Saturday, November 28, 2009

Barney's Online Book Club -- November 2009 Discussion

Welcome to the fourth discussion post of Barney's Online Book Club! This month we are discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Below are some questions to help start the discussion, please feel free to raise your own questions in the comments section. Please note that the questions and the comments may include spoilers. So if you haven't read the book, then read at your own risk!

Let the discussion begin!

1. The Help is written from multiple points of view. Did you enjoy the different points of view? Was there one character you enjoyed reading about over the others?

2. Hilly is definitely the villian of this piece yet the author paints her as a good mother. Was it hard for you to reconcile these two opposite pieces of her personality? What do you think drove Hilly to treat the help (and eventually Skeeter) in such terrible ways?

3. Miss Skeeter has some rough relationships throughout the novel. What are your impressions of her relationship with her mother? What about Stuart?

4. What do you think was the eventual motivation or reason that the maids stepped forward to help with the book?

5. What are your overall thoughts on the novel?

So get typing and don't forget to come back throughout the day and reply to other members' comments!


bookjourney said...

1. I think I would have to say I enjoyed Minnie's story line over the others. I loved how feisty she was! While I enjoyed Aibelene as well, she just didnt have the fire that Minnie did.

bookjourney said...

4. The maids stepped forward at the point that (I am sorry, i read this awhile ago so I am forgetting character names)their friend was arrested trying to make ends meet to send her children to school. I think they got to the point that enough was enough and if they didnt stand up for what was right and wrong - who would?

I actually really loved this part of the book.

bookjourney said...

5. I thought this was an incredible read... as in any topic that I know about...(or think I do) it is amazing to read a book that tells me how little I really know. While I am aware of the time when maids of color was the acceptable thing to do - even showed status.... I didnt really think beyond that.

I never through about what the lives must have been like from the maids (the help)point of view. I didnt give much thought to the shame they must have hid while they were put down or asked to do the most hideous of jobs.... The Help brought these things to the surface for me and really gave me cause to want to know more. I am sure there are many incredible books out there on this topic and even more in depth of a time that really causes my heart to ache.

Ashley @ Ashley's Library said...

1. I loved the multiple points of view. Usually when I read a book I feel like one perspective is the most interesting and the others aren't even really necessary, but I did not feel this way while reading The Help. I felt that each point of view was relevant, important, and interesting. Each of the characters was interesting, but I looked forward to Skeeter's chapters the most.

2. I didn't really see any good in Hilly. Even when she was described as being a good mother I only saw her as a villain. I think she chose to treat those she felt were inferior badly due to ignorance.

3. I felt bad for Skeeter with her relationships. I just wanted Skeeter to escape because I thought she was just hitting a dead end. I'm glad that she did.

4. I think that the maid stepped forward to help with the book because they were tired of it. I think that a part of them thought that if the stories were put out in the open, people would realize the injustices occurring.

5. I love this book. I started reading it when I got called in for jury duty and was so happy that I brought it with me. It is one of my favorite books of 2009.

Jess said...

1 I really enjoyed the different points of view as well. I thought that the author did a great job of balancing the multiple perspectives and showing each narrators personality and struggle. I definitely agree with bookjourney's comment that Minny was feisty and that made me love her parts of the book. The relationship between her and Miss Celia was one of the highlights for me.

I found Celia such an interesting character -- a woman who wants to belong so badly, yet refuses to compromise her goodness and herself. How crazy was the part where she defends Minny by bashing the naked guy? Just an incredible read.

Ashley @ Ashley's Library said...

Jess, you're right about Celia. I found myself wondering a lot about her and I actually wanted to see more of her life.

Jenny said...

1. I liked all the POV's like Ashley said, but I think my favorite was Aibileen. I don't really hae a good reason.

2. I think showing Hilly as a good mother makes it easier for me to dislike her so much because it shows that she is capable of loving someone else. If she weren't capable of this I might feel sorry for her.

3. I think Skeeter is commendable for having the positive relationship with her mother that she does. Her mother is a typical "white lady" in town and is always criticizing Skeeter or finding something to poke at her about, yet Skeeter is able to look past it or let those things go in order to maintain a good relationship. I never liked Stuart in the book and don't really get why Skeeter liked him so much except that she craved that attention.

4. I think the maids finally saw that changes weren't going to come about any other way and that things might actually get worse. While they worried that doing the book would make it worse, I think they realized they didn't really have a choice; it was going to get worse anyway, so they needed to let their voices be heard.

5. I thought it was a great novel. Definitely one of my favorites in 2009. But I want people to look at it as a thought-provoking piece as to how people are the same and how destructive it is for some to treat others so low.

I also kept wondering how true this was during this time frame. It feels like we're not THAT far away from the 1960's and I was astounded that this is how life was. And I was even more astounded to read the author's note in the back and realize how much of this was true to her life.

Ashley @ Ashley's Library said...

Jenny, I was surprised to read the last bit about the author as well. It really does seem that we are so close to the time in which all these events were happening and it's shocking to me.

I think you also made a good point about Hilly being more detestable because she does have the ability to love. I didn't really think of this as I was reading but looking back, I think this is a great point.

Jess said...

2. From a fictional standpoint, I thought Hilly was a great villian. She has such a need for control, to be in charge of everything and everyone, it was great to see her get her due in the end.

This was the first book that I have read from this time period. Has anyone read any other fiction from this period? Anything that you would recommend?

3. Skeeter was one of my favorite characters, when she came clean to Stuart when he proposed, I was hoping that he would show he was worthy of Skeeter by being proud of her. It was definitely his loss. I was so glad that she eventually moved away to pursue her dreams.

Jess said...

Any thoughts on Johnny and Celia's relationship? Out of all the couples, they seemed to be the only relationship that was built on love. Even though they lied to each other, you knew it was coming from a good place, that they were protecting each others feelings. I also thought Skeeter's folks seemed to have a loving relationship.

Which also reminds me -- were you surprised by what happened between Skeeter's mom and Constantine? Do you think Constantine's daughter was right in what she did? Were you surprised to find out what eventually happened to Constantine>

Susie Sharp Librarian said...

1.I really liked the multiple points of view.To me it brought so much to the book and each character was so well written.I really liked all the characters including Horrible Hilly.
2. It was a little bit hard to see her as a good mother but I feel that this was the authors way of redeeming this character in some way.
I think Hilly learned her behavior from her parents and hid her low self esteem behind the way she treated people
3.I think Skeeter was a little ahead of her time or maybe her town.I really liked her view of the world around her and I think her relationship with her mother stems from that view and the turbulant times.The difference in those two generations at that time in the world.As for Stuart he wasn't forward thinking enough for Skeeter.

4.I think especially Aibelene just wanted her story told,to show they were just human beings like everyone else.I think for them it was an outlet so they could write it down instead of saying it outloud.
5.I really enjoyed this novel and was sad when it ended because I wanted more!

Susie Sharp Librarian said...

Jess if you want to read a time period a little further back
1930's but southern fiction and human rights including civil rights and suffragettes try the book The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell by, Loraine Despres.Its got the humor and real feel this book had.

Sue Jackson said...

Sorry I'm late! We were away for Thanksgiving and got back late Sunday. I finished reading The Help on my trip and LOVED it - so engaging I could hardly put it down, characters I grew to love, and very thought-provoking.

1. I love books written this way (another favorite with multiple POVs is My Sister's Keeper). I liked all three narrators, but I guess my favorite was probably Aibileen - I was touched by her relationship with Mae Mobley and her commitment to helping her grow up feeling good about herself.

2. I think Hilly's being a good mother was completely overshadowed by the horrible way she treated others. I thought the way she treated other people was all about control and making herself feel superior. Some of the other characters seemed to act out of ignorance, but Hilly seemed just plain mean.

3. I thought Skeeter actually had a good relationship with her mother, considering their differences. It would be hard not to hate her after all those years of criticism, but Skeeter still loved her mother. As for tolerating her mother's prejudices, we actually encountered a similar situation over Thanksgiving with some elderly friends of the family - my grandfather's best friends for decades - who kept making prejudiced remarks. They're in their 80's and old friends of the know they're not going to change their views at this point in life, so you just treat them with respect and try to ignore their shortcomings. Of course, we only see them once or twice a year - it would be much tougher with a parent who you live with.

I was glad when Skeeter finally told Stuart what she'd been doing. I had hoped Stuart shared his father's views on integration (though his father wasn't brave enough to voice them publicly!) and was disappointed by his response to Skeeter. I think she'll find someone to love who shares her views in New York!

4. Like others have said, it took some serious incidents - the NAACP guy being murdered and the maid going to jail - to help the maids get past their fear of speaking up. It had to get to the point where their fear and anger over what was happening got larger than their fear of speaking up.

5. As I said earlier, I really loved this book - not just one of my favorites of 2009 but one of my favorite novels of all-time!


bookjourney said...

I agree with those that said this was one of the best reads of 2009. I highly have recommended it on my blog and to friends as well.