Book Club Recap – “The Help”

This past Tuesday evening was the first gathering of the Book Club I proposed several months ago. The book selection was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I had seen the movie some time last year, loved it and read the book when someone loaned it to me. I loved the book even more, and so I selected it for the first book club. I hope that even if you weren’t a part of the Book Club, you might give that book a try. It was quite good, in my opinion.

Today I wanted to share some of the opinions and observations that were discussed in book club. I think the overall thought was that it was a good book, interesting and original. That’s not to say there hadn’t been other books about servant/master relationships but for this particular time and place, it was original.

“I liked how the narrative was told by different people. It gave the story lots of dimension.”

I agree with this and we discussed for a short time after the difference in language from each point of view. There were three main characters, Abeline and Minny, two black maids, and Skeeter, a white college graduate recently returned home to Jackson, Mississippi. I’d heard the comment made before that following the narrative of Abeline and Minny was difficult, as opposed to Skeeter’s but for me personally, I had no difficulty once I got started on the story. I didn’t notice the difference in grammar or anything after I’d read the first couple of chapters.

“I was absorbed by the book too. I read it very quickly. The language wasn’t hard to follow, and it helped set the story.”

We also discussed the way the maids were treated by the white women who employed them. The employers discussed the maids as if they weren’t even in the room. It seemed very likely that they just didn’t care that the maids were present, since they were considered lesser beings. It was also mentioned that the employers almost viewed them as non-existent.

Always been the way people have treated “the help”, not just a southern thing. Also common in the way women have been treated in general.”

“I read somewhere that the French Queen would have male servants while bathing, but wouldn’t think of exposing her ankle in public.”

Interesting thought, isn’t it? And amusing, at least for me. 🙂

Discussion of how this treatment of servants and maids wasn’t singular to the American South led to examples of other novels, movies or TV shows that outlined the same issues. As I mentioned above, “The Help” is not necessarily a brand new concept overall, only representative of one era and setting.

“I agree it is not just a South thing but indicative of servant/employer relationships.”

This is very true. America is a young country in the grand scheme of things and slavery and servant/master class systems have been in place all over the world for thousands of years. I’ve always found it interesting to read novels about the differences in social classes. As someone privileged enough to be living in a country that gives all citizens equal rights – though I don’t claim that it’s a perfect system, here or anywhere – I am fascinated by how things were in the ‘olden days’ and how it took so long to change things, and how many lives were taken in the struggles, all over the world.

Discussion of the different class systems everywhere led to recommendations of a few other stories. There’s the currently very popular TV series “Downton Abbey.” I’ve never seen it but I have seen, and consider it a top ten favorite of mine, “Gosford Park,” the movie.

“I also loved ‘Gosford Park’. And like most Yanks I was enthralled by ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and forget about calling me on Sundays while I’m enthralled with ‘Downton Abbey’.”

“There was a book called ‘Ladies Maid’ I believe, a fictionalized account of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s maid.”

By this point, we’d veered away from any discussion of “The Help.” However, it was not an unwelcome change, as now I have a new book recommendation to try and perhaps at some point, I might seek out this much talked about “Downton Abbey.”

Has anyone else out there read “The Help” or seen the movie? Any observations you might like to point out or similarly themed books or movies?

For now, I’ll be heading off to try and get some writing done. I hope you’re all having a nice weekend.

Take care and happy reading.

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Club, Book Reviews

One response to “Book Club Recap – “The Help”

  1. Lady Falcon

    I am so upset with myself for missing the book club discussion. I got so preoccupied with my upcoming trip that I totally forgot about the meeting. I am sorry I missed it – it sounds like it was fun.

    As for any further observations on the master/slave relationship in regards to employment I would say it wasn’t just that the ladies in ‘The Help’ didn’t care that the maids were in the room. It is more that they just didn’t acknowledge their existence as human beings with feelings and minds of their own. It wasn’t how they were raised. Something I did find interesting in the movie…I don’t remember the maid’s name….the one that agreed to talk to Skeeter first. She mentioned at one point that she had raised the little girl’s momma she was taking care of…in other words she had raised mother and was now raising the daughter. Yet the mother forgot how much she loved the maid and how much she was cared for….it shocked me a little to see it portrayed even though I’ve read similar situations before.
    My mom has stories of the black woman who helped raise her because her dad was in the field all day and her mom was working at a shoe factory. She looks back even now with fond memories of the woman but she also admits that after she was grown she never went to visit the woman or maintain a relationship. I asked her why and she said she didn’t know…it just never seemed like she would run out of time and then she was married right after graduation and off with dad traveling around with his Air Force career. Next thing she knew her mom was calling her to tell her the woman had passed away. I don’t know how that relates so much to the book but I thought I’d share.
    I look forward to the next book club meeting and will set a reminder in my calander. 🙂

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