Title: Gone With the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Source: Personal library
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."
Note: I'm not going to post a summary for this because I couldn't find one online to my liking, and any summary I would write would likely be as long as the book!
My Two Cents:
I spent so long reading this book, I've probably thought more about what I'll say about it than I have with any other review I've written.
I really enjoyed this book. A lot. I've always had a fondness for the Civil War era (I think it's all the really fancy clothes), and Mitchell did a really great job of putting the reader smack in the middle of the times, both the good and bad parts. She showed us how many Southern plantation families lived a life of luxury before the war and even well past the first battle, and how much life during all the hard times was a struggle for them. Everything was described in detail -- The land, the houses, the furniture, the clothing, the food -- and each item was an integral part in making the book as whole a picture of the South as it could be.
You can't review Gone With the Wind without talking about Scarlett O'Hara (Hamilton/Kennedy/Butler). I was so back-and-forth on whether or not I liked Scarlett. Sometimes, I loved her to death, such as when she sucked up her pain and suffering and farmed right along with the slaves because the family needed food. Other times, such as when she entered into both of her ill-advised marriages, I couldn't stand her. I guess that's the hallmark of a well-rounded, real character. We don't always like people all the time; things people do and say make us more or less fond of them depending on a lot of factors. So, while I wasn't too fond of Scarlett more than I liked her, overall I thought she was a fabulous protagonist and I really liked her character.
Now, on to Rhett Butler. If characters could pop right off the page (and if I weren't currently married -- Kidding!), I would be instantly drawn to Rhett. He's got just enough mystery surrounding him and the rumors of a salacious past to make him incredibly interesting. I knew, from the moment we first met him at the Wilkes' barbecue, that there was more to him than meets the eye. He showed little hints of his "goodness" here and there throughout the book, but it wasn't until much, much later that we see how good a heart he really has. I thought that Scarlett was horrible to treat him the way that she did (This was definitely one of those times when I didn't like her), and the ending of the book just absolutely ripped out my heart.
I also want to talk about two other characters, although there are dozens more about whom I could write. Ashley and Melanie Wilkes are about as opposite on ends of the spectrum as can be, in my mind. They're both genuinely very good people, but they are so, so different. Melanie is incredibly kind-hearted and cares a great deal about people. She loves Scarlett even though Scarlett is not generally nice to her. I adored Melanie's character and wanted to see more of her. Ashley, on the other hand, is the most boring person I could ever imagine. If people were activities, he'd be watching paint dry. Or watching professional golf. Boring to the max. I don't understand what Scarlett saw in him, but I guess it was the idea of Ashley Wilkes that she clung to, not the real man.
A lot of people talk about the negative portrayals of the African-Americans and the Northerners in the book. While I saw where a lot of the controversy comes from, I think that you can easily use the Huck Finn defense on this one: The attitudes Mitchell presents with regards to those two groups were the pervasive attitudes in the South at that time, and the views Southerners held of African-Americans and Northerners make perfect sense when viewed that way.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who likes epic stories, interesting characters and the Civil War era.