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Discussion of "The Help"

Members of the forum choose and read a new book every month together, and then discuss it. Each book of the month get's it's own whole subforum in this forum. Click here to nominate books for book of the month.

How do you rate?

1 star - poor, recommend against reading it
0
No votes
2 stars - okay, fair
2
5%
3 stars- good, recommend it
20
50%
4 stars - excellent, amazing
18
45%
 
Total votes : 40

Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#16  Postby Doyag » 08 Jan 2012, 03:03

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.
I could somehow relate to a few points in the book, especially when the part where "the color" was referred to as dirt.
I grew up having "mean" girls avoiding me thinking that my color is dirt. I used to hang out with the boys as they had no problem with my color. It was years ago. (20 years or more)
I especially loved the ending as it showed the different reactions the characters had with the book. I would quote my favorite lines but I don't have the book with me now :D
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#17  Postby RuqeeD » 08 Jan 2012, 19:22

It was a thoroughly entertaining read but I can't say it was an eye opener. Although the book deals with a number of very important issues that are certainly prevalent today there was nothing in the book that was overtly shocking to me. Does that make me jaded and perhaps cynical I don't know? I don't want to attribute it to the fact that I'm part of a minority group because I've had the same sort of advantage and opportunity as any other person despite our racial backgrounds. However, because we hear so much in the media, have seen a lot of documentaries and I guess because I was born twenty + years after the era this book was written in, it might seem a little distant to me. However, Stockett really makes you feel as if you are there going through the multitude of feelings and occurrences that the characters face.

Aibileen is one of those solid characters that you know is dependable from the start, I don't exactly think her character progresses and strengthens throughout the novel but I guess it's because she has such a strong character personality in the first place. I particularly enjoyed her little secret stories to Mae Mo and her loyalty and affection for the little girl and through that for the mother. The only thing that surprised me was her eagerness to tell her story to Skeeter as I assumed she would continue to accept things the way they were .... so actually in hindsight her character does actually grow :D

Minny, she hooked me from the start. Brash and in your face I enjoyed her no-nonsense character. Which is why it surprised me that she wasn't the one ready to charge ahead with the book. And yes part of that was her aversion to Skeeter being white but a large part due to her fear which you wouldn't think she'd let overcome her otherwise forceful personality. The layers and overlaps of this character is what appealed to me and I enjoy her finally being able to stand up to Leroy and get gone. The pie incident does keep you eagerly anticipating the whole story and like Scott, I thought it would simply have been throwing the pie in Hilly's face but that could hardly be so Terrible Awful. I am also glad she does feel regret for her actions even if it was deserved. That's what seperates her from people like Hilly after all.

terrisbooks wrote:I also loved the book. After reading the posts on this forum , I think everyone is missing the stereotyping of Skeeter and Celia. To me that is what really made the book awesome. The author was not only dealing with the issues of the "help", I think she was dealing with stereotyping in general. Skeeter and Celia found acceptance with the "help" that they could not find in their own social circles. I think this also speaks volumes about our society.


I completely agree with you and I'm glad someone pointed this out. This book isn't simply clear-cut black and white scenario, there are intricacies that add depth to the story. I particularly enjoyed Minnie's interaction with Celia and felt Celia's story to be touching and sad. Her role as an outcast I think is every bit as important as Minnie's and Aibee's roles a maids. It warmed my heart how Minnie came to care for her and realise that being in a big house with a rich husband and being white to boot doesn't mean one has everything and are content.

Skeeter grew on me slowly. At first her motives are entirely selfish - she wants to get published but then she really starts to understand and most importantly respect the lives of the others yet she is still stuck in that - you could say conditioning of her upbringing to stay with the 'right crowd' until she is slowly brought out of that to finally realise that being true to herself is about her ideals and her behaviour rather than who she hangs out with. I found her relationship with Stuart wrenching and really felt for her there. Of the three of them I think she developed the most as a character and her liberation at the end is bittersweet.

I'm eager to watch the movie now and will post my thoughts on that soon enough. :D

Oh and one more thing, I was intrigued with this 'Sexual-correction tea' that Skeeter's mother gives her to drink. What on earth is that?? I really do feel for the poor thing. :D
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#18  Postby brttn89 » 14 Jan 2012, 00:24

I have always been like Skeeter, so everyone treats me like Celia. Thats ok, I like having alot of room to myself at my table for twelve!
'Classic' a book which people praise but don't read~Mark Twain
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#19  Postby backtobooksmom » 15 Jan 2012, 21:31

This is my first post on this site. My husband and I do not read the same kinds of books so I am hoping to find some grown up discussions about reading. I thought the Help was a well written book. I felt connected with the characters early on and read the book in a couple days. I was a little disappointed in the ending. Or shall I say that I wanted to keep reading.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#20  Postby Doyag » 15 Jan 2012, 22:56

backtobooksmom wrote:This is my first post on this site. My husband and I do not read the same kinds of books so I am hoping to find some grown up discussions about reading. I thought the Help was a well written book. I felt connected with the characters early on and read the book in a couple days. I was a little disappointed in the ending. Or shall I say that I wanted to keep reading.


I felt the same way about the ending. I really wanted more.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#21  Postby krisha » 17 Jan 2012, 00:03

I'm still only about 3/4 of the way through this book and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not sure it totally lives up to the "hype", but its a page turner non the less.

I think what's standing out for me so far is the parallels that are being drawn by the author about "predetermined lives" - for both the black and the white characters. A central theme seems to be societies expectations of particular people and the choices they should make, the dreams and ambitions they should have and the way they should behave and engage with other people. The book explores the characters individual acceptance or struggle with these expectations.

The black characters, in particular the maids are born into lives of servitude. There are expectations from within and from without their own communities that this is the path they should take. Black women are expected to be "the help" and to act in a certain way in regards to this (e.g don't spill the families secrets, don't expect to be treated as an equal), but most of the white characters are also trapped by a different predetermined fate. Skeeters circle of friends are expected to drop out of college and prioritise a marriage over an education, not get paid employment, but be homemakers, not question the status quo, and continue to live their lives in much the same way as their mothers. Some of those characters struggle more with that expectation: Skeeter wants to follow her dream of writing and seems less concerned than her friends about finding the right husband, Elizabeth is struggling with her children (underwhelmed to be pregnant for the second time would be an understatement), Celia wants to fit in with the crowd and do "the right thing" and give her husband children, but all are struggling with what polite society expects of them and what they really want. Hilly seems to be the only one that is accepting of how things should be and is desperately trying to cling on to it, when there is every suggestion that times are changing.

I'm really enjoying how the author has weaved other themes into and around this. Running alongside I think are the themes of secrecy, betrayal and "keeping up appearances". So many things are unknown and can't or wont be said (what is the "terrible awful thing?, why is Constantine no longer there? etc). It seems that the author is using these tools to highlight even more the similarities and not the differences between "the help" and "the whites". Most of the characters are living two lives: their public persona's and their private lives - often times both of which are in direct conflict with each other. In addition, they are living in a town which starts to have the feeling of being more and more "out of time" as the book goes on. The author gives us gentle reminders of what is happening in the outside world from time to time (like mentioning a Beatles song), and it is a great way of reminding us that the whole world doesn't move on in unison, politically or culturally, and what many of us think of when we hear the phrase "the swinging sixties" is not what's happening in Jackson Mississippi.

Just an opinion, but these are the things that are standing out to me so far, with racism and segregation being a backdrop to all of it.

Looking forward to finding out what the terrible awful thing is (I think she spat in the pie, or lightly poisoned it!), and why Constantine is no longer there!
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#22  Postby Doyag » 17 Jan 2012, 00:58

great review, Krisha.. can't wait for you to finish the book.
I agree that it did not deserve the hype it got but its certainly worth a read.
I love your point of the predetermined fates. so true. the author did address it from all points of view, whether the help, or the women of society.
I find that we are still suffering from this in our now world. We are expected to behave and think in a certain way, - not surprisingly- most of it now also depends on the media. Sad, but true.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#23  Postby terrisbooks » 17 Jan 2012, 16:30

let me second great review Krisha, but if you feel that way about the book beware of the movie. They changed the emphasis to race and "the terrible awful". It was for the reasons you mentioned that I found the movie lacking.. But it is that way in most cases where the books have such diverse issues going on. No one wants to watch a six hour movie, lol.

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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#24  Postby backtobooksmom » 18 Jan 2012, 20:52

Krisha, I like how you analyzed the story so far. I agree with you that the racism was a backdrop. I think the reason it seems this was is because the author focused the readers attention to how the problem materialized for a few people. They made what was happening at the time personal. Instead of it being a "race war" it became a woman's fight for equality.. not just a black vs white theme.

In addition, another important piece to bringing the story together is the way love was portrayed between the maids and the white children. This once again made the racial separation more personal. It hinted at the innocence of children and the introduction of racial hate into their lives by their parents actions. The maids new it would happen, but couldn't help loving them. This snippet of the story really comes out in the ending, making it hard to accept the book is over.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#25  Postby krisha » 18 Jan 2012, 22:20

Hi all!

Thanks for the feedback on the review - glad you enjoyed it! I have now finished the book and have to agree with some others that I wanted more from the ending. It didn't feel finished somehow, but I'm wondering if that's exactly what the author intended. After all, the topics she was writing about don't really have an ending! Even so, I think I would have liked to see Hilly get more of a comeuppance, even with the Terrible Awful having been revealed (I found that quite funny actually!) I'm glad that there was no sickly sweet ending for Skeeter and Stuart and glad Skeeter made some positive choices about her future but it seemed a shame that Elizabeth didn't really get any enlightenment as a result of everything that went on.

Overall I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to others. As previously said, I liked the different layers that the author weaved together - it made for a more sophisticated and interesting read rather than a "straight forward" race relations book (if that could ever be straight forward). Perhaps I will see the movie one day to see how it compares, but given everyone else's reviews, its not a priority!

Moving onto Feb's book of the month now!!!
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#26  Postby Doyag » 18 Jan 2012, 22:58

I'll be watching the movie soon as well. would love review that as well..
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#27  Postby caprijo » 19 Jan 2012, 12:11

Not only did I enjoy reading about the racial issues, but I love how Skeeter's character has an ambition of being someone aside from a (house)wife. Among all the sad story lines, that really lifts my spirit.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#28  Postby TheBabyCatcher » 20 Jan 2012, 21:00

Although I did enjoy this book very much I too found the ending to be somewhat disappointing. I like to know how things turn out in the end and much was left to the imagination. I was almost hoping for a 20 years later Mae Mobley summation of said endings. But despite that, I thought it was a good book.
I do find it interesting that many of the readers suggest that this book allows them to recognize the prejudices that still exist today. For me, only in my thirties, integration occurred before I was born. I was born and raised in the deep South so my upbringing was filled with certain prejudices. But the 80's were very different from the 60's and the 2000's have been different from my childhood. What I think about when reading about the experiences of the people and relationships of that time is how it has affected how people act today, after the government's attempt to remedy that problem. I think that while some walls have been broken down, new ones have been created. We definitely have a long way to go.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#29  Postby WSNHB » 22 Jan 2012, 21:09

Usually I read the book first and then see the movie. This time I went to the movie first. I supposed my trepidation was because at one time my mother was a housekeeper, and so was my grandmother. They did not live down south, however. I remember my mother telling me about a lady that did not want Mom parking her car in front of her house because it was old! My mother never went back to work for her. She was ashamed of having to do that kind of work and it motivated her to go to a trade school where she learned data processing. Because as a young girl I recognized the embarassment my Mom felt, I promised myself that I would do well in school so I would never have to do that.

Someone mentioned in an earlier post: ..."This all actually very recent and affecting us directly now not from some distant past. And that's scary. As much as we might consciously be aware of racism and our racist history as a country and a world, I think we just emotionally forget about it and this book throws it back in our faces and really makes us feel how terribly present these issues really are." I would not have to guess at the race because most African Americans are always consciously aware of racism - it hasn't gone anywhere.

Another post was a writer asking if anyone enjoyed the 'pie' incident. Oh my goodness, the theater went wild laughing! Yes, I enjoyed it because some sort of revenge had to be exacted from that character - she was awful! I actually think the movie was better than the book - I can remember details from the movie, but I am going to have to go back and re-read the book.
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Re: Discussion of "The Help"

Post Number:#30  Postby Doyag » 22 Jan 2012, 22:42

@WSNHB
I actually preferred the book. there was more suspense there and kept us on edge.
The whole mystery with Celia.. why she kept locking herself in the house, "drinking".. her relationship with her husband. they made him sound like some evil ,show-no-mercy dude. I didn't feel it in the movie.
I didn't like Constantine story line as well. I think they should have focused on that more, since that was unconsciously half the reason Skeeter was writing the book.
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