on 19 July 2001
'Gone With The Wind' amazed me. I thought it would be light, throwaway romantic fiction. Instead, it is a tough, believable, intelligent and completely gripping historical novel.
The characters are mesmerising, plausible and original - I expected more cliches, but having read it I have come to the conclusion that GWTW created the cliches because it is just so damn good!
I can really see why people still consider it the greatest historical novel ever written. The fact that it has survived the test of time, unlike the many books that are applauded as brilliant one year and forgotten the next, should give you some clue as to just how good this book is.
on 7 March 2003
All too often, when the book 'Gone With The Wind' is mentioned, people let out a groan of derision. Mostly these are people who have only seen the film. The film, although a wonderful classic, is a product of its times. Like many epics of that era, it is none too subtle. It also feels overly dramatic, no doubt the effect of cramming such a long story into a single film. The novel, however, is flawless. It may get written off as a romance in the same vein as Mills & Boon, but anyone who has read it will agree that is a most unfair comparison. It is a brilliantly researched historical drama, containing many finer points that are only discovered upon a second, or even third reading. The characters are so vividly drawn, and as the novel takes place over many years, there is real scope for development. Scarlett O'Hara is utterly believable as the flawed heroine, as is Rhett Butler, the cynical anti-hero. Ashley is symbolic of the civilisation 'gone with the wind'. But the most quietly fascinating character of all must be Melanie. The love story between Scarlett and Rhett is not so central a theme to the novel as survival and the struggle for independence. For a novel that contains such a broad scope of events and rich abundance of characters, Margaret Mitchell manages to keep a tight rein on both plot and pace. There are those books that make such a profound impression on our own lives that we never forget them - 'Gone With The Wind' is such a book.
on 12 May 2011
I found no difficulty in reading this 1000-page novel of the American Civil war, which I found engrossing. It is written from the southern, Confederate viewpoint, which was new to me. I saw the film as a small boy (seventy years ago!) and remembered it as a love story, with Rhett Butler as the cad. In fact, it is a realistic historical novel of the Civil War period- and Rhett has my every sympathy.
Scarlett O'Hara must be the most unattractive "heroine" in literature: she is selfish, greedy, unscrupulous, cruel and grasping- and she doesn't learn from her many mistakes. Even at the end, she is plotting to win Rhett back.
Others have commented on the racism endemic in the book. It seems to me this misses the point. It is accurately recording the racist sentiments of that time, the 1860's, not those of the 1930's, when it was written (one wonders how much more enlightened they had actually become by then?). We don't criticise Dickens or Trollope for the anti-semiticism inherant in their books, nor do we condemn Sansom for the crudity, sordidness and violence in his 16th century Shardlake novels. The function of a historical novel is to record it as it was, not as we would like it to be, nor as it would be now.
Well worth reading.
on 22 November 2004
I can not praise it enough - I find reading hard work and never tackle big books if i can help it. I friend pursuaded me to try this though and wow. I haven't eaten, drunk or been out in days...I couldn't take my nose out of it. Even better all my 'unbelieving' friends are getting it for Christmas and I know there won't be any disappointment when they start it.
This is a book with a thoroughly unlikable heroine; it is shot through with jaw dropping racism, so how can it qualify for four stars?
The simple answer is that it is fundamentally an absolutely ripping yarn. Margaret Mitchell's achievement is in creating a set of flawed characters, but then making the reader care about what happens to them. Couple engaging characters with a beautifully paced plot and it is easy to understand why Gone With The Wind is still in print and massively popular.
It is the story of selfish, determined daughter of a plantation, Scarlett O'Hara, her enduring love for neighbour Ashley Wilkes, his marriage to Melanie, who becomes Scarlett's devoted friend, and of course the love of Rhett Butler for Scarlett. The context of the story is the American south before, during and after the civil war. We see the relationships between the characters develop as they go from affluence, through degradation in defeat, and then rebuild.
Scarlett is of course the centre of the book and Mitchell skilfully plays with the reader's emotions towards her heroine. Basically she is selfish, spiteful, snobbish, racist, a hideously bad parent, an exploitative employer, but courageous and engaging. Initially we dislike her as a spoilt brat, her marriages are exasperating, we grow to admire her courage as she fights to survive during and after the war, she becomes a figure of ridicule as she joins the nouveau riche and finally her inability to understand Rhett's love is frustrating, infuriating and eventually tragic.
I have never seen the film, only heard the famous lines, and so was surprised to find that Rhett Butler, rather than being a heartless cad is in fact brutally honest with himself and is a strong and proud man brought low by his love for the unknowing Scarlett.
Despite the fantastic nature of the story, the epic background, the major flaw which cannot be ignored is the appalling racism. I was ready to be accepting and view the racism in the book as a portrayal rather than an espousal of the attitudes of the time. I'm afraid I can't maintain that line, Mitchell is too clearly and openly sympathetic to slavery. Her attitude is basically that slaves are subhuman, that the "good" ones prefer enslavement and that the institution was vindicated by the fact that the North perpetrated some unacceptable acts in abolishing it. Some of the sections after the civil war are just dreadful in their proslavery sentiment. It is almost unbelievable that this book was written and published in a democracy during the 20th Century. This is further illustrated by the toe curlingly embarrassing speech patterns Mitchell gives to the slave characters.
That the book can still have any validity despite this is a testament to the power of the story. The whole thing cracks along superbly with some brilliantly evocative scenes which will stick in the mind for a long time: the first time Scarlett dances with Rhett, the birth of Melanie's baby, the flight from Atlanta, Scarlet and Ashley in the Saw Mill and of course the final scene between Rhett and Scarlett.
In a strange way GWTW reminded me of the Lord of the Rings. It is not a great work of literature. It has some serious flaws, but it is an absolutely fabulous story, and it gave rise to a whole sub genre, while remaining superior to any of its successors.
So final thoughts.
-I highly recommend GWTW as a thundering good read, but be aware you'll need a strong stomach
-Don't be daunted by the size, the plot is well paced and it never drags
-It's not just a girly book, I'm an (ex) rugby playing bloke and I loved the story
on 22 August 2001
And that really is an accolade! GWTW has for a long time been my favourite film, and I can't deny that I thought the book would be a pale shade of the film - after all, I knew the story back to front, and this book was spread out over a mammoth 1000 pages! I was going to take 'War and Peace' on holiday with me last summer, but opted at the last minute for GWTW, simply because I fancied some light reading. I couldn't have been more mistaken! After reading the first 50 pages any preconceptions (misconceptions too, I guess) I had had about the novel had been blown away. I remained completely engrossed in it right up to the tear-jerking finale. The characterisation in the book is yet more rich than that in the film, and there are several superb extra episodes missed out in the film. I can't recommend this book highly enough. GWTW is still my favourite film, of course, but I honestly rank this book above anything else I've ever read. The fact that it was a best-seller rendered me automatically suspicious, but I am so glad I decided to read it! Historically it is accurate down to the smallest details and Mitchell winds the most tragic love story of all time into one of the most turbulent periods in American history so skilfully that it is hard to believe it is a work of fiction! A masterpiece.
on 1 April 2014
I'm all up for reading the classics. Recent reads have been A tale of two cities, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Birdsong. I was flicking through the channels one day and came across the movie Gone with the wind. Instead of watching the movie I thought I would read the book instead and boy am I glad I did. You can tell it is definately of its time as there are racist terms used and some brushing over important issues like slavery and the KKK but as a story about an antihero it's great. Scarlett is not the most likeable character but you want to know what happens to her and if a leopard can chage its spots. I'm not into romance books which I thought this one would turn into but was pleasantly surprised that its almost anti romance. I loved it so much (even though its the first book I've read over 1000 pages) I've bought one for my friends birthday. Hopefully she will love it too!
Weighing in at 1011 pages, it looks like an intimidating novel, but the story rattles along at a tremendous pace, propelled by Mitchell's efficient writing style. Most people know the core story is about Scarlett O'hara and her twelve year tussle of love over two men, one (Butler) a wealthy but unscrupulous rogue, and the other (Wilkes) a southern gentleman fallen post-war on hard times.
I approached it with some trepidation, having heard of its racial overtones and stereotypes, and political one-sidedness, but I found it to be nothing other than a thing of its time. It expresses a view, albeit a comprehensively discredited one, of benevolent slave ownership. The view of slaves as ignorant and in need of command, and of their masters as ostensibly benign owners and carers, is jarring. I can't understand how Mitchell could express just this view, when another compelling view was at hand even then. By this I mean Scarlett largely ignores the plight of slaves, and pretends that tales of the violence against them are untrue. She does confront the black-white issue in terms of the duplicity of the Yankees (who I the book wish freedom for slaves but don't actually like black people), and mentions "Uncle Tom's Cabin", but other than that, I don't find her portrayal of slaves credible.
Slavery is a constant undercurrent in the story, insofar as some of the regular characters are slaves, but the story is not really concerned with slavery. It is largely incidental to Scarlett's life, particularly the end of the status quo between black and whites in the southern states. The effects of civil war feature much more prominently, and steer much of the plot. If one accepts Scarlett's world, in which benign slave owners regard their slaves as unpaid employees, and accepts also that while such a world might have existed in Scarlett's corner of the state, the novel is a terrific read. It concerns itself with Scarlett's emotional journey from petulant girl to hardened woman, through her experiences of war and its aftermath. As events unfold, Scarlett's expectations and reactions often have dramatic influences on the outcome, often to her detriment. These events modify her views and, over the years, she hardens her attitudes and opinions to fulfil her burgeoning ambitions. This, coupled with the overarching loves of her life, make it a real page-turner. There really is something happening on every page, from its gentle beginning to tumultuous end.
At the end of it I felt I had been on a journey with Scarlett, and got to know her very well. Mitchell writes mostly through Scarlett's mind - her emotions and schemes. This so-called Bildungsroman approach to the novel works well. We often see Scarlett's expectation first, and then the conflicting reality which follows, as with her many misunderstandings with Butler and Wilkes. Mitchell never wastes a word though; she often omits scenes that other writers might think impossible to miss (such as marriages and funerals), but she does so deftly, so that the story skips along without pause.
I enjoyed it very much and I thoroughly recommend it but, by the end of it, I felt I wanted to read something that conveyed a different view of slavery, such as Alex Haley's "Roots" which, like this book, won the Pulitzer Prize.
Gone with the Wind is one of the most wonderful novels written.
Unlike the movie, where the characters are very stiff and 2-dimensional, the book boasts a set of colourful and complex characters.
Margaret Mitchell excels in painting a picture of Atlanta during the american civil war, she captivates you and takes you back there.
The novel follows the life of Scarlett O'Hara, the rather pretentious daughter of a plantation owner. Initially she has all the naive vanity of an over privileged and utterly spoilt teenager who always gets her own way.
However, through many life changing events brought on by both the war and the love for the rogue Rhett Butler, she grows and changes as a person.
One aspect I particularly like about Gone with the Wind is that it's not a tale of dramatic character transformations. Scarlett starts out as a spoilt and annoying girl, Rhett is a rogue with a air of danger about him... but Mitchell takes you on an epic journey where you learn where the nuances come from. You find out why the characters behave that way, and why they continue to remain flawed.
This is a huge book, and I've given it five stars for content. However, I feel it's important to mention that the Pan Books paperback edition is not bound well enough to cope with 1024 pages. I found that when I got to the last 100 pages or so, they started to fall out. It very disconcerting to be lying on a beach, enjoying the sunshine and enjoying this wonderful book, only to find yourself having to run around like a madwoman trying to catch the pages that you haven't yet read!
If you are purchasing this book, find the hardcover version, even if you have to get it second hand from a Amazon Marketplace.
on 13 May 2005
This book is great! Yet it does not have the line "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn!" that we're all so familiar with. Mitchell has created a truely wonderful novel, that you will enjoy from cover to cover. Neither main character has particularly good qualities (apart from them both being good looking) yet you can't help but like them. I want to be Scralett and I love Rhett Butler!