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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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Miss Moppet
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Postby Miss Moppet » Mon September 6th, 2010, 12:58 am

Well. I've finished The Help. And as those of you on Goodreads know, unlike 90% of the people who have read this book, I Hated It.

However. I would like a second opinion about one specific aspect of the book (very spoilery) I would especially like to consult with someone who knows Mississippi history or who has studied the civil rights movement/black history/20th century Southern history. Can anyone help out? (Divia??) If so I'll post the question.

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boswellbaxter
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Postby boswellbaxter » Mon September 6th, 2010, 1:20 am

"Miss Moppet" wrote:Well. I've finished The Help. And as those of you on Goodreads know, unlike 90% of the people who have read this book, I Hated It.

However. I would like a second opinion about one specific aspect of the book (very spoilery) I would especially like to consult with someone who knows Mississippi history or who has studied the civil rights movement/black history/20th century Southern history. Can anyone help out? (Divia??) If so I'll post the question.


I'm no expert on any of the above, but since I grew up in the South, I might know the answer.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

CindyInOz
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Location: Perth, Western Australia

Postby CindyInOz » Mon September 6th, 2010, 1:55 am

"Miss Moppet" wrote:Well. I've finished The Help. And as those of you on Goodreads know, unlike 90% of the people who have read this book, I Hated It.


I ordered this one from BD last week. What was it about the book that you hated so much?

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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Mon September 6th, 2010, 2:22 am

"boswellbaxter" wrote:I'm no expert on any of the above, but since I grew up in the South, I might know the answer.


Thanks BB.








SPOILER SPACE















The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962-64. One of the central characters, Skeeter (daughter of a plantation owner) wants to break into publishing and decides a good way would be to compile a collection of autobiographical accounts by the local maids about what it's really like to work for white women. Skeeter expects the stories will be 'sweet and glossy' (not sure why, or why she thinks anyone will want to publish them if they are) but surprise surprise, they turn out somewhat controversial. She records what the maids tell her in detail, both positive and negative experiences, only changing the names of the people involved. One of the maids talks in detail about how poor a mother her employer is. Another of the stories is about a maid who served a chocolate pie adulterated with faeces to the president of the Junior League.

The book gets published and becomes a bestseller. The Junior League gets hold of it and soon realises who everyone is. The Junior League president tries to persuade everyone that the maids do not come from Jackson because she doesn't want everyone thinking she ate poop pie, but it seems to be too late because the story is out.

Sum total of reprisals: two maids lose their jobs, one of whom had nothing to do with the book. Another maid's husband loses his job. Nothing happens to Skeeter.

I felt this outcome to be unrealistic - that is, I would have expected more widespread and/or violent reprisals. Am I wrong?

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Michy
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Postby Michy » Mon September 6th, 2010, 3:45 am

I don't have the answer to your above question -- although I was alive during the Civil Rights era, I was still in diapers and so wasn't paying too much attention to the civil unrest of the times. I've never lived in the South (although I've visited different parts of it several times); however, when I read this book last year, I didn't feel that the ending was inappropriate. That the black women suffered and were left facing an uncertain future while the white woman got off scot-free and left Mississippi to start her dream career in New York seemed par for the course to me. Whether in reality it would have actually been worse than that, as you are suggesting, I don't know; I would be interested to hear others weigh in on this.

That being said, I am glad there is at least one other person besides me who didn't love this book!!! Although I didn't hate it -- I thought the plot was interesting and well-written -- there were many things I didn't like. My biggest complaint were the characters who were all predictable, cookie-cutter stereotypes (except for Minnie -- she was the only one I found fresh and original). There were other elements of the story that I didn't like, that didn't ring true to me.

All in all I found the book to be an entertaining read, "good" but not "great"; certainly not The Classic that so many are proclaiming it to be. Just because a book tackles race relations doesn't automatically make it a classic. To be a classic a book has to have a lasting impact and staying power; people are still reading and talking about it 50 years from now. Obviously it's too soon to know if people will still be reading and talking about The Help 10 years from now, much less 30 or 50, but I would put my money on it that it will be largely forgotten by then.

So, besides the ending, what else didn't you like about the book?
Last edited by Michy on Mon September 6th, 2010, 3:51 am, edited 4 times in total.

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boswellbaxter
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Postby boswellbaxter » Mon September 6th, 2010, 3:55 am

I haven't read the book, but from your description it doesn't feel realistic to me, given the fact that Mississippi was the site of some of the most violent resistance to the civil rights movement in the early 1960's. I think the maids' male relations would have been subject to reprisals beyond one man's losing his job. At the very least, I would have expected them to be roughed up and/or had their property damaged. (Whether they might have suffered worse is debatable, but I think they certainly would have been fearful of violent reprisals.) I certainly don't think any of the maids would have kept their jobs.

I find the whole premise rather unlikely--the Nanny Diaries in 1960's Mississippi? I think if anyone had published a book like this, she would have been much more concerned with concealing the identities and whereabouts of the interviewees than it sounds like she was here.
Susan Higginbotham

Coming in October: The Woodvilles





http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/

http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

Ash
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Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Mon September 6th, 2010, 3:59 am

My biggest complaint were the characters who were all predictable, cookie-cutter stereotypes

Yup, that was my complaint with it. I didn't even finish it, got tired of the cliches. There are better books out there dealing with the same issue. I also remember a really excellent made for tv movie about the black women boycotting the busses after Rosa Parks, and having to walk miles to get to work. One women decides to pick her maid up, and all hell breaks loose. (gosh what was the name of that....)

edit: google is wonderful: The Long Walk Home.

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Michy
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Postby Michy » Mon September 6th, 2010, 4:15 am

That sounds like a good story -- I'll have to see if it's available in book form. Sounds like something I'd like to read.

BB -- "The Nanny Diaries set in 1960s Mississippi" -- what a great analogy! I do know that Mississippi was the worst of the worst for racism (is still the worst in many regards), so your comments have me wondering..... The author grew up in Mississippi, I believe, so you'd think she'd get it right (although I think she was too young to have actually lived during the time period she wrote about). Perhaps she (or her editors) toned it down to make it more palatable? That being said, there were other elements that didn't ring true to me, either, given the setting.

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EC2
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Postby EC2 » Mon September 6th, 2010, 10:42 am

As someone outside the culture and reading it out of curiosity and for time out from my own sort of stuff, heck, for entertainment, this is probably going to be my best read of 2010. I loved the characters, I loved the story. Despite the subject matter, I laughed out loud in places - in a good way. I would go with all the newspaper review comments over at Amazon UK and follow the herd of 198 five star reviews. I don't always go for hyped novels; some have left me cold, (Captain Corelli, Labyrinth for e.g.) but I think the hype is justified for this one. But then horses for courses. If a book is right for you, you'll love it. If it ain't, you'll wonder why the heck everyone else is raving about it!

As to still being around in 50 years. I do wonder these days if society has changed and how much will be classic in 50 years. Anyone remember what won the first Booker Prize 40 years ago without looking it up?
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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Leo62
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Postby Leo62 » Mon September 6th, 2010, 11:12 am

"Michy" wrote:Perhaps she (or her editors) toned it down to make it more palatable?


The cynic in me wonders if this is the case. A way for the (presumably mostly white) readers to engage with a difficult subject without feeling too confronted by ugliness.

I confess I haven't read the book, but I did hear a radio adaptation of it earlier this year and didn't much like it.

From what I've read of the civil rights era in Mississippi, the attitude to anyone black (or white) who stepped out of line was vicious and unrelenting violence. Black people were murdered with impunity for things much less serious than the poop pie incident...
listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go
ee cummings


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