Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, has been a journey for me. With nearly 50 hours of audiobook time, or 1,100+ pages, it’s a behemoth. And that’s why I haven’t posted a review here lately! But it’s a fantastic behemoth, covering close to fifteen years of U.S. history through the story of one plucky woman.
That woman, Scarlett O’Hara, is a character for the ages. I loved her, while also despising her behavior. She’s a manipulator extraordinaire. But she’s also a woman just trying keep her family out of the poorhouse in an uncertain time. I admire the hell out of her. Or as she would say, I admire the Halifax out of her!
Mitchell wrote a genre busting book. It’s substantially historical fiction, with long passages chronicling the political and economic details during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. But it’s also a buddy story, featuring Scarlett and her “steel magnolia” sister-in-law Melanie.
Mitchell delves deep into classism, racism, and social commentary on the warring sides. In the guise of fiction, she explains how Southerners felt about Yankees, their former slaves, and the Confederacy. Perhaps it even informs how people from the South feel today, about 150 years later.
Somewhere in the midst of all that is the relationship of Scarlett and Captain Rhett Butler. It’s a highly unconventional romance, considering Scarlett hates Rhett for a good portion of the novel. He’s a man’s man, declaring himself unlikely to ever marry. But, in their own way, they pursue each other across the years. But, holy wow, talk about dysfunction.
Scarlett and Rhett are both master manipulators. He with sardonic wit and a penchant for truth-telling, feelings be damned. And she with her sparkling green eyes and lashes she bats all the freaking time. It’s a combustible combination, even before he helps her escape from burning Atlanta.
And then there’s Mr. Ashley Wilkes. Scarlett has loved him since childhood, despite his marriage to Melanie. Oh, the melodrama of unrequited love in the 19th century!
History tells us that feminists occurred in many times and places. And Mitchell offers us a bang-up choice in Scarlett. She’s apparently great at adding long columns of figures in her head. But, most shockingly, she’ll do so in public! She disdains the slow-witted men in her life, and feels that only she can truly support her family on Tara and in Atlanta. Her ambitions may be fine clothes, plenty of food on the table, and a fancy home, but Scarlett will work her fingers to the bone to get there. Just let any man or husband stand in her way!
Gone with the Wind was a movie favorite in my childhood home. We watched it every single time it came on TV. Every. Single. Time. We thought my handsome uncle resembled Clark Gable, who played Rhett. (See his picture above. What do you think?) But somehow, I never read the book despite its presence on our bookshelves.
I’m glad to finally check it off my to-be-read list. More than that, I’m glad I enjoyed it so much. After decades of anticipation (or perhaps avoidance!), disappointment would’ve be devastating. Mitchell writes with skill, spinning a universal tale that’s stood the test of time. She does a lot of “telling not showing,” but does it well. Her genres blend together seamlessly, and the characters have depth.
And now, I can introduce Mr. B. to the movie. Can you believe he’s never seen it?