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 Amazon.com:
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.