Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Book Review - Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

Hi, everyone! *waves* I’ve been gone for a while – I took a trip to sunny* Brisbane to visit Grant’s parents, and found myself eating a lot more than I normally would. Luckily, walking Oscar their beloved Shar Pei stopped it from being a complete disaster for my poor ol’ waistline. More on that in another post.

In the meantime, I thought I’d plug the posting gap (I know, I know, if I was any good at scheduling posts this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m just not) with an item from my 101 Things – reading Gone With the Wind. Now, before you point out to me that one of my other challenges has been to read all my unread books before purchasing more, I need to inform you that my BFF Emma (who first introduced me to the concept of 101 Things in 1001 days, way back in 2009) very thoughtfully bought me a copy for my birthday. She is also going to help me ma... *trails off* oh, never mind! If I tell you that I’ll ruin a surprise for some friends. I’ll tell you about it next week. Hi, Em!

At 1461 pages long, this book is inconveniently addictive. Seriously. It’s dangerous. As in, you may wish to wander around in public reading it, which can cause you to walk into things, or possibly even in front of heavy machinery. It will also cause you to stay up well past your bedtime, suckered into finding out what heinous or scandalous thing Scarlett O’Hara says or does next. At least, that’s what **I** found. Others I have spoken to found it to be a complete bore and not at all their cup of tea. Mind you, none hated it with a passion, which is a start! I will possibly confirm this when I watch the movie, but it was like a chick-flick in book form. A very long chick-flick. One that won a Pulitzer Prize (the film itself won an Academy award).

My best description of GWTW is a fusion of Mills & Boon, a Jodi Piccoult novel and Wuthering Heights. I know that’s a really odd concoction, but it contains a bit of mild bodice-ripping and heavy flirtation from the vixenish Scarlett O’Hara  (with a hefty side of deviousness and manipulation); suspense, emotion and generally well-written prose; and a mean and selfish lead role in a romantic situation with someone dark and brooding.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised that I enjoyed it once I realised how alike Scarlett O’Hara was to Cathy Linton from Wuthering Heights – both are selfish and manipulative with a fiery temper and are too stupid to know what they want in life, let alone in a man. They really are quite awful people. Luckily Scarlett has some redeeming features (although not many!), and GWTW, although long, is nowhere near as heavy or tortuous as WH and I can actually read it more quickly even though it is at least four times as long. GWTW inspires more exasperated forehead-slapping when Scarlett vagues out when men say intelligent things in her classic bimbo fashion, than does WH its teeth-grindingly “are we there yet??” sensations. It seems odd that Scarlett acts like such a bimbo when she really is quite smart. I suppose she was brought up that way, because apparently being dumb helps “catch a man”. In her words, “fiddle-dee-dee!” (yes, she really uses that phrase... *cue forehead slap*).

If you’re not familiar with the story, it is the tale of a Southern belle from Georgia who grows up on a plantation (= rolling in money; a Society girl), raised to believe that she has the world at her feet, and whatever man she should choose along with it.

Two things happen in the opening pages to set the scene for the rest of the novel: 1) she falls in love with Ashley, who is engaged to his cousin (ew) Melanie, even though he loves Scarlett, and when Scarlett confronts him about this he opts to do the honourable thing and stay with Melanie. Unbeknownst to Scarlett, Rhett Butler is also in the room secretly witnessing her indecorous behaviour, and this is the beginning of their tempestuous love/hate relationship. 2) Hot on the heels of this scene comes the American Civil War.

Directly following the scene where Scarlett declares her love to Ashley, she decides to make him jealous and show him that she can have any man she wants by becoming engaged to Melanie’s brother that very afternoon. It’s a bit short-sighted because she ends up pregnant and married to a dead Confederate soldier (the first of three husbands and three children for her). She and Melanie stick together throughout the war, even though she is insanely jealous of Melanie and she drives her nuts with her niceness.

I won’t say much more about the plot, but this is not just a riches-to-rags-to-riches story. It is deeper than just a tale of the love-life of a rich white girl. The slaves from the plantation have quite a prominent role in the book, especially the house-slaves who are like family to them. It is interesting to see a different perspective on slavery and on the Klu-Klux Klan. I have no idea whether what was written is based on the true state of play following the Civil War (and I dare say that’s partly attributable to perspective), but it’s something that I’d like to do a little research into. If you’re not interested in it for its romantic aspects or for light entertainment, I would suggest reading it for that reason alone. I personally plan to start by reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin because apparently this represents the direct opposite perspective (and that has made me realise that there are actually several boxes of books that I haven’t read – all my dad’s and his siblings’ ones from childhood – but I won’t count them for the purposes of “books I haven’t read”. They’ve been a box for years and there they can stay until I’m good and danged well ready!) and is actually mentioned within the text of GWTW.

If you’re after a light, fluffy read and can handle being frustrated at the callous behaviour of a Southern belle and are also okay with your life being disrupted, I highly recommended Gone With The Wind. Although I suggest this may not apply to the male portion of the species!

* it actually rained harder in Brisbane than I have seen in a long time, with the most spectacular lightning. But it was nice and warm!


  1. I was really surprised to like this book, too. I'm not generally into 'period' novels (with some exceptions). And I'm certainly not into romance novels, or bitchy leading ladies... and yet I agree, this book really sucks you in!

    A testament to the author, I guess? It would make a really good novel for reading on a long tropical holiday.

  2. Well it did win a Pulitzer prize, so I guess you're right on the money with it being a testament to the author. But I think if I read it on a tropical holiday I'd end up horribly burnt from not paying enough attention to where the sun was!


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