's book - 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett.

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
Because ShyBoy hasn't done a thread yet, have a thread.

I got half way through this book before I reached February, so I'm not the best judge here.

I quite liked it after I'd gotten used to the dialect style of writing, but not enough for me to be motivated to finish it as my not-Book-Club book (for when I need something else). I have a ridiculous headache right now so that's about as much as I can muster for this.

Chat away, though.


  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    This book pretty much had everything going against it.

    It was written in dialect, it was in first person, I had nothing in common with the "I" in the book, the "I" kept shifting. I'd already consumed parts of the book via Radio4's serialisation.

    Had I been a southern American, had I been working class or upper middle class, had I been a parent - perhaps the book might have been relevant to me.

    I struggled to keep picking the book up, until I'd got about halfway thorough, at which point I started to enjoy it.

    Why is it so popular? Because the "most popular girl' didn't get what she wanted, got a comeuppance, and finally has her life fall apart? Because we can salve our consciences by telling ourselves that because by measuring ourselves the white women, we can assure ourselves we're not guilty of thoughtlessness and racism? Because it "feels" like a worthy and challenging read, but actually spoon feeds you an acceptance of the status quo?

    I'm glad I read it, I did enjoy it. I'm not going to go looking for her other books, but I'd not avoid them either. I can't think of anyone who I'd recommend the book to, or give my copy to, but I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it - and I'd probably encourage anyone who was in two minds about it.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I read this a while ago and really enjoyed it.

    I liked the fact that it was written in dialect and in the first person as you put yourself in their shoes; see things from their perspective.

    Although, I do agree with Big Gay though about it spoon feeding you the accepted status quo. This book isn't provoking in it's description of the time and it sticks to the safe, idealised, option. Even though it's a story of a provoking, uncomfortable, subject! I'm sure there are better books to depict what exactly happened in the civil rights movement in the 1960's.

    But if you're looking for something lighter to read on the subject, or just something entertaining, then this book is great. I know I laughed out loud at a few places!

    p.s I thought the film was better!

    Happy reading :)
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I read this a while ago, but I'm going to join in anyway ;)

    I had The Help as an audiobook, and the format is pretty unforgiving of a writer's prose, so I was perhaps hyperaware of some of the cliche going on that I might have skipped in print! However, because there were three narrators, the dialect really worked without me having to work too hard as a reader.

    I felt like she made some really good points, and there were some lovely moments, but on the whole The Help rests on caricature and hackneyed views of prejudice. That said, there were some really poignant, painful set pieces on the impact of violence in a close-knit community that put me close to tears.

    I also think it's a bit too obvious to criticise the (white) author for Skeeter's role in the whole affair; I think she gave equal credit to Minnie, Abilene, et. al. and the 'white people solve racism' idea has been read back into the book. (I've not seen the film, but friends who have say that all characters lose a certain amount of depth, unsurprisingly, so the emphasis is skewed somewhat towards Skeeter.)

    Miss Hillie's mom is my hero!

    I have spent time in the South, (specifically, Louisiana) and the legacy of slavery, Civil War and (opposition to) the Civil Rights Movement is still deeply entrenched in the collective conscience and consciousness of people whose families have been in the state for generations (that's most of them). I agree with Big Gay that The Help is comforting to people who still feel as though they carry the burden of their ancestors' decisions and actions, but I also remember reading somewhere that in terms of the bigger picture, it's, "like putting a Barbie plaster on a severed artery".

    The best book ever written by a white auther about the civil rights struggle is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you're looking for social commentary, The Help doesn't come close. But it's a good, fun read with some very nice moments.
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