Happy review… Wednesday, bookworms! I’m so sorry was a late post. Tuesday was a hectic day and I didn’t plan well. Not only was it a full day at the office, but I got to spend a solid chunk of my evening at the dentist’s office, which is not my idea of fun… but, it was loooong overdo. Only three more visits and some minor surgery and I should be right as rain! (yippee)
Anyway, throughout the course of my day, I thought about how my schedule might affect my review. I don’t usually write these posts in advance or have them stored away in a file to just copy and paste into a blog for you. I do a most of these posts on the spot. While I have about seven books awaiting review, I felt my classics section was severely lacking. I promise that I have and still do read classic novels. I spent over a decade in school studying literature and reading mountains of stories. I still have a shelf or two of those infamous Norton Anthology texts. So, for all those timeless tale lovers out there, let’s talk about tonight’s review. After some choice juggling, I decided to pick Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
I read this book for the first time back in 2012. It is a lot of text and I spent an entire summer savoring the words on the page, or rather, all 1,037 pages. It mixed a fair amount of war, drama, romance, politics, and history all into one, so I was sold. As stated, this is a long book, so it’s quite difficult to condense it into a comprehensive, yet not long-winded review. We’ll see how that goes.
This story takes place in Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Scarlett O’Hara can’t seem to be bothered by war or politics. The spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, she can only set her sights on the dashing Ashley Wilkes. She’s been in love with Ashley from the very first, and wants nothing but to be adored and spoiled by him. However, his interest lies elsewhere.. in Melanie Hamilton.
Of course, drama ensues. Scarlett doesn’t take no for an answer, and she pursues Ashley come hell or high water.. and it does; in the form of the American Civil War. While Scarlett stomps her foot over the lack of attention paid to her during a time of crisis, she seems to overlook the man who has had his eyes on her from the very start; the infamous Rhett Butler. While she chases Ashley, Rhett chases her (in his own way). This is possibly why many consider this book to be an epic love story. I’m not sure I could completely agree. I didn’t much care for the chemistry (or lack thereof) between any of the couples from beginning to end, nor did I think the ending of the novel allowed for it to be deemed a romance.. but I digress.
From a time of war, to the reconstruction of the south , Scarlett has to adapt to her surroundings to live to see another day. Once a girl of status, she’s thrown into survival mode just to try to live through one of the most difficult times in American History. Luckily, she holds her head up, and gets to work fighting tooth and nail to make sure she comes out prosperous.
This book was and still is a hard one for me to rate. On the one hand, it’s so profound and beautifully written. Mitchell really puts readers in the middle of the old south to experience the struggle of the human condition during a time of such upheaval. However, there’s also Scarlett. How do you adore the description, depth, and sheer power of such a story while despising everything about the main character?
Scarlett is not only spoiled, she’s void of compassion, whiny, conniving, childish, spiteful, and shallow (to name a few of her traits). Her life is her status and whose arm she could be seen clinging to. When she realized she couldn’t get Ashley, she decided to take any man that would make Ashley jealous (spoiler: none of them do). Whether they died in war, or in conflicts following, Scarlett went through her fair share of spouses, and eventually honed in on Mr. Butler.
Rhett is suave, smart, and has a bad reputation among the circles in the south. He comes to Scarlett’s rescue in more ways than one, several times, but Scarlett is usually pre-occupied or too self-absorbed to take notice. Eventually, fate is on their side, and he winds up taming the shrew.
The two settle into a comfortable pattern, have a child, and become tolerable as characters until another series of tragic events strike yet again. After suffering a few losses, the couple wind up distant and spiteful towards each other rather than forming a united front. When Scarlett realizes that she truly loves Rhett, it’s too late.
My biggest problem comes at the end of the novel when Scarlett declares her infamous line, “after all, tomorrow is another day!”. It just showed me how little she changed. I wanted to encourage her growth as a character from entitled, selfish girl to a woman of humility and grace, but when she and Rhett find themselves at an impasse, she resorts to her charm on men she knew she always had. She remembers how she’s always gotten what she’s wanted, and with Rhett, it is no different. Maybe I could spin it to see how determined she really is. She said she’d never go hungry again, and she said she’d win Rhett over. However, my gut reaction to how she left me in the novel was slightly more juvenile and consisted of spoiled princess rather than determined fighter. If anyone would like to comment their thoughts on this issue, I’d gladly discuss it to get other points of view!
Overall, this classic is a classic for a reason. Unlikeable protagonist be damned. Mitchell really told a stunningly gorgeous and sad tale of a very dark time in our nation’s history. I thoroughly enjoyed how she set the scene with every single chapter and really dug deep into the lands and the people of the old south. I may not have cared for our darling Scarlett and her lack of personal growth from beginning to end (and maybe that was the point?), but she sure as hell made these 1,037 pages an entertaining and exhausting adventure.
If you haven’t read the book yet, but have it sitting on your TBR, please give it a go. It is certainly worth the journey. When you’re done, you can prepare yourself to sit for the screen version if you’ve got just over four hours to spare. It might be a long flick, but you certainly can’t bash Hollywood for that. I thought they did a solid job back in the day for sticking with what most of the book had to offer. All book-to-cinema adaptations should do the same!
I’ve left a trailer for the film below for you. I hope it either inspires you to jump into these pages, or at least gives you a lovely nostalgic feeling for when you read the book and watched the movie, yourself.