This sweeping epic portrays life during the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a young Southern belle who has a stubborn streak a mile wide. She's in love with the wrong man, marries the wrong men, and is irredeemably selfish, but she's a survivor. Through it all, she steadfastly refuses the advances of reprobate blockade runner Rhett Butler. Their story is as timeless as it is turbulent.
I feel like the last Southern woman to read Gone With the Wind. My excuse, such as it is: I did try to read it once before, when I was way too young. I thought Scarlett was mean, Miss Melly was a wimp, and Ashley was just useless. I put it down very early on and never wanted to pick it up again. However, as the host of The Southern Literature Reading Challenge, people were shocked that I'd never read this Southern classic, my aunt perhaps most of all. She has read it multiple times and re-watches the movie religiously. She finally told me last year when we were at the Decatur Book Festival together, "How about we do a read-a-long? It's been years since I re-read it and I would love to get your reactions as you're reading it for the first time." With her
I loved it. I have an ancient old mass market paperback with the tiniest font known to man and I still plowed through. My eyes physically hurt from the strain of reading almost 1000 pages of "ant prints" as I call fonts that small, and I still could not put it down.
These characters just came to life for me. Don't ask me if I hated them or loved them because I still couldn't tell you and it's been over 6 months since I finished it. Rhett--I eventually loved him, even though there were times I wanted to smack that smirk off his face. Ashley--I didn't respect him at all. He was a weak excuse of a man. Melanie--I thought she was weak and silly at first, but she's probably the strongest character in the book in a lot of ways. She surprised me. Just when I wrote her off as hopeless, she would do something to make me change my mind. Scarlett--I was all over the place. I loathed her, I respected her. She was selfish, she was a survivor. She's a bitch, she's a forerunner of the women's movement. She is complicated. That's all I know for sure.
I have seen enough of the movie in the past to have a very good idea about the story. I was surprised when these extra kids and marriages suddenly showed up in Scarlett's life. Holy cow, she was a busy woman. Maybe I missed something, but I think they cleaned her up just a little for the movie.
Grab a copy with a readable font (I do not recommend reading until your eyes hurt), and give this a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the epic story you'll find within.
Banned: I'm having trouble tracking down exactly why Gone With the Wind has been banned or challenged. I'm finding brief references to racism, Scarlett's behavior, and offensive language. It definitely had some scenes racist scenes that made me uncomfortable, there's no denying that. But how can you write a book about this period and place in history, keep it historically accurate, and avoid the racist attitudes? You can't. I'm not excusing the behavior, but there's no changing history, much as we would like to. Instead, we must remember our history to guard from going down the dark paths again. Scarlett is a strong, single-minded woman, and we all know how that tends to go over with society in general. Heaven forbid a woman should have a mind of her own. The language? Other than the racist stuff, it's nothing that most of us would even raise an eyebrow at today.
Read an excerpt.
Read more reviews at A Literary Odyssey, A Room of One's Own, and Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books.
If you liked Gone With the Wind, you might also like Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
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