Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

The Wind Done Gone: A Novel (Hardcover)Title: The Wind Done Gone

Author: Alice Randall

Pages: 208

Source: Interlibrary loan

Rating: 4/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Today is the anniversary of my birth."

Summary (From book flap):

In a brilliant rejoinder and an inspired act of literary invention, Alice Randall explodes the world created in Margaret Mitchell's famous 1936 novel, the work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Imagine simply that the black characters peopling that world were completely different, not egregious, one-dimensional stereotypes but fully alive, complex human beings. And then imagine, quite plausibly, that at the center of this world moves an illegitimate mulatto woman, and that this woman, Cynara, Cinnamon, or Cindy -- beautiful and brown -- gets to tell her story.

Cindy is born into a world in which she is unacknowledged by her plantation-owning father and passed over by her mother in favor of her white charges. Sold off like so much used furniture, she eventually makes her way back to Atlanta to take up with a prominent white businessman, only to leave him for an aspiring politician of her own color. Moving from the Deep South to the exhilarating freedom of Reconstruction Washington, with its thriving black citizenry of statesmen, professionals, and strivers of every persuasion, Cindy experiences firsthand the promise of the new era at its dizzying peak, just before it begins to slip away.

My Two Cents:

I understood what Randall was going for in this book, I really did, but I think it could have been accomplished another way. I know the characters in Gone With the Wind were incredibly flat and simplistic. I know we never actually saw the evil side of slavery. I know, in real life, there were many illegitimate children born to slave mothers and white fathers. But the point of Gone With the Wind was not to show these things; it was to explore Scarlett and the changes to the Old South.

What I most disliked is that Randall imagined a completely different personality for Gerald O'Hara. Sure, imagining is an author's right and an author's job, but I guess I just didn't at all see the need to make him into one of those plantation owners who would have an affair with a slave and not recognize an illegitimate child. Why does he need to be seen as the worst kind of slave owner? In my mind, he doesn't. I just was not a fan of her imagining that history for Gerald.

Cynara is a fairly interesting character, but I didn't even like her. She's more well-educated than a lot of former slaves, so she's able to put pen to paper and form a solid story. She has an interesting history, and an interesting present. I just didn't like her. I can't exactly put a finger on why; I just didn't.

A lot of people really liked this book and say that the way it re-imagines the world Margaret Mitchell created is provocative, and I can see where people would like this book. It just was not a book I'd ever read again, and it was a struggle for me to finish.


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