Saturday, 13 August 2011

'Gone with the Wind' by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Synopsis: The book takes place in the south of the USA and is set in and around the American Civil War. Its heroine is Scarlett O'Hara and the book chronicles her life during these years.

This book was a total surprise! I'd had my doubts about this book before I read it. Having never seen the famous movie adaptation I had assumed it would be some throwaway Mills and Boon-ish romance novel. I was very surprised by this book then as it's an excellent piece of historical fiction and more than just a romance. I learnt loads about the American Civil War while I was reading it - a period of history that I didn't know all that much about beforehand. Mitchell obviously did her research and the book was much grittier and tougher than I thought it was going to be. It's also very gripping and compelling - despite being over 1000 pages long it never drags. It's an extremely well-written book too and I can see why it won the Pullitzer. Also, the characters are very well-written and are rich, complex and believable.

Scarlett O'Hara is a fantastic character and is far from being your typical romance heroine. She isn't very likeable at all for large portions of the book and is really more of an anti-heroine. She's spoilt, selfish, cunning, ruthless, manipulative and a pretty bad mother. There were many times when I disapproved of her selfish actions and motives. Yet she's such a strong, sassy, resourceful, brave, practical and determined woman that you really can't help but have a grudging admiration and respect for her. I also liked Rhett Butler (who gets all the best lines) and the quietly fascinating Melanie Hamilton. I've read one or two negative reviews criticising this book for its racist tone but it didn't actually bother me. Yes, it can be a little uncomfortable at times for the modern reader but it is realistic. Mitchell is just portraying the common attitudes of the time. The book would have been more offensive if she'd tried to gloss over the facts or tried to pretend that such beliefs didn't exist. You can't rewrite history. Overall: this is a brilliantly-written book with fantastic characters and a great story. I look forward to the film!

Rating: 4.5/5

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