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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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Miss Moppet
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Location: North London
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Postby Miss Moppet » Mon September 6th, 2010, 10:59 pm

"Michy" wrote:Coincidentally, I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It's been many years since I've read it, and I don't remember that much about it, believe it or not. I will be keeping this discussion of The Help in mind as I read it again (or listen to it, actually, as it's an audio version).


I re-read TKAM before I read The Help. It was a set book for me at school and I loved it. Re-reading as an adult, I saw flaws but they were nearly all writing issues, not historical issues. Reading it and The Help together was very enlightening. For me, Harper Lee made all the right choices and Kathryn Stockett made all the wrong ones (although she references Mockingbird several times and at least one scene, the fundraising scene, is derivative of it). Lee represents the white characters as speaking in dialect, as well as the black ones, and she differentiates between the language Calpurnia uses at work and at home, which Stockett doesn't. The relationship between Calpurnia and the children is close but not sentimentalised - Scout wants Atticus to sack Calpurnia at one point. Her book is about coming of age. Stockett's book is about not coming of age - Skeeter finishes the book slightly less ignorant but just as self-centred and immature as when she starts it. Mockingbird is about childhood, The Help is childish. I thought it was like comparing an Old Master to the identical oil paintings of sunsets you see in stacks of 20 or 30 piled up on the pavement by a Piccadilly street stall.

Anyway, you might not agree, but either way I'd love to hear what you think when you're done.

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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Mon September 6th, 2010, 11:35 pm

I will, definitely. :) Likewise, if you ever read Glass Castles I would be very interested in your opinion of it.

Amazingly, TKAM was not required reading for me in school; and I was even in Honors English classes most of my high school years! We were generally given a list of classics from which we must choose books to read, and I just never chose TKAM. So I first read it as an adult a few years ago. This will be my first re-read.

I enjoy listening to audio books when I'm working on projects, and this one is especially well done, as it's narrated by Sissy Spacek. However, I've noticed that with audio books, I tend to not notice writing style (whether good or bad) as much as I do with printed books. When I'm reading a printed book, I'm constantly analyzing the author's way with words; with an audio book, I guess I just get swept along by the narration, I don't know. Anyway, I probably won't pick up on strengths or weaknesses quite as much as I would with a printed book.

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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Tue September 7th, 2010, 12:12 am

"Michy" wrote:I will, definitely. :) Likewise, if you ever read Glass Castles I would be very interested in your opinion of it.

Amazingly, TKAM was not required reading for me in school; and I was even in Honors English classes most of my high school years! We were generally given a list of classics from which we must choose books to read, and I just never chose TKAM. So I first read it as an adult a few years ago. This will be my first re-read.


Both of my set books for GCSE English (taken at 16) were American literature - TKAM and Arthur Miller's View from the Bridge. I've been glad of that because it made me think about another culture in a way Shakespeare and the Brontes wouldn't have.

I never studied American history, unfortunately - it wasn't taught at school and at university, I specialised in the early modern period so it wasn't an obvious choice. So my knowledge of it is very patchy.

One memoir I love is Florence King's Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady - but be warned, while it's very funny it also has a lot of bad language and explicit sexual references, both heterosexual and homosexual - so not for everyone.

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: Christmas Lights by Karen Swan & The Christmas Card Crime and other stories
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Tue September 7th, 2010, 9:30 am

I did TKAM as a set book for O Level (which was later replaced by the GCSE) and loved it, I re-read it a few years ago and still loved it, although I agree it does sag in parts but it's still a stunning book. We also read Lord of the Flies which I think is a good comparison/contrast in that both feature children as the main POV although obviously the subject matter is different, but both are well worth discussing, either as teenagers or adults.
Currently reading "Christmas Lights" by Karen Swan & "The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories"

Ash
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Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Wed September 8th, 2010, 12:16 am

I remember reading Lof the F in HS, and having a really interesting discussion when the teacher asked us how it would be if the group were all girls of the same age.

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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed September 8th, 2010, 2:46 pm

"Miss Moppet" wrote:and she differentiates between the language Calpurnia uses at work and at home, which Stockett doesn't.


This was one of the things that bugged me about The Help, was Aibileen's dialect. It was an unnatural mix of Southern Black and Northern White -- for example, Aibileen ended her words with "-ing" rather than "-in'" and she said "Miss" rather than "Miz." Having grown up in Mississippi, you'd think Stockett would have got at least that part right! Even to me, who has never lived in the South, it was obviously discordant. If you're going to use dialect then go all the way and do it right, or don't do it at all. A mongrel half-way mix is highly distracting, especially when it involves one of the major narrators.

TKAM definitely does much better in this regard; of course, it helps that I'm listening to an audio version narrated in a slow, Southern drawl. :)

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EC2
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Postby EC2 » Wed September 8th, 2010, 4:39 pm

"Michy" wrote:This was one of the things that bugged me about The Help, was Aibileen's dialect. It was an unnatural mix of Southern Black and Northern White -- for example, Aibileen ended her words with "-ing" rather than "-in'" and she said "Miss" rather than "Miz." Having grown up in Mississippi, you'd think Stockett would have got at least that part right! Even to me, who has never lived in the South, it was obviously discordant. If you're going to use dialect then go all the way and do it right, or don't do it at all. A mongrel half-way mix is highly distracting, especially when it involves one of the major narrators.



But for a reader, especially an outsider the more dialect you put in, the more difficult it becomes to read. Writing a popular novel set in the UK North East in a Geordie accent would be the kiss of death to a novel! Most of the time authors compromise on the accents to give a flavour without making the work hiccup.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed September 8th, 2010, 5:02 pm

You have a valid point, and perhaps that's what they were trying to do. In this case, I just found the compromise more distracting than a full-blown dialect would have been.

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EC2
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Postby EC2 » Wed September 8th, 2010, 5:20 pm

"Michy" wrote:You have a valid point, and perhaps that's what they were trying to do. In this case, I just found the compromise more distracting than a full-blown dialect would have been.


Now, it didn't bother me, but I'm in the UK, so the strength and difference in accents in the USA doesn't mean that much to my reader's ear. I know some Scottish people complain about the Outlander novels and how Jamie Fraser's accent isn't the biz at all. I have lived in Scotland as a child, but I grew up where the Scots accent was broad Glaswegian - imagine a full novel of this! LOL! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrmcxa1yBec
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed September 8th, 2010, 5:31 pm

Yes, I'm sure our backgrounds have a lot to do with it. For instance, I could read a novel set anywhere outside of the US, with the accent toned down and compromised -- something that might drive a native reader up the wall -- and probably wouldn't even know the difference!
Last edited by Michy on Wed September 8th, 2010, 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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