Sunday, February 28, 2010
I was trying to figure out why this book was such a page-turner. Yes, yes, the characters are multidimensional, engaging, likable, etc. But there is something else that Stockett did to make this book hard to put down. She didn’t wait until the end to satisfy our need for justice, but instead fed us little bits of satisfaction along the way, just to wet our appetite before she finally hit us with the grand finale: Two-Slice Hilly.
I loved the old, thick, Southern dialect she used. I’ve never seen dialog written quite like this, yet I hadn’t a lick a trouble pickin' it up. Law!
And, yikes, that’s bout all I have time for. See ya in the discussion!
Okay so I loved the Help. Definitely recommend it as a solid historical fiction piece as well as just a plain ole page turner.
What I loved:
All characters. My favorite is Mr. Johnny. And Minny.
The slow paradigm shift of Miss Skeeter.
The juxtaposition of women passing off nursing a baby, one of the most intimate bonding experiences of motherhood, to a person that is not allowed to use the facilitees.
What I hated:
The reality of it. That this kind of thing actually happened and the attitude that still occurs among some wealthy white folk in the south.
What I am sad about:
Miss Skeeter's lonely existence and the lack of satisfaction knowing that her tall, frizzy-headed ways didn't land her no man when she was simply delightful.
I was also embarrassed to tell people about the book because everytime I recommended the Help people thought it was like the Secret. Some kind of self-help book.
An anecdote: My cousin married a guy who is half Austrian, half Rhodesian. For those ignorant folk, Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe. Anywho, my cousin is a super lib who has worked for Homeless Shelters, has a Master's Degree in Women's Studies, and has worked to insure death row inmates their due process, all of which she has accomplished by living in San Francisco. So one day her MIL says to her "that food is so disgusting I wouldn't feed it to my servant." My cuz got all bent out of shape because the servants in Africa get treated like #*$% and as the super liberator that she is, it hurt her being. This book made me feel the indignation of my cuz, something no book has every done before.
Thanks Tiff for putting this all out on the table and reminding us of the great strides we have made in civil liberties over the years. Also, great story.
Why can't I have a BFF who is also the help that will cook and clean and iron everything in my life? I would treat her awes and give her lots of time off and Christmas bonuses and everything. And I'd only let her raise my kids on the bottle weaning and potty training parts.
But srsly, I think no matter how you "slice" it, this book had me laughing and crying and also, tho I hate to admit it,...thinking. Not necessarily about race but about people's perceptions of each other. You just NEVER KNOW how or why another person thinks/feels/acts like they do. What they've been through. And I like that. Because don't we all compare ourselves to others too often? And make choices too often based on what other people may think of us? And put poo in pies?
Anyway, I hate to get too serious but I am really enjoying a little bit more grit and substance to our book club choices lately. It's a nice change.
I like the way it compares and contrasts the last two books we’ve read, and points out the great variety we have in the SRBC. On the other hand it was rather short, and shallow. It didn’t go into any of the characters and what made them unique and interesting.
I made brief mention of how race relations might still be the same and how they’ve changed since the early 60’s, but without giving any specific examples or personal accounts. I didn’t address what having a black president means for our country today given the state of race relations only a short 40 or 50 years ago.
The review seemed to ramble a bit without any central theme or coherent conclusion. I'm also baffled by how I could write a proper review of The help without any crass remarks about rotten coochie or pecker pie. And the bit about the Smart Remarks Book Club being like So You Think You Can Dance was plain indulgent nonsense.
The SRBC is much like SYTYCD in its wondrous variety. In SYTYCD you can watch a, Ballerina and a Latin Dancer doing a Lindy Hop followed by a Tapper and a B-Boy performing a contemporary piece. With the SRBC you can read a book about a flying okie tweener one month and one about WWII German occupation another. Migrating rabbits, vampires & werewolves, teenagers battling to the death, a thief falling in love with the queen that chopped off his hand, frontier life in Arizona, to be or not to be… Pretty, and zombies gone wild are just a few of the topics we’ve covered so far.
This is the way I’ve read since I discovered a love of books; from Jane Eyre to Harry Potter, Great Expectations to The Hobbit, Les Miserables to Tarzan. I love variety and I love the SRBC, and even though this makes two books in a row that are rather serious in comparison to say alien parasite invasions, I thoroughly enjoyed The Help.
I thought it was interesting that besides its status as a historical piece based on actual events, it shared some other commonality with our previous read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”; primarily that it was a book about writing the very book that you are currently reading. They both contained a bridge (I think that’s the proper term), much like the Seinfeld episodes about pitching a show about nothing to NBC executives that would star Seinfeld himself and be about the daily lives of him and his friends. And like TGLAPPPS, The Help contained a large dose of drama and heartbreak, mixed with a lot of humor and very endearing characters. Also… Adelaide Addison / Hilly Holbrook.
The Help was a good book, an important book, and like To Kill A Mockingbird one that highlighted an ugly part of our American history – or perhaps for certain parts of the nation, maybe not completely history. I wonder if illegal Mexican laborers are playing the same role today that black domestics used to play 50 years ago; and are perhaps treated similarly sometimes.
I’d like to think that reading The Help has made me a better person, more conscientious about how I treat others who are different from me in race, religion, or social status, and how I treat the people (person) who cooks my meals, washes my clothes, does my shopping, and cleans my house. I’d also like to think that Oprah would be proud of me.
I made us some of my special chocolate pie and we gone be discussing the book and eatin' it tonight at 8pm PST. I suggest you have two slices and post your review fore someone else does and takes all your good points. And don't be askin me what my secret ingredient is neither.
Monday, February 1, 2010
The letters created a personal connection to the characters that was very unique to my reading experience. It was so real and intimate to read someone's letter and feel the emotions they were feeling at the time. We don't normally get to read other people's letters. And what a wonderful way to show us their different personalities through their writing styles. I loved reading this book. Normally I read very quickly but I found with this book I wanted to make sure I comprehended every word and pictured what they were describing.
The difficult subject matter was communicated in a way that was both soft and gut wrenching at the same time. My heart broke when we heard of the pregnant woman who had died frozen to the floor in the camp. I have read and seen so may stories and movies about the Nazi command but I only let it get to me so far. This book made it very real for me because I was so connected to the characters. Elizabeth...wow, what an amazing woman. I wanted to know her, feel her incredible humanity.
Juliet was the girl everyone wants to be friends with. She was so funny, such a girl - worrying about her clothes, hair and yet caring and compassionate. I love that she was best friends with a gay man and they way we found out - priceless! So nonchalant...just one line and prior to that I had no idea. I was on board for the Juliet and Sydney love connection.
This book made my laugh, tear up and feel so incredibly thankful for the life I have.
It’s getting close to that time of night when the kids go to bed and peace, once again, seeps back into the house. We’ve just come from a dinner out and I am uncomfortably full. Despite these two distractions, I had to write you immediately. I recently found a collection of the most delightfully touching letters! They captivated my attention for days. I could hardly put them down. I feel it is only out of my loyal duty as your friend to share these letters with you. How lovely it would be to meet up for lunch and discuss them in great detail!
The letters center around a witty and assertive woman named Juliet. She is so pleasant to read from. I dearly wish she were in our close circle of friends. I think we would enjoy her company so much. She is a writer, which only makes her casual letters that much more entertaining. By either accident or coincidence, she meets (through letters, of course) a group of wonderful people. They all have the most interesting personalities. I’m entirely convinced that a trip to their little island would be just the sort of thing we could do together. I found myself daydreaming about staying in one of their charming little cottages, digging in a garden and gazing into the sunset. One of the best details about these letters is that they take place in post WWII. The people discuss their experiences and feelings and their stories are painful and wonderful all at the same time. Oh yes! Another great character is a woman named Elizabeth – someone whom I would also dearly love to meet. I know you will love her too!
Certainly, I can’t give too much detail because it might ruin the experience of reading the letters for yourself.
I do miss you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon! The letters are already on their way and I will await your reply, with pencil and calendar in hand, so that we can schedule a ladies lunch to discuss!
As ever yours,
I love you Potato book...FOREVER.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (aka the “potato book” or “GLAPPS”) is easily one of my favorite books we’ve read in the history of SRBC. In fact, I was only a few letters into the book when I realized I was in love with it and began declaring it a masterpiece via text to all my reader friends. And then I continued to read it real slow-like, because I did not want it to end.
Of course, I do recognize that a part of me fell in loved with it because it reminded me of our own ragtag group of misfit book clubbers, practical strangers bonding through our mutual love/hate of great/bad books. But reading all the letters from the GLAPPPS who had just discovered books for the first time in their lives… it made me recall exactly how I’d felt when I first discovered my love of reading. I still remember the first book, where I was when I finished it, what the weather was like, how desperate I was find another one exactly like it, how poor I was, how car-less I was, how Kmart was within walking distance, and how I could just make grilled cheese for dinner again so I would have money to buy another book. There were no literal Nazis involved (only figurative Nazis), but still. Twas life-changing, that moment I discovered books.
I loved that GLAPPPS was told through letters, and many POVs and that all the characters had distinct voices. Did having two writers help accomplish this? I wonder if they took on different characters or if both wrote for both. Who was the voice of Juliet, I wonder.
I loved that the book was unpredictable with lots of twists and surprises, even though some of the surprises were hard to swallow and made me stare off into space for a few minutes while I came to terms with the news.
I loved watching these friends persevere.
Juliet. Witty. Charming. Real. How can I be more like her? Is it too late?
Dawsey. He is an amazing human being, and super hawt. His letters implied this, Juliet confirmed, and I trust her judgment.
Isola. Strange, funny lady. She won me over when
Favorite exchange between Sidney and Juliet (severely paraphrased):
Juliet: Which leg? So sorry.
Juliet: So happy it wasn’t the one I broke.
^^Spoke volumes. Brilliant writing.
Thanks Shel/Sam/Meg. Love love loved it! See ya tonight!
- Juliet's sense of humor: So many examples in this book but I'll go with the first that made me laugh; "word of God or crowd control?" written in the margin of a 10 commandments book.
- Juliet's integrity: "if Juliet says she will, she will. If she says she won't, she won't." Even her enemy said in her letter of reference that she was honest.
- Juliet's kindness: In not wanting to drag her first fiance's name through the mud when she very well could have. Her giving a box of blocks of wood for Eli. This is another category that has a crazy amount of examples.
- Juliet's self-restraint: In wanting to throw porridge at him but instead whispering, "Get out".
- Juliet's bravery when she sprinted towards the flames of the bombed library. And proposing to Dawsey! Not a chance women were doing that very often during that time.
- Juliet's compassion: Her concern for a person she'd only read about, Elizabeth. Also, in wanting to adopt Kit.
- Juliet's sunny nature and light heart. :) according to Dawsey.
In 1976, inspired by a newfound fascination with Guernsey, Mary Ann Shaffer traveled to the island in the English Channel, only to be stranded there due to inclement weather. Waiting for a thick fog to lift so she could return to London, Shaffer read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore. Jersey Under the Jack-Boot sparked a particular interest in the German occupation of the Channel Islands.
Years later, prompted by her book club to write a novel of her own, Shaffer turned to this subject in creating the vivid world of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Told entirely through a series of letters -- because, Shaffer confessed, "for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier" -- the novel skillfully renders the characters and concerns of Juliet, Sidney, and the other residents of Guernsey who have just emerged from the horrors and hardships of the Second World War.
Mary Ann Shaffer made a career working with books—as an editor, librarian, and bookseller—before her death in February 2008. She died knowing that her novel was scheduled for publication and in the good hands of her niece and coauthor, Annie Barrows. (From Barnes & Noble.)
A voracious reader (but an admittedly poor speller!), one of Annie Barrows' first jobs, while she was still in school, was re-shelving books in one of her favorite haunts, the public library. After college graduation, she went to work for a publisher, editing books in many different fields.
Bitten by the writing bug, wrote several books on such diverse topics as fortune telling, urban legends, and opera before branching into children's literature. In June of 2006, she released Ivy and Bean, the first award-winning book in a series about two young girls who become best friends in spite of their differences. In 2007, she published The Magic Half, a standalone children's fantasy about the middle child (between two sets of twins) who travels back in time and befriends a young girl in need of her help.
In addition, Barrows and her aunt, the late Mary Ann Shaffer, collaborated on a post-WWII epistolary novel entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Conceived by Shaffer, the novel was accepted for publication shortly before Shaffer fell ill. Barrows stepped in to complete the project, and the book was published in 2008 to positive reviews. (From Barnes & Noble.)