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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
1,472 pages (including preface)
originally published in 1937

*** About the Book ***

Do I really even need to write a summary?! Ok, ok. This is the story of young Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara in the days before, during, and after the American Civil War. It doesn't sound that great when you put it that way, does it?

Let's go with this description from

Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.

Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.

In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.

THAT sounds much better, don't you think?

*** Why I Read It ***

To be honest, I never had a desire to read this book. I loved the movie and figured that was enough for me. But then I saw a few bloggers raving about how good it was and I was intrigued. So when my online book club (Reading with Becky) chose it for their summer project I figured now was the time to take the plunge.

*** My Thoughts ***

In short, this is one of the best books I have EVER read. It is beautiful and haunting and wonderful and sad and horrible and amazing all at the same time.

You KNOW a book is really good and you're really into it when you are nearing the end and, even though you KNOW what happens, you are wishing and praying that SOMEHOW things turn out differently this time. It is incredible that I can care so much about the characters in a book!

*** What I Loved ***

I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out a coherent way to review this book because of the length, the complex story, and the multitudinous small sheets of paper I've covered with notes as I read. As usual when I'm stuck, I'm reverting to the tried and true bulleted list.
  • The language in this book is gorgeous. Some might say is it wordy, but I loved it.
  • The characters are amazing. Scarlett is a spoiled brat - sometimes I love her, sometimes I hate her. Rhett is sensual and appealing, yet hard and cruel. Melanie is the most kind person on the face of the earth and by far my favorite character.
  • The characters are so much more complex than they appear in the movie! You'd think this is a no-brainer but it really surprised me. I've always liked Melanie but now I truly love her. And I always loved Scarlett but getting to see inside her head showed me sides of her that I didn't really know ... and made me like her less.
  • My favorite part of the book was when Scarlett was struggling to survive at Tara (her plantation) after the Yankees burned most of the surrounding countryside. I admired her so much for the growing up that she did during this time and for the responsibility she took for those around her. She was the most likable to me during this period.
  • There were some characters in the book who weren't in the movie and I loved getting to know them, especially Grandma Fontaine and Will Benteen. Two of Scarlett's children were also "new-to-me" since they weren't in the movie.
  • I loved getting a more in-depth look at Scarlett's relationship with Frank, her 2nd husband. She really did want to make him happy because of what he did for her, but it was never going to happen. And poor Frank realized he'd made a mistake in marrying her but what was he going to do about it?

*** What I Didn't Love ***

Oh the racism in this book! Yes, I know, the book it set during around the Civil War so of course race is going to be a big issue. And I actually found the various types of racism very interesting. The "benign" slave master mentality is a huge theme in this book but I was surprised to learn of the Northern racism. At one point Scarlett is confused by the fact that her new Northern friends refuse to hire the newly freed slaves as nannies for their children, preferring "Irish girls" instead. She is furious when she realizes that the Northern ladies fear and hate the "darkies" and want nothing to do with them, despite having supported the anti-slavery movement. And all that I found fascinating and relevant to the setting of the novel.

This book uses an omniscient narrator so that the reader is privy to the inner thoughts of various characters. I completely understood when a white character thought about a black character in a racist way - that is part of the story. What really bothered me was the racism I felt came directly from the author. When the narrator is describing Mammy or Prissy or one of the other "darkies" and uses animalistic or child-like terms, that drove me crazy. And it was so prevalent throughout the book that it at times made my skin crawl.

Despite all that this is a fantastic book. It just goes to show you how good it really is if I can overcome the rampant racism and still love it.

*** The Movie ***

There are so many things that I want to say about the book vs. the movie but first I'm going to watch it again (since it has been quite a few years). Hopefully I'll have a chance to do that later this month - and you can be sure I'll get a post up about it as soon as the credits start rolling!

*** Other Thoughts ***
  • I've really enjoyed the notes posted by Becky for the online reading group. She clearly did some research and I so appreciate that! This was the perfect book to read over the summer and I highly recommend it. Read it with another blogger if you can - it will definitely add to your enjoyment.

  • AND!!! I realized after I finished that this counts for the 1% Well Read Challenge. That means I only have 2.5 books to go before the end of the year. Woohoo!

*** Other Reviews ***

I've only found a few reviews of this book but I'm SURE that more of you have read it! Give me your link and I'll add you here.


Nan said...

I am so glad you read it and wrote about it. Sometimes the old books just get left by the wayside until someone picks them up again and brings them to the attention of others. I read it way back when I was a teen, and my daughter read it when she was ten! Great book, great book review, Heather!!

Heather J. said...

Nan - I'm so glad that I decided to read it ... it truly is a wonderful book.

Meghan said...

I've read Gone with the Wind twice and I loved it both times. It is just a fantastic story, with great characters and drama and everything I want from a book like this. The racism does bother me, but Mitchell's view was probably normal for her time, so while it's wrong I try to appreciate the rest of the book and ignore those parts, if that makes sense.

Glad you loved it too!

Shannansbooks said...

I just finished Rhett Butler's people and I can agree with a lot of your points. I find it hard sometimes to get past the racism too but I like you also realize that is part of the story. I read Gone with the Wind when I was in 11th grade and hope to pick it up again in the future.

Heather J. said...

Meghan - Like I said, I still loved the book despite the racism but it DID bother me and I thought it unfair to not include that in my review. I'd had for someone to pick it up not knowing about that part of it.

Shannansbooks - Thanks for visiting! I've heard good things about Rhett Butler's people - did you enjoy it? A long time ago I read SCARLETT in the hopes that I'd find out that she and Rhett got back together ... I honestly don't remember what happened in that book, but I don't think it turned out the way I wanted. :)

christina said...

I don't know if I will ever get around to reading Gone with the Wind; and you're probably not going to believe this, but I haven't even seen the movie!

Still, your review of this book was GREAT. And if I had needed convincing you would have done it. :))

MoxieMamaKC said...

Oh! I'm so glad you did this post! The book really is WAY better than the movie. I liked Will Benteen so much and I wish the other children had gotten into the movie. There was an authorized by MM's family sequel written and it is actually pretty good.

bermudaonion said...

It's been years since I read this, but I loved it too. I knew it was long, but didn't remember it being quite that long.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great post. I agree it's a really good story, and if you can make sure to be aware of the racist imagery, it probably gives one some sociological insight as well.

ANovelMenagerie said...

This is my favorite book of all time. I, however, am definitely a Scarlett girl and my best friend is Mellie. She's the nice, sweet lady and I'm the mean vixen. But, that's why I love it! She is such a sassy brat! But, I admire her.

I was shocked about the other children, too. I think it dramatically differs from the movie by her not having them. I think it would be interesting to see another remake of this movie, but tying closer to the book. Just to see how the movies would differ.

Loved your review!


Heather J. said...

christina - Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

moxie - Will was such a great character - the movie is really lacking without him in it. Do you know is SCARLETT was the title of the authorized sequel? I have read that one ...

bermuda - The story itself was just over 1,000 pages but there was an extensive preface in my copy.

rhapsody - good point!

Sheri - Another movie that sticks closer to the plot would be great, but I can't imagine anyone else who could do such a good Scarlett!

Anna said...

The racism that seemed to be the author's bothered me, too, but I guess it's related to the period during which she lived. Doesn't make it right, though.

I enjoyed discovering the characters that weren't in the movie. I loved this book, and I plan to re-read it at some point...when I'm in the mood for a tome. ;)

Diary of an Eccentric

Rebecca Reid said...

I've put this off too simply because of the racism.

Someone told me that they believe Mitchell was not racist; she just put those things in there so it would be a period piece. I'm intrigued, but I'm not sure I can believe that if she's describing the people using such offensive language.

Anyway, thanks for this glowing review. I'm moving it up my TBR queue.

Goddess said...

Loved this book! It is one of hte books that I have held onto after I read it. That says a lot since I usually don't do that!

Heather J. said...

Anna - Yes, I do "understand" it but I still don't like it. But I do love the book anyway.

Rebecca - I hope that you do read it - then we can have a discussion about the racism and also the wonderful parts of the book too!

Goddess - Ooh, that IS saying something!

Becky said...

I loved your review. I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

Here's my review of the book.

Heather J. said...

Becky - Thanks for leading the online group! I added a link to your review. :)

Erika Robuck said...

The sequel is Rhett Butler's people, and it is fantastic. It tells the story from his pov, then gives very satisfying closure to this great epic.

Heather J. said...

Erika - Thanks for that! Hmm ... do you think I can get you to tell me the "very satisfying closure" when I see you on Saturday? I'd really love to know!

jpderosnay said...

wow - you have just reminded me about this.

i have a friend who LOVES this but she's the only person i know who likes it. now that i know that you and other bloggers out there also think so highly of this i'm really intrigued! this sounds really good!

Heather J. said...

JP - I'd love to hear a guy's perspective on this one. I truly loved it, despite the racism I wrote about above. Let me know if you ever pick it up!

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I picked it up during my freshman year of high school because it seemed like something I "should" read, and I absolutely adored every page of it. Hated the movie, though...

Jenny said...

This is a GREAT review of this book! I haven't read it in ages but I definitely need to re-read it again!

Heather J. said...

Stephanie - I think if I'd read the book before I watched the movie, I'd have hated the movie too.

Jenny - Definitely!

Jessica (The Bluestocking Society) said...

Heather, great review! I was flummoxed at how to write a review of a 1000 page novel. You did a good job of digesting things. This is an amazing book. I haven't seen the movie (gasp!), but I look forward to reading your thoughts on how it holds up to the book.

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