Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

  • Book and Booze Club Remembers, 
  • Oct 2011
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  • ***BOOK AND BOOZE TIPPLE: Enjoy 'The Help' with a warming nip of Southern what we do... just nip on down to the local shops and nab yourself some more cut price Prosecco.
  • Honestly, I'm personally just not so sure about this one.

    But before I get to that....a bit about The Help's Book and Booze Club holds the honorary title of our first ever book club read.  Back then, grappling with the concept of how to actually 'do' a book club,  there was just four of us sitting around the table (and an honourary, crudely drawn head stuck onto a spoon, where a last minute slacker should have sat), eyeing of the vino and weighing up the pro's and con's of outing oneself as 'a woman of thirst'.

    Book Club Anxieties.

    I genuinely don't know what I expected.... I just know I don't like to miss out on a gathering so was definitely in.  I guess I was a bit anxious it might be a bit like a amateur dramatics role-play; a lot of trying to sound informed,  offering covert-self-promotional 'enlightened-me' opinions in a slightly convoluted setting. You know.  That kind of 'cringe-verbal diarrhoea-just shut-up stuff' we say (ok-maybe its just me)when we meet people... and walk away with a far superior, witty, genuine conversational replay in our heads.  And, then, oh god - what if Book Club means one actually has to create and even worse - sustain - the illusion of a worldly intelligence to develop a bit of neighbour kudos and self-branding? It's all coming back to me now....I'm surprised I didn't bottle it and end up being honorary crudely drawn head, mark ii.

    Well, it turns out there was perhaps a bit of that to start, and a lot of nodding and respectful listening to the viewpoint of others (note to self - this is a good thing).....but at some point,  possibly a bottle or two of Chablis later - actually, who am I kidding' - make that Pinot - a thirst is a thirst - the nervous facade and over-processed contributions became, well, genuine and interesting chat. The tone also got a bit more animated and excited as common ground was discovered.  
  • Brain buzz. Booze buzz. Positively under-graduate.

    Anxieties pushed aside and glasses re-topped, Book Club turned out to be surprisingly, honestly good.  Ice broken and safe in the knowledge that we would 'do it again next month' there was just simply no point trying to 'crowd please' - the real beauty of neighbourhood book clubs.  Can anyone be bothered to try and sustain a false facade amongst people we will pass on the street every day?

    What a relief..... and combined with our host and founders very studiously composed list of rather bloody good questions, I think The Help represents our first (and possibly last!) excited, animated, mature, focused literary discussion.

    Oh god, that's right. That last bit I said - the mature bit - bit of a lie...the night did end up with our founder, the eccentric Mrs K, wrestling me to the ground to demonstrate her strength. (Just as her seemingly sensible husband arrived home from work - awkward.).
    And I did think it would be amusing to make my 'table offering' a Mississippi Mud Pie- strictly Hummingbird Bakery recipe....(read the book!).

  • Mature or otherwise - it was a great night.  An unexpected great night.  A night that concluded with ( well, beyond the contextually incongruent bruises and battering) a lovely buzzy feeling that something good is going to happen and ( just privately) comfort in the knowledge that the walk home would be safe with Mrs K and her muscles living only next door bar one....

    The Help

    And so, on reflection,  I guess when I say I am 'not sure' about The Help, what I am really grappling with is my own reconciliation of the difference between 'great book club material' Vs 'enjoyable private reading'.

     It is clearly a great conversation starter for Book Clubs - with lots of obvious discussion points you'd expect when discussing a novel written by a white southerner from the perspective of black maids - and there are plenty of less obvious points for discussion as well.  But, as a novel - from a purely private reading perspective - I did initially find the use of dialect onerous and off-putting. It also took me some time to work through conflicting thoughts whilst reading it, about authorship and point of view.  Hence, I'm still just not sure.  Perhaps it was just bit of a slow starter.

    In any case. You know what? It is memorable. It creates an impact. It invites lively discussion. Its a great excuse to eat pie.

  • And because it was my first taste of book club...and has since gone onto be made into a film ( bit of a deal breaker for the 'Book Club Willing-Reading Challenged' ones.....I'll give it a Book and Booze FOUR glasses.


  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (13 May 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141039280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141039282

  • The Help is an international bestseller (that inspired the Oscar nominated film) by +Kathryn Stockett.
    Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver . . .

    There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

    Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...

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