Florence’s Book Club… Persuasion and The Help.

Hooray! It’s book club time again, and the month we’re wrapping up the last of the books that were started (by me) pre Florence’s launch. This one was chosen as a suggestion by Rachel mentioning The Book Snob‘s read-along.

Reviewing a classic is always difficult and I haven’t quite finished my copy (Blame the blog!) so instead of treading on the toes of those who love it, I am of course, as always, asking you ladies to share your thoughts on Persuasion.

As a guide, consider these questions that I had when reading to prompt your comments too…

  • Is Mrs Russel a good friend? Well meaning, or a busy body? Or did you cynically think she had an ulterior motive?!
  • Like many of Austen’s novels, the story takes a long time to come to its conclusion, via many a misunderstanding and unsaid word. Does this drive you (like me) to distraction?
  • There are parallels to be drawn between Persuasion and modern life with similarities to many womens’ sense of missing out on the ‘one that got away’. Can you identify with a character who lives in such a different era with such different social constraints?

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Before we do however, it’s time to introduce our next book. Don’t forget, the book club runs bi-monthly, so this book will be introduced this month but not reviewed and discussed until January. Next month we’ll be discussing Breakfast at Tiffany’s that Rachel introduced last month. So now let me hand over to Laura who sent this in to me as a suggestion a few weeks ago, to introduce The Help, also out on film right about now.

Hi Florence Finds readers! My name is Laura, an avid Florence Finds follower and I would love to introduce to Florence Finds Book Club a beautifully written novel – The Help by Kathryn Stockett. A U.S bestseller novel, that has recently been made into a film – hotly tipped for Oscar nominations!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is set in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, in a time where “Black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted to not steal the silver…” The story focuses around three central characters, Skeeter, Abileen and Minny who form an unlikely friendship to give the black maids in Mississippi a much needed voice.

The sub characters in the book are hugely enthralling and create fantastic images in your mind – from the controlling and self obsessed Miss Hilly, to the outcast Miss Celia, who, no matter how hard she tries, never quite fits in.

The Help provides a valuable insight into the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties. Set alongside the world of white middle class housewives who are so constrained by traditions and rules, they are almost suffocating, even though some of the ‘rules’ are self-imposed, and those who are desperate to join their world, but are shut out. The story moves at such a pace that you will find you can’t put the book down – so much so I read it cover to cover in just two days!

The Help’s central focus is around the working conditions and treatment of the black maids and whilst this clearly provides a huge number of very valuable and interesting talking points, I would love for readers to not only look at the central issue but also the many layers of relationships between women that are prevalent in the book and think about how these relationships still exist in our very own modern day lives, such as;

– The “unlikely” friendship that is formed between Skeeter, Aibleen and Minny, have you had an unlikely friendship that turned into one of your most rewarding?
– Have you ever had a “Toxic Friend” like Miss Hilly, someone who you once were possibly so similar too but now don’t relate to at all?
– Have you every felt like an outcast like Miss Celia, who can’t do right for doing wrong? Or ever had empathy with someone who is in Miss Celia’s shoes?

The Help will have you feeling true warmth towards the central characters and laughing out loud at the ultimate revenge story that becomes “Two Slice Hilly”

Happy reading 🙂

Laura xx

Over to you readers… tell me your thoughts on Persuasion, and if you will be reading The Help – I think it looks brilliant 🙂

Rebecca
xo

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11 thoughts on “Florence’s Book Club… Persuasion and The Help.

  1. I finished the help about 2 weeks ago and loved it! Hope lots of people join in and read it! Will be waiting for the discussion in Jan! Off to see the film next week too!

  2. I honestly change my mind on Mrs Russell every time I read it but ultimately I think she’s misguided and believes herself to be acting in the best interests of Anne without really thinking about what would ACTUALLY be best for her.

    I think the winding, whilst a trait through all her books, is most realistic in Persuasion, in that the circumstances and feelings involved are much closer to those which really affect day to day relationships, especially nowadays.

    My favourite thing about the book is that Anne is such a strong character. I didn’t think this the first time I read it and thought she was a bit wishy washy (like Fanny Price) when compared to the Lizzie Bennet’s of the world, but actually now I realise that she’s simply someone who had never been given opportunity to forge her own character (unlike Lizzie, or Emma Woodhouse, or even Catharine Moreland), and the story is all about her journey to assert herself and gain control of her life (and ultimately it’s this strength and the fact she’s no longer a meek little do-gooder that bags her Captain Wentworth), and this is why I love it.

  3. Actually, to expand a bit, I think Mrs Russell is a metaphor for society and that the ultimate goal of marriage was wealth and status rather than compatibility and Austen uses her to explore why this shouldn’t be the case.

    I actually think all of Austen’s heroines (with the exception of Fanny although I’m willing to be convinced otherwise) are pretty strong feminists.

  4. I loved The Help…read it a couple of years ago. Its a wonderful book.

    Persuasion? Ok I bought it, and it has sat on my side as I have devoured loads of other books, but could not seem to get into this one. I’ll be honest, I am much more of a modern reader, the language of classic literature is daunting for me. I shall give it another attempt though, as it is on the 100 BBC list which I have been trying to tick off (very slowly….) for a while now!I have read Breakfast at Tiffanys though. What a gorgeous little read! I must now watch the film!!

  5. I’ve read and loved both. Persuasion is my favourite Austen (almost my favourite book). I can’t really put into words why I love it so much (I know this is a bit of a problem with a book review!), but I think it’s because the love story between Anne and Captain Wentworth is so romantic. I love Pride and Prejudice but I never feel like I know Elizabeth, or would want to be with Darcy. Captain Wentworth is my literary crush, I completely understand why Anne loves him.
    I really don’t think I could say it better than Amy F.
    The Help is a truly fantastic book! I read it over a year ago..maybe I’ll re-read it. I really want to go see the film, but sometimes it just isn’t the same.
    xxx

  6. Abi, I’m totally with you. Reading Persuasion and the classics is hard going sometimes with the language, but I have to say, it’s not something I used to struggle with when I read more. I wonder if I’m out of the habit and it’s something you get used to?

    I’m really looking forward to reading The Help. I love fiction with a historical basis.

    Xo

  7. I have to say I have rotated between Persuasion and Pride as my fav books, but as with most people I read Persuasion much later. I love the meandering plots, I think the amazing talent with Jane is to make the characters so real you feel what they are feeling and, having read fairly widely, it is clear that building tension and intrigue and delvering a twist to a plot take a lot of talent and she makes it so easy! Regarding Mrs Russell; I agree with Amy F misguided with good intentions and very of the time.

  8. I’m yet to try Persuasion but I cant wait to read The Help as I too like historical fiction. I saw the movie the other day and it is so good!

    Rachie xo

  9. Amy where were you in my 2nd year of Uni, especially in my exam on Persuasion? Hmmm? You are such a clever clogs lady! I totally agree with what you’ve said about Austen writing feminists, too xx

  10. My all time favourite book, with Austen being my all time favourite author! I completely agree that Austen clearly enjoyed exploring feminism and think that Persuasion is the most honest of her books with respect to what day to day life can be like. Austen’s timeless work all rocks though! Great post FF! Xx

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