You'll love this one...!! A book club & more discussion

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Group Themed Reads: Discussions > September Read: The Help ~ discussion lead by Molly

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message 1: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (last edited Sep 08, 2009 09:47AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Molly's book choices are very popular and the poor girl is leading again this month! This is the thread for The Help. The lead discussion will generally contain spoilers. Be warned!


message 2: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Yup. Here I am again leading another discussion. The first time I had finished the book well in advance. The next few times I discussed as I read along. This time, I can't even get my hands on the book! I'm on a waiting list at my library (and am too cheap to buy it) so if anyone else is finished or in process and wants to start discussing, feel free!


message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (pinklets) | 3 comments Molly wrote: "Yup. Here I am again leading another discussion. The first time I had finished the book well in advance. The next few times I discussed as I read along. This time, I can't even get my hands on ..."

I was really hoping to participate in the discussion this month since I really wanted to read this book. But, I just came back from the library and I am 37th on the hold list for this book :( Molly, good luck!


message 4: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Bah! 37 is nothing! I behind 700 people at my library! But with interloan it seems to move pretty quickly. I should have it within 2 weeks. Whenever it is that I get it I intend to come here and talk about it - so anyone else in the same boat please do the same!


message 5: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments My library doesn't even have it :(


message 6: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Jenny wrote: "My library doesn't even have it :("

What? Why not? Did you ask them to get a copy?




message 7: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I just realized that www.books.google.com has most all of this book viewable in an online preview currently. If you don't mind reading online that is one way to get started while waiting for your library (or order shipment) to arrive.


message 8: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) I'm really loving this book so far but I'm not quite finished so I'll join the discussion in a few days time...Have many of you read it all the way through yet?

Ally


message 9: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Hey Ally - I'm glad it is enjoyable. Still patiently waiting on my library. Will break down and try the online link next week if necessary. I have been looking forward to this one and can't wait to discuss with you.


message 10: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Hooray!!! I checked our library system online and like a hawk saw that a copy had just been returned to the smaller branch and for whatever reason was listed as Available instead of On Hold. So I sent my hubby over before they closed and voila! Here in my hot little hands is The Help - ready to be read.


message 11: by Ally (last edited Sep 05, 2009 10:20AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book - there are so many delightful snippets, plots, sub-plots, characters, settings, dramatic highlights and humorous interludes to discuss it's difficult to know where to start!

I think my favourite parts are with Minny and Celia (...and the love between Celia and Johnny is very special). I love how Minny fights her fondness for Celia because of 'the lines' that aren't supposed to be crossed and how she eventually helps Celia cope with the lines Hilly Holbrook has drawn between the society ladies and Celia’s ‘white-trash’. I love how the race debate is juxtaposed with the class debate throughout this portion of the narrative and how Stockett has illustrated the hypocrisy at work in society. This comes to a head when the irony of holding a Benefit to help the starving Children of Africa while at the same time behaving so appallingly towards the black 'help' is exposed.

Aibileen is a wonderful character, particularly her commitment towards ensuring Mae Mobely doesn't suffer for having a mother who can barely seem to look at her. I loved the 'Martian Luther King' stories and the wrapping of candy in two different coloured packages. - You just know that Mae Mobely is going to have a tough time of if once Aibileen is gone and you just hope that those messages - "you is smart, you is kind, you is important" - really have a lasting effect on that little girl's self esteem.

One thing I can’t quite make out though is how a cruel and heartless society queen like Hilly Holbrook can have such a terrible public persona and yet she seems to have a gift for being a kind and loving mother (…in stark contrast to Elizabeth). And I’m also not quite sure how Skeeter managed to stick to her guns after losing all of her friends and her prospective husband – I’m not sure I’d have been that strong if I’d been Skeeter living in that society at that time.

I can't wait to see where this discussion leads us - I have loads more that I want to talk about...

Ally



message 12: by Elena (new)

Elena This was an excellent read. It will be one of the few books I know I will remember after years of having read it.

Skeeter was definitely a person with a very high self esteem. That is what comes to mind when thinking about how she managed to stick to her guns. Her mother really didn't help that much...I don't remember but criticism coming from her. Where did she get that self esteem from? I don't know, probably from her help growing up (forgot her name), just as Aibeleen was building Mae's self esteem up the last day she worked for Elizabeth.


message 13: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) Yes - the critical mother is a bit of a stock character. I wasn't really struck on Skeeter's mother at first. BUT - later on, when she was ill and managed to explain to Skeeter what happened with Constantine, she seemed to realise that things just weren't the same without her and regretted those narrow minded actions to some extent.

Skeeter's mother was a product of her age really - you can imagine the distrust a society lady would have towards her black 'help's' white looking daughter - it kind of rocked the foundations of her world and she acted out of fear.

In the end I grew to like Skeeter's mother - the criticism was an aspect of the love she felt for her daughter - she just didn't know how to express it properly. There was an understanding of this in the end, particularly when she was very ill and advised Skeeter not to let Stuart fundamentally change her or run all over her dreams.

I loved that in the end she had such strength of character that it allowed her to will herself into remission - wonderful!

Ally


message 14: by Molly (last edited Sep 08, 2009 08:42AM) (new)

Molly | 270 comments I just finished. Loved it.

Aibileen's portions were my favorites. She just had a way of putting everything so perfectly. She had always been out there doing her part to change things - her secret stories with Mae Mobley, convincing Minny to leave Leroy, encouraging Skeeter and helping her to get the book completed (I love that she thought of it as "her book" - because really, it was all Aibileen's heart).

I fell in love with these women and had a hard time tucking that bookmark in-between their tales at bedtime. I woke up thinking of them. I finished it all in 2 days and want to dive right back in again. And good for Miss Celia - "for two slice Hilly" - loved that one.

Will look to see what kind of proper discussion questions there are out there and throw them in the ring tomorrow.


message 15: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments So I looked around online for some riveting discussion questions only to find that many of the topics mentioned have already been brought up here! Are we good or what?

One of the ones that seemed to stump people was what Ally mentioned - how Hilly could be lauded as a good mother when all other of her nature was so horrible. And how Skeeter's mother, and even Elizabeth, could appear sympathetic when they were obviously racist just like Hilly.

I'm not sure of the author's intent here, but I felt like it was important for her to illustrate that even bad people have redeeming qualities - we are all human, even if they can't see that in others. It also shows just how good someone like Aibileen was - that even in people who hated her kind, she found the good in them. Without a spot of good inside you, you can't overturn all that bad stuff I guess. I thought it impressive that she would have felt less of Skeeter for including the terrible acts of her mother in her own book.

Motherhood is another huge message throughout this book - Aibileen's heart aching for her dead son, the surrogate role she played with all of her "white children" and nurturing them so that the racist chain might someday be broken (recognizing that self esteem/self worth is the seed that grows into tolerance), Minny's brood protecting her from abuse, and yet she felt badly for "having so much" when Celia "had so little" - when in society's view Celia was the one that had everything and Minny nothing - Celia's doomed quest for a family, Elizabeth's indifference to her children, Hilly's pride and care for her own, and Stuart and Skeeter's domineering mothers complicating each of their family's relationships.


message 16: by Elena (last edited Sep 10, 2009 03:44AM) (new)

Elena Wow...another message...motherhood. This book has so much in it! And to think it is the author's first one.



message 17: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments This book is sounding so good, I'm going to have to read it after all (though it might not be this month).


message 18: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments C F S R wrote: "This book is sounding so good, I'm going to have to read it after all (though it might not be this month)."

For once I think a book has actually lived up to the hype that I have been seeing here and in the book blogging world. If Oprah gets her hands on this puppy look out.



message 19: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Well the chatter has died off here on this book so I am wondering if there are others still in the process of reading or if everyone has said all they cared to say?

I was thinking about some of the discussion in To Kill A Mockingbird and felt like there was a bit of disconnect for some in the UK and the ugly history of the American South towards race and tolerance. I am curious if this book has taught people more about those moments in history that maybe they were unaware of or provided a way to experience the world differently.


message 20: by Cecily (last edited Sep 15, 2009 11:06PM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Molly wrote: "I was thinking about some of the discussion in To Kill A Mockingbird and felt like there was a bit of disconnect for some in the UK and the ugly history of the American South towards race and tolerance...."

As someone born and bred in England, but who hasn't (yet) read The Help and read To Kill a Mockingbird a couple of years ago and didn't fancy rereading just yet, I think you're right.

Personally, I wasn't taught any American history (the war of independence was barely mentioned) and Steinbeck (once) was the only American author taught at school.

So, I grew up very aware of apartheid in S Africa, but ignorant of the degree of segregation in much of the US, let alone its history.

I think American authors are more commonly taught in schools now, but Brits are still unlikely to be as aware of the issues, let alone as imbued in them as many in the US.


message 21: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I agree with CFSR! I have to admit that I am very ignorant to the history of racial tension in the US. I only know what I know from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' :S


message 22: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Read some Carson McCullers too (I've nominated two of her books for this group, but no one is keen). Beautifully written, very poetic, but capturing the problems of poverty, race, disability etc too.


message 23: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I think that is interesting. I guess I assumed that other countries were aware of our country's struggles with equality - and that they are far from over. That is why Obama's presidency campaign was so heated and debated - were people voting for him just because of black guilt or because they believed in his abilities to run the country? Were people not voting for him because they'd be damned if some minority tried to run America? Some hid behind his name as a reason to frown upon him - his name sounds like a terrorist so he must be evil. Crap like that. It shined a light on the fact that the thoughts and feelings in this country towards race still run hot under the surface - and I think books like TKAM and The Help go a long way to explain where we were not that long ago and why where we are now is still a shaky point.

All that being said - I wasn't taught much of anything about more modern history in England or Europe. Our lessons focused on the American Revolution, The Civil War, WWI and WWII and we usually ran out of time while trying to cover Civil Rights/Kennedy/Vietnam. So I learned much from reading on my own or from listening to stories from my parents' generation. And what little I know of the rest of the world I obtain by self-education - through discussions online, via movies or documentaries, and of course - books. And some day maybe I'll get to travel abroad and see things for myself.


message 24: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Because we speak (almost) the same language, sometimes it's easy to forget how little many of us know of the other country's history and culture - at least until we grow up and start finding out for ourselves (and not even then, in some cases).


message 25: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments C F S R wrote: "Because we speak (almost) the same language, sometimes it's easy to forget how little many of us know of the other country's history and culture - at least until we grow up and start finding out fo..."

That's one of the things that I enjoy about this group - the international flair :0)




message 26: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (sianin) | 453 comments Can hardly wait until I get my hands on this book. Will join the discussion whenever that does happen!


message 27: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Shannon wrote: "Can hardly wait until I get my hands on this book. Will join the discussion whenever that does happen!"

Cool! I just wanted to let anyone know that just because we are approaching the end of the month doesn't mean we can't re-start the discussion any time you get around to reading the selection. I'm happy to discuss anytime - next week or months down the road.




message 28: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I will definately be coming back to this one. Had some vouchers for my bday so will try and get hold of it!


message 29: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Jenny wrote: "I will definately be coming back to this one. Had some vouchers for my bday so will try and get hold of it!"

I don't think you'll be disappointed. She is a great storyteller. You feel like you are right there in the midst of the characters' lives.




message 30: by Julianne (new)

Julianne | 16 comments I read this book this month, and I really enjoyed it! I am not much for 60s segregation reading (I read the Secret Life of Bees, but didn't care for it either way), but what I loved about this book was that it was about women's relationships, and steered clear (or, as clear as I think was capable) of the violence in Mississippi in the 60s.

I really enjoyed the ending. Each white woman trying to come to terms with reading about herself and the things she did to other human beings. And allowing all those maids to voice both the good and the bad of what they were able to do in their career.

The relationships between the various white and black women I think was very appropriate for what it probably was at the time.

I liked that Hilly was a good mother--she is a bigot and a snob, but had a redeeming quality. I think it kind of shows that maybe if she had grown up in a different age (or different place in the country), she would have just been a regular old snobby socialite, which the US has plenty of (I think it made her a more real character).

Unlike Ally, I never grew to like Skeeter's mother. I understood her more at the end, but it didn't make me like her any more. Now, I wish we could have gotten to know Skeeter's dad more--he and Constantine seemed to be driving influences on who Skeeter ultimately became, and she became that despite her mother. But I understand why the male characters weren't showcased based on the themes of the book.

My friend, Laura, let me borrow this book. I saved it for a few months b/c I didn't think I would enjoy it after reading the front cover. But I was very pleasantly surprised, so I thank her again!


message 31: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I was never all that sympathetic to Skeeter's mother either. I like how you put that she grew into her own despite her - that is an important lesson.

The book also did a good job in putting us inside the heads and skin of the characters - the tension and fright was demonstrated very effectively when Aibileen was dropped off the bus in the dark, alone, and very near to an unknown but sure to be horrific occurance. Rather than focusing on the violent scene of the murder, the author focused on the emotions surrounding it - that Aibileen might be next, that at any moment her world could be destroyed. It helped to highlight just how brave the women were to carry on with their stories.


message 32: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Z. | 5 comments I'm really enjoying reading this & am wondering if anyone knows if the "Carl Roberts" lynching story was
a real incident? I done some research & don't find anything under that name so I'm wondering if the author used a fictious name for a real event. The book brings
back memories to me of that period, I recall my mother
so upset after the bombing of the Birmingham church.
Such a violent time.


message 33: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Nancy - I'm not sure. I assumed it was a ficticious account representative of actual lynchings at the time. I wonder if the author would answer your question though. She has a website and I have seen threads of book chats she has done.


message 34: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Nearly 2 years late, but I've finally read "The Help", and the discussion above.

I thought it was a really powerful and enjoyable book. It rang true for me (though that may be because of my limited knowledge of the US social history), and I liked the tension of all the contradictions and divided loyalties.

(My review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...)


message 35: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Z. | 5 comments Hi, glad you read it, the movie is coming out in a week or so & I'm almost afraid to see it since I think it may be a letdown after the book. Has anyone been to a preview??


message 36: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments I didn't even know there was one. The book has been fairly prominent in bookshops, but I'm not sure if it would be shown in lots of big multiplexes in the UK.

I'm always wary of seeing adaptations of books (the only film I've ever seen that was better than the book was one I hadn't read first), but sometimes I just can't resist anyway.


message 37: by Kate (new)

Kate Z (kgordon3) | 144 comments I have a friend who just went to a preview of it who had also read the book and she loved it (the movie). The only book I've ever ocnsistently heard great things about as a movie from people who loved the book was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I didn't see the movie). I'm on the fence about seeing The Help.


message 38: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Z. | 5 comments Kate, that's good to hear !


message 39: by Karendenice (new)

Karendenice Kate, just in case you might want to know the movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is pretty graphic. I did not in any way enjoy it as much as the book. But then again I usually enjoy the books much better than the movies. :)


message 40: by Judy (new)

Judy (patchworkcat) | 5760 comments Kate, I know what you mean about being on the fence. I talked myself into going to see it, but if they ruin it Cecily will be able to hear me scream clear across the pond!


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Judy wrote: "Kate, I know what you mean about being on the fence. I talked myself into going to see it, but if they ruin it Cecily will be able to hear me scream clear across the pond!"

We'll scream in unison. There are certain books that the film industry should do right. This is one of them.


message 42: by Cecily (last edited Aug 12, 2011 04:10AM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments A very interesting review of the film on Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2301235/

The reviewer has many reservations about it, but concludes, "The story simplifies and reduces the civil rights movement, yes, but at least it's about it."

(I'll be listening for the screams.)


message 43: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (sianin) | 453 comments I have just started to read the book and the movie hasn't opened in my town yet so I have no idea whether I will go see it or not. Will be interesting to hear what others have to say who have already read the book.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Cecily wrote: "A very interesting review of the film on Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2301235/

The reviewer has many reservations about it, but concludes, "The story simplifies and reduces the civil rights movement, yes, but at least it's about it."

Gee, nice of them to fit it in. This doesn't sound promising.....



message 45: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 70 comments Has anyone read Crazy in Alabama? It has two story lines - one of a crazy murderess trying to get to Hollywood and the other about the civil rights movement. It's a bit of a strange book but I really enjoyed it. I thought it depicted the civil rights movement much more realistically than The Help


message 46: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (sianin) | 453 comments I know that I am really late coming to this discussion but I only recently finished reading it and wanted time to think about it. I have to say that I liked the book but didn't love it.

I did enjoy the two main characters, Aibelen and Minnie but thought that overall the book read like a southern lady writing about the black experience. (maybe it is a good thing I am late to the discussion because I would hate to be run out of GR for that). I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that Skeeter would be able to get in and out of Aibelene's house undetected (although what a huge stretch) but really had a hard time believing that the women would ever be willing to share their stories at that time. I also can understand wanting to demonstrate that there were some positive relationships.

I will say that it was easy to read and kept my attention but hope that for those who have not been exposed to the civil rights movement that this is not the only piece they read as I think it touches only superficially, as it does on the class distinctions.

the author did do a good job of identifying some of the little things that make everyday life unbearable while clearly drawing "the lines".

It however ended up being a somewhat forgettable book for me just as I felt that the author kind of forgot about Celia towards the end. (Once the author was done with her we never hear another peep about her and it felt rather abrupt).

This goes in the category of a "nice" book.


message 47: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 70 comments Shannon, I have to agree. I also had a hard time believing that the women would ever be willing to share their stories, they had way too much at stake if caught. I didn't believe that Skeeter would continue with the project after losing all her friends and her boyfriend, and it would have been too risky for her as well- it was such a violent time and I think she was too young to be able to cope with that during that time in history. I don't think the book would have ever happened in reality.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

I was quite impressed with how closely the movie and literary versions matched up. I would rate this book a 4/5.

I liked the different points of view throughout the novel, and managed to devour it quickly. The storyline caught my attention and pulled me along nicely. Yes, I would read more by Kathryn Stockett.


Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) | 5 comments I enjoyed reading this book. It was a good story, and I liked the characters. I found it highly implausible that Minnie's punishment for Hilly went undetected. No way that would actually happen!


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You'll love this one...!! A book club & more

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Books mentioned in this topic

Crazy in Alabama (other topics)
The Help (other topics)

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Carson McCullers (other topics)