Gone With the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

Hardcover, 1996

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Description

After the Civil War sweeps away the genteel life to which she has been accustomed, Scarlett O'Hara sets about to salvage her plantation home.

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(5283 ratings; 4.3)

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Media reviews

An old fashioned, romantic narrative with no Joycean or Proustian nonsense about it, the novel is written in a methodical style which fastidious readers may find wearying. But so carefully does Author Mitchell build up her central character of Scarlett O'Hara, and her picture of the times in which that wild woman struggled, that artistic lapses seem scarcely more consequential than Scarlett's many falls from grace.
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This is beyond a doubt one of the most remarkable first novels produced by an American writer. It is also one of the best.
The historical background is the chief virtue of the book, and it is the story of the times rather than the unconvincing and somewhat absurd plot that gives Miss Mitchell's work whatever importance may be attached to it.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
It seems to be the fashion to be less than complimentary towards Gone With The Wind these days. Our social prejudices and morals have changed so much since this book was first printed, that popular opinion is often unfavourable or downright hostile. I do agree that Margaret Mitchell’s portrait of the south and slavery in general was wrong. I think she, as a strong daughter of the south in the 1930’s, definitely had rose-colored glasses on and chose not to see or write about the suffering, and dehumanizing effects that slavery created. She also chose not to write about the poorer white people, those who struggled daily to make ends meet, the farmers and shop keepers. She wrote about the richer class of people, the ones that had both the money and leisure to live a life of ease, the South as she wished it to be. These were the people that saw their world totally destroyed by the Civil War, a world that never was to come again.

But, for all it’s wrongs, Gone With The Wind still deserves it’s place of honor on my bookshelves. Scarlett O’Hara still stands head and shoulders above most other heroines and was there ever such a man as Rhett Butler? These two are still my all time favorite couple. Even the minor and supporting characters are unforgettable. The wonderful Mammy, Aunt Pittypat, Doc Meade, and the scandalous Belle Watling are just a few of the great characters to liven up the pages.

The historical detail of this book is astounding, from describing fashions, battles, or simply the morals of the day, she is accurate and paints a picture that is hard to forget. With the visuals that she provides, you are put so firmly in the picture that you feel as if you actually experienced the events first hand.

Above all this book is a great story, and Margaret Mitchell was a great storyteller. Flawed in many ways, yet still one of my all time favorite books. I wish other authors would leave it alone and stop trying to continue a story that ended just the way it should, with everything Gone With The Wind.
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LibraryThing member BrokenSpines
If I say to friends or book club people that I think Gone With the Wind is a masterpiece, invariably someone will roll their eyes and poo poo the book. Then I say, "I think Archie is the character that best illustrates how well Margaret Mitchell can create a full-drawn character from just a few paragraphs." If the next question is, "Who's Archie?" I then know this person hasn't actually read Gone With the Wind and is instead appraising the novel by the film.… (more)
LibraryThing member elbakerone
I've often heard Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With The Wind referred to as "a classic" or a "must read" book, but before reading it, I wondered if the text had become overshadowed by the iconic 1939 film. Even seeing the title on the cover causes strains of the memorable theme music (Da-DEEE-de-daaaah...) to echo in my head. Though it's been years since I've seen the movie, I wanted to approach the book with eyes that looked at Mitchell's words directly and not see Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in my mind.

The story is a familiar one, with Scarlett O'Hara as the prominent belle of the south residing in splendor at Tara, her family's plantation. Her easy-going carefree life of balls and barbecues - and her pastime of pining after Ashley Wilkes - is drastically upset by the onset of the Civil War. The epic American conflict is recounted through Scarlett's eyes and the drama of the war is paralleled with the daily struggles of the women left behind struggling to feed themselves and their families. Meanwhile, tangled webs and love triangles are set up as Ashley marries Melanie Hamilton and Scarlett weds Melanie's brother, Charles - leaving Scarlett as sister-in-law to the wife of the man she really loves. Adding to this particular drama, is the dashing figure of Rhett Butler who has an eye for Scarlett's fiery Irish personality which perfectly matches his own.

Through the days of the war, the South's surrender, and the chaos of Reconstruction, Mitchell's novel follows these expertly drawn and fully realized characters as well as a supporting cast that brings the settings and struggles alive. The writing is stirring and emotional with themes of love and loss, and the descriptions are amazingly vivid, bringing balance to an action-filled plot. Scarlett O'Hara is not always a likable heroine but even when the reader disagrees with her actions and despises her motives, there remains something admirable in her gumption and passion for life. Though the film is excellent (I admit that Gable and Leigh were expertly cast, staying true to Mitchell's descriptions) even at four hours of running length it can only scratch the surface of this amazing novel. The depth and detail ensconced in almost 900 pages of text provide a richness to the story that assures Gone With the Wind its rightful place as an American masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member dasuzuki
This book has been on my to read list for years and finally thanks to a read-along with my online book club I finally buckled down and tackled the 1000+ page behemoth. I have never seen the movie so pretty much the only thing I knew about the book was the classic line "Frankly...I don't give a damn." I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Even having just had a baby two weeks earlier and seriously lacking in sleep I had a hard time putting this book down. Scarlett was such an infuriating character that there were times I wanted to slap her silly and yet you do have to sort of admire her tenacity in getting what she wants. Scarlett's behavior towards her children was probably what I found most appalling. I felt so sorry for all of them and in particular her eldest son. She was so cruel to him and then she was surprised to find out later that he was terrified of her and preferred the company of other women.

Rhett also was a bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting him to be such a rebel and basically a jerk to everyone except Melanie. And yet he is so honest and forthright that it is a refreshing change from all the other characters who would put on a face and lie through their teeth in order to be considered "proper". My heart broke for him after the experience with his daughter towards the end and the circumstances where he delivered the famed line "I don't give a damn" was not something I had pictured in a million years.

It was also interesting to see the type of behavior that was considered proper during this time period. I found it ridiculous that people could actually believe it was better to starve and be poor than to receive people in their homes that didn't have the proper background and that people were considered peculiar if they were interested in reading or education.

The ending of the book was a shocker for me and left me wanting more. I know there was a sequel written by another author but frankly the reviews I've read have not been the greatest and I truly wonder what Margaret Mitchell would have written if she had done a sequel. If you have not read this classic I highly recommend you make the time to do so.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
**SPOILERS AHEAD**

I first read this epic novel 10 years ago and now after rereading it I appreciate it even more. It’s easy to dismiss it as a love story, but that doesn’t even cover half of the story. It begins in the days preceding the Civil War as Georgian plantation owners gather for a barbeque. We meet the O’Hara family: spitfire Scarlett and her sisters, their gentle mother Ellen and wild Irish father Gerald.

The plot unfolds as war is declared and the self-centered Scarlett realizes the man she loves, Ashley, is planning to marry someone else, Melanie. I couldn’t put the book down as we swept from marriage to death, births to destruction. It is a romance, but it is also so much more than that. It’s a history of the south and a portrait of endurance. It’s a story about surviving change. The entire Southern society comes crashing down around its people, some survive, some flourish, some die, some live in denial. It affects everyone, but each person reacts differently.

One character that stood out to me this time was Scarlett’s mother Ellen. I’d forgotten that she is only 32 at the beginning of the book. She’s has had six children, but she’s so young! After her heart was broken, she married Scarlett’s father Gerald, even though he was 28 years her senior. Ellen is the only person who Scarlett truly respects and wants to please. Even after her death, Ellen’s impact on her daughter resonates throughout the novel.

“Mother had always been just as she was, a pillar of strength, a fount of wisdom, the one person who knew the answers to everything.”

Gerald is another great character. He’s 60 at the beginning of the book, but he’s full of life. When his wife dies his spirit completely breaks. He does want what’s best for his children and he knows that Ashley would never be a good match for Scarlett. He warns her of this, that their temperaments are too different to ever be compatible, but she ignores him.

Scarlett's Men:

The men in Scarlett’s life shape her in many ways. Her first husband is the weak and naïve brother of Melanie. Scarlett marries him to spite Ashley, but their brief marriage is cut short when Charles dies after only two months. His only legacy was the son, Wade, he gave her.

Scarlett married for the second time out of necessity. She needs money to save her beloved plantation, Tara and so she marries Frank, her sister’s beau. She always refers to him as a fussy old maid, but he was stronger than he first appeared. Despite being tricked into marriage, he honors her as his wife. She bullies him and scandalizes him by purchasing and running lumber mills. It’s an unhappy pairing that is cut short by Frank’s untimely death, but not before Scarlett bears him a daughter, Ella.

Ashley is the man that she can never have, but the one she never ceases to love. She may have loved him purely at one time, but at some point it becomes more of a dream. She wants him because she can’t have him. Everyone who knows either of them understands that they would be horrible for each other, but she idolizes him in her mind and it doesn’t matter who he truly is. I was so frustrated by Ashley. In his honorable way he strings Scarlett along for years. He is weak in so many ways. Although Scarlett does some despicable things, you have to admire her tenacity and unwillingness to let circumstances defeat her.

“He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.”

I’ve saved the best for last. Rhett Butler, the scoundrel, the soldier, he is so many things throughout the book, but in every situation he is honest to a fault except for when it comes to his own heart. He and Scarlett are two peas in a pod. She continually finds herself admiring Rhett because of his practicality and she can’t help but feel physically attracted to him, but she also despises him because he’s the only man who truly knows her, sees her for what she is and still loves her.

“I wonder if anyone but me realizes what goes on in that head back of your deceptively sweet face.”

I love that the readers and Scarlett never completely know Rhett. He teases and goads, but he very rarely shows his true face. Only when he talks about his cruel prideful father and his poor mother or when he’s angry do we see his vulnerable self.

“He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate’s appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her, and Scarlett caught her breath.”

One of the things I love and admire so much about this book is the complex characters. They surprise you with their depth and their ability to change and grow. Rhett is practical to a fault, but he is also incredibly heroic, deciding to join the war when it’s almost too late to do anything. Melanie is by far my favorite character in the book. When you first meet her you think she’s a simpering fool, much of that is because we see her through Scarlett’s eyes. As we get to know her we are surprised, alongside Scarlett, to find an incredible strength of will. She is one of the kindest and strongest characters in all of literature.

“Now why didn’t I have the gumption to say that?” thought Scarlett, jealousy mixing with admiration. “How did that little rabbit ever get up spunk enough to stand up to old lady Merriweather?”

It takes a long time for Scarlett to get past her initial impression of Melly, but in addition to her unfailing loyalty and kindness, she has a strength that Scarlett admires.

“Struggling against hatred for Ashley’s wife, there surged a feeling of admiration and comradeship. She saw in a flash of clarity untouched by any petty emotion that beneath the gentle voice and the dovelike eyes of Melanie there was a thin flashing blade of unbreakable steel.”

In addition to the main characters there is a wonderful selection of supporting characters that didn’t make it into the famous film. Beatrice Tarleton owns a neighboring plantation. She has four rambunctious sons and raises horses. She loses all of her sons and horses in the war and it breaks her heart. Grandma Fontaine, another neighbor, tells Scarlett about watching her family being slaughtered by Indians and somehow surviving the experience. She is a picture of what Scarlett could become when she is old, a formidable woman. Will Benteen is a Confederate soldier nursed to health at Tara. He stays on, helping run the farm and despite his poor upbringing he becomes a helping hand to Scarlett as she tries to rebuild their lives. He knows and understands much about the family’s dynamics, but he remains silent on most issues.

One of the most interesting things about Gone with the Wind is the question of whether not Scarlett is a villain. In the classic sense she is an obvious villain. She doesn't care who she hurts while trying to reach her goal. She ruins lives with abandon, she lusts after another woman’s husband, she is a neglectful mother and a shallow creature. Yet she also protects those around her. Without her Tara would have been lost to the Yankees, Melly would have died in childbirth as Atlanta burned. She can become petty and cruel. But if every decision she made was out of selfishness she never would've stayed in Atlanta while Melly was pregnant. Even if she did that out of a misplaced the loyalty to Ashley It was still the right thing to do.

Scarlett is a fascinating character because of her contradictions. In the same way Melanie is just as fascinating. She is both weak and incredibly strong. The women are two sides of the same coin and their similarities are just as interesting as the things that separate them.

Scarlett’s great tragedy is that she never truly understands the people in her life until it’s too late. She loves a version of Ashley that doesn’t exist. She doesn’t see how much Rhett loves her and she never understands what an incredible friend she has in Melly.

“Never before had it occurred to her that she needed Melanie. But now, the truth surged in, down to her deepest recesses of her soul.

“Now she had a fumbling knowledge that, had she ever understood Ashley, she would never have loved him; had she ever understood Rhett, she would never have lost him.”

BOTTOM LINE: This beautiful novel has so many layers and is just a damn good book. It’s about the crumbling of a way of life. It’s about war and starvation. It’s about the deep bounds of friendship and the impact your parents have on your life long after they’re gone. It’s about love and the illusion of love and longing for things you can’t have. It covers so many issues and yet at its heart it’s also a love story. I know I’ll reread this book again in the future and I’m sure that the next time I’ll peel even more layers away.

“Now you are beginning to think for yourself instead of letting other think for you. That’s the beginning of wisdom.”

“They were right! Everybody was right! You aren’t a gentleman!”

“‘My dear girl,’ he said, ‘how inadequate.”

“Scarlett reigned supreme at Tara now and, like others suddenly elevated to authority, all the bullying instincts in her nature rose to the surface.

“All wars are sacred to those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight?”
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I have a friend who refuses to read the book or see the film because she considers it racist--sight unseen. And yes, there are some passages here and there that make me cringe--although really almost all of such passages are from Scarlett's point of view, accurately reflecting the mindset of her time and class.

But I know this, from the time I was a teen and first read this book, I was impressed with the feminist subtext.

One of the most moving parts of the book is when Scarlett returns home only to find her mother dead. In the days that follow Scarlett is the one that pulls her family together and saves the plantation for all of them--even as she has to drag many of them kicking and screaming because they couldn't or wouldn't adapt. Scarlett, above all, is a survivor and I love her for it. In one passage she bitterly rues how her mother didn't teach her anything she could use in this new post-war world. Then the narrative points out that her mother Ellen and Mammy were preparing Scarlett as best they could for a code that the war ended--or at least made hard to follow and yet survive.

And it's this code, under which Scarlett chaffed even before the war, which Mitchell renders so well. A world with corsets molding and shaping you not unlike the practice of footbinding among Chinese women of that century. A world where a women of a certain class dare not show an appetite. A world where you'd be socially ruined if you take a ride in the open with a man. A world where a widow has to wear black--oh, just about forever. Scarlet frets and kicks and wiggles herself out of one restriction after another in the course of the novel. And, yes, she can be vain, self-centered and cruel in her single-minded determination to get what she wants. But damn if I wasn't pulling for her every step of the way.

I'd add it's a fat book that never, ever drags for one word of its length. And is much richer than the film.
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LibraryThing member Jan.Reid
I recently downloaded the book, ‘Gone With The Wind’ to my Kindle. It’s not because I haven’t read the book – far from it! Like millions of readers world-wide, I have already savoured every page of this best-selling listed book of all time in hardback, at least twice so far. I was 6 years old when my grandmother first noticed me looking intently at her copy of ‘Gone With The Wind’ in her bookcase. And it was shortly after my grandmother passed away a few months later that the very same book was placed gently into my hands to keep (as was her request).

There have been so many book reviews about ‘Gone With The Wind’, authored by Margaret Mitchell, that I was almost tempted not to write this review. It seems somewhat pointless in repeating what has already been written countless times about this masterpiece, and the only book ever published by this author in 1936, who received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for it, in 1937. With over 30 million sales, a film, and sequel attempts by other authors in attempts to keep the ‘Gone With The Wind’ saga alive, it is a book well known, world-wide.

For those unfamiliar; set in the state of Georgia, southern United States in 1861, ‘Gone With The Wind’ is the story of the high spirited, un-conforming southern belle Scarlett O’Hara and her tumultuous struggles of the heart, with (southern gentleman) Ashley Wilkes and (charming rogue) Rhett Butler. But it is not just a romance novel; it is also a novel bathed in American history, and the story of a young woman’s determination and strength of will to save her beloved plantation home called Tara in any way possible, through times of the American Civil War and the early years of Reconstruction.

I cannot recall why I was so captivated by this book when I looked at it on my grandmother’s book shelf all those years ago (it did not have a colourful outside cover). I certainly wasn’t at an age to fully comprehend the contents of it, despite the fact that as a child growing up in the Australian bush in the 1960’s, reading was a huge part of my childhood, especially as my mother and grandmother were both teachers. However, once I read the book I realised that my grandmother would have known I would relate to Scarlett’s love of the land; her home, Tara, which she fought to protect at any cost.

My favourite excerpts:-

Gerald O’Hara (Scarlett’s father): ‘’Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.’’

"Somewhere, on the long road that wound through those four years, the girl with her sachet and dancing slippers, had slipped away, and there was left a woman with sharp green eyes, who counted pennies and turned her hands to many menial tasks, a woman to whom nothing was left from the wreckage, except the indestructible red earth on which she stood."

‘Gone With The Wind’ will appeal to readers for so many different reasons. I highly recommend it!

J M Lennox
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LibraryThing member adpaton
Gone with the Wind is one of the greatest books of all time - not because it is of outstanding literary or social merit but because it has bought pleasure to so many people and on so many levels.
Scarlett O'Hara is one of those characters who is not likeable but is admirable: ambitious, selfish and single-minded so none the less rises to every occassion while her more worthy and frail companions fold.
Those are traits she shares with Rhett Butler, one of the first bad boys in modern fiction: a scamp, a profiterr and an adventurer but, ultimately, a patriot and a loving father.
The descriptions of food and costume, manners and customs, are completely delightful and it is impossible not to sympathise with the newly widowed Scarlett, still a girl, as she fumes at being excluded from the dancing because of her status and wilts at the thought of having to wear blacks, greys, violets and dark, drab colours for years to come.
I suppose it is seriously chickfic and I have never met a [straight] man who has actually read the book: not sure if even the gay men I know have attempted it - although so few men of any persuasion read these days it is no indication of anything...
And although the novel does deal with issues of dress and romance and emotions and domesticity, the wear and the social issues caused by the fall of the south are a major theme - certainly the fall of Atlanta is very much of an action adventure, with explosions going off left, right and centre and the enemy advancing on all fronts.
Still one of the longest popular books in English, GWTW is remarkably consistant throughout and never falls off once in its more than 1000 pages: an amazing feat for its author, an untested amateur. Truely remarkable - and tremendous fun!
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LibraryThing member anterastilis
I loved it.
Melanie's character sticks out in my mind as one that, despite its destruction, maintains the spirit and ways of Antebellum South. She doesn't change like Scarlett does, betraying the principles and mores of her heritage and culture. Holding Melanie's consistency against Scarlett's constant re-invention - this is what I liked best about the book. At first I couldn't stand either of them - Melanie's such a boring ninny and Scarlett's such a bratty baby (then a psycho hose beast); but what a complex relationship they had! Melanie's devotion to her made me wince at times - I couldn't believe that she was so oblivious about the relationship between Scarlett and Ashley (such as it was), so forgiving of Scarlett's schemes and unpopular business decisions - even when it meant that she'd be turning her back on the rest of Atlanta. She valued that friendship so much...and Scarlett took it for granted, resented her, hated her, and wished her dead. Only at the end does she come forth and say how much Melanie meant to her - but I think that deep down, she knew it all along. Perhaps now I'm being a bit to forgiving.
Other aspects of the book that I liked: what a refreshingly easy long book. I was worried about taking on another long book, especially one that was written a longish time ago (and uses...ah shoot, I can't think of the word...colloquial spellings? "well ah nevah seed nuffin lak dis", etc.) but no! It was a very relaxing read. I enjoyed a nice easy read that wasn't so dense.
Rhett is such a smarmy scalawag. I laughed out loud several times - he has got some of the greatest lines ever bestowed upon a character. He is so remarkably witty - especially in the face of a 'fiddle-dee-dee' Scarlett, or a Scarlett that's trying to pull something over on him - he is an absolutely astounding romantic interest. I would never call this book a romance - but the feeling of the turbulent relationship between Rhett and Scarlett is something that I definitely see modern romance writers desperately trying to capture.
Then there's the history aspect. You don't get many books of such quality written about war from the perspective of the defeated side, especially one that spans the pre-war to post-reconstruction period. And how on earth can one casually write about the Ku Klux Klan, make some of the main characters members of it, and honestly give reasons for its existence that are so in line with this compelling book, that I felt a bit sorry for them? And sakes alive, you could not write this book today, what with all of its racial inappropriateness and language. I was fascinated by the class distinctions that not only proper white society had, but also between the house slave and the field slaves, and the poorer whites. Indeed, you couldn't write this book today. Margaret Mitchell had an incredible grip on how antebellum South society operated, and how it shifted during and after the war.
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LibraryThing member everymanmeets
Gone with the Wind is an extraordinarily difficult book to enjoy. My ability to extend sympathy across historical contexts can only stretch so far, I've learned, and as every narrative or character element in GwtW (really, almost to a one) is motivated by the South's reliance on and normalization of human slavery, I hit a pretty serious wall. Also, Mitchell's prose is... not great.
I picked up this book expecting a delicious, swoony romance with high-literary aspirations, but what I got was a meandering, repetitive slog peppered with only very occasional moments of pleasure. Plus lots of n-words.

I won't say that the book is outright bad, but for me it was six weeks of labor without the payoff of a work that's either more serious or more silly and gooey. Please do read it, but temper your expectations. Or, better yet, read an abridgment.
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LibraryThing member Kayla-Marie
I was able to read this book in just a couple of days despite its length. The dialogue in it is exactly the same as in the movie, so as I was reading, the scenes of the movie played out in my head. It was exactly like watching Gone with the Wind with closed captioning. An interesting experience that I have never had before or since.… (more)
LibraryThing member 1morechapter
This had been on my tbr list for soooooo long. My real life book club selected it for August so that gave me the push to finally read it. Actually, I listened to it on unabridged audio narrated by Linda Stephens. It was absolutely fantastic. The narration was excellent, and the story was so much more than was depicted in the movie, which I also love.

If you didn’t already know, there is so much more to Scarlett than is in the movie. More marriages, more children, and more selfishness and immaturity. At the same time, we also learn that despite her emotional immaturity, she is a very savvy business woman. In addition, I learned quite a bit about the Civil War that I didn’t know, but at the same time, also learned more about the attitudes that doomed the South to failure. What I really want to know but couldn’t really grasp from the novel or the film was how Margaret Mitchell herself actually viewed the issues facing the South in the Civil War.

All in all, this Pulitzer novel is a must read for every American. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it, but I’m very grateful that I finally did and encourage anyone and everyone to read this American masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
This novel was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I expected a romance...1000+ pages of romance, for heaven's sake!. Well, there is that aspect of it...but I found a lot to be thoughtful about, also. Not perfect, but eminently readable. As for the length, never mind; it's a quick read.

However, despite the fact that it dumbs the book down a bit, I think watching the movie is the better experience...an uncommon feeling for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member GramRock
I first read the book when I was 16 and thought Scarlett O'Hara was marvelous. I read it again when I was a new mother at 25 and saw Scarlett as a poor mother. My final read was as a retiree and loved the history and scope of the story -- sappy as it seems at times.
LibraryThing member Misfit
I would give this 10 stars if I could. I haven't read this since I was a young girl in the early 70's and should never have waited so long to read it again. The characters were exceptionally well drawn, the dialogue was brilliant, particularly between Rhett (SIGH!) and Scarlett. I swear there was sparks flying off the pages. I am going to miss the people I will have to put behind me now that the book has come to an end, Rhett (SIGH), Scarlett, Mammy, Prissy and Aunt Pitty Pat (LOL).

The author's use of prose was beautiful, all the scenes and action came alive for me. Some people seem to be offended by the racism in the book, but that's how things were back then. Sugar coating it would have ruined the story reducing it to a Harlequin romance.

This is an incredibly well written book about the death of a civilization and the struggles to survive in the new era. This is a book that should not be missed, particulary those who enjoy historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member Stewartry
What on earth am I supposed to do with this book?

On the one hand, the writing is often terrific. Some of the characters – Scarlett and Rhett, at least – are fully realized and complex, and admirable in their unlikeableness. A fictional character who isn't likeable, isn't meant to be likeable, and still ends up someone a reader is willing to spend time with – that's rare. (Wait, Scarlett, that's your sister's … never mind.) One of the in its way most chilling moments I've ever read or listened to in a while was the scene in which Scarlett manipulates Melanie into taking her side against Ashley – and, sobbing on Melanie's shoulder, peeks out at Ashley with a gleam of smug triumph through the crocodile tears. The woman is all but a sociopath.

On the other hand, not all the writing is terrific. The repetition – especially of Scarlett's triad obsessions of Tara, Ashley, and Money being hammered home (and hammered home, and hammered home – became deeply annoying. ("As God is my witness, if Scarlett has another internal monologue about Tara, Ashley, or Money, I will rage–quit.") "Scarlett heard over and over until she could have screamed..." I know the feeling.

And not all the characters are so well–drawn. Melanie has moments – her reaction to the fate of the Yankee soldier, for one – and seeing her through the filter Scarlett's loathing is fascinating. Even Ashley has some interest. I despise him heartily – which is kind of fun, in the same way that disliking Scarlett is – but he's not what I expected. He's certainly not what Scarlett thinks he is – or, if he is, that doesn't mean he's a great guy. He is an exemplar of his type… but his type is effete, weak, unprepared to deal with the real world. He is the very picture of the ivory tower aesthete. But he is a self–aware worthless twit; he saw the crash of his ivory tower coming, and he tried to be useful once it was in rubble … and failed. I could have some respect for him for the self–awareness. But – and this made me literally gasp in shock when I heard it … well, here's the quote: "…I saw my boyhood friends blown to bits and heard dying horses scream and learned the sickeningly horrible feeling of seeing men crumple up and spit blood when I shot them. But those weren't the worst things about the war, Scarlett. The worst thing about the war was the people I had to live with. I had sheltered myself from people all my life, I had carefully selected my few friends. But the war taught me I had created a world of my own with dream people in it. It taught me what people really are, but it didn't teach me how to live with them. And I'm afraid I'll never learn."

I really wanted to see him crumple up and spit blood right about then.

"Then, what do you want?"
"…Mostly to be left alone, not to be harried by people I don't like, driven to do things I don't want to do."

Damn coward.

And, of course, this is a book about a … "racist" doesn't quite cut it. I'll add modifiers. Rabidly racist? Virulently racist? Deep–dyed and unabashedly racist? All of those …About a period of time in which what is seen now as rabid, virulent, abhorrent racism was … the way things were. . I hardly need to point out again how blacks, slaves, are nearly always referred to in terms that reduce them to the level of either children or animals, literally hard to listen to for 21st century ears. GWTW was written in a time in which the wounds of Reconstruction were still healing, when there were still a small number of people living who could remember the time. Presumably through rosy hindsight. Do I want this book to be "cleaned up"? Absolutely not. That's the dilemma … I hate big swaths of this thing, but how could it be what it is without them?

It's impossible to talk about this book without acknowledging that the author's conception of slavery is ... remarkable. In her world, and apparently the world of the Antebellum South, blacks were so, so much better off being looked after by their owners, relieved of the trouble of having to figure out what to do on their own, fed and clothed and – sometimes, sort of – educated and so on by their beloved white folks. And I fully acknowledge that, bizarre as it feels to write it, I'm sure there were not a few plantations where even the least valued slave led a more comfortable and secure life than a poor free person of whatever color, where those owned did not have to fear a Simon Legree–esque owner. (Of course, they had plenty more to fear.) It's sort of along the same lines as a con in prison today gets "three hots and a cot", which is better than being on the street. On the one hand, I tend to doubt Jefferson brutalized his slaves; on the other hand, how much choice did Sally Hemings have in what happened to her? I'm thinking too about ancient Rome, where slavery was even more prevalent, and where a slave could hold a position of trust and even power. Or could be killed out of hand, of course, and the worst that would befall the killer, as long as he was the owner, might be a little public censure at overreaction. There's slavery, and then there's slavery. But it doesn't really matter how kind it is – it's still a negation of rights, of freedom, and of humanity.

Scarlett and Big Sam, characters at polar opposites of the social spectrum (every spectrum), both have the same contemptuous observation of Yankees, particularly Yankee women: they are avidly, morbidly curious about the bloodhounds used to hunt slaves, about the beatings the slaves were given. And these two examples of the highest and the lowest in the South are disgusted – because God's nightgown, they never needed to use any kind of force against the darkies! They know when they're well off, and why would they ever run away?

Slave(s) – 15
Negro – 38
N*gg*r – 22
Darky – 16
Darkies – 41

Also as in Rome, the contrast between owned and owners is painful. Also as in Rome, the contrast between owned and owners is painful. After emancipation, this is a line about the behavior of former slaves: "Dazzled by these tales, freedom became a never–ending picnic, a barbecue every day of the week, a carnival of idleness and theft and insolence." This sentence apparently carries no whiff of irony, even given the long first pre–war section of the book, when Scarlett's life – the life of every white person of distinction in the South – was a never–ending picnic, a barbecue quite a few days of the week, a carnival of idleness and ownership of other human beings and arrogance. And insolence.

"Only the Negroes had rights or redress these days. ... The South had been tilted, as by a giant, malicious hand, and those who had once ruled were now more helpless than their former slaves had ever been." – How did the narrator speak that line without bursting into flames? Yes, if this account is anything like true (or, say, within the universe of this account), the former lords of the earth were harshly treated. But ... More helpless? How clueless could the author be? However dire Scarlett's straits might become, she would never have to fear being irreversibly, unwillingly, and if necessary violently separated from Wade Hamilton by being sold up the river, or seeing him likewise. (And so much more…) Not, of course, that such an eventuality would have caused her the grief that Dulcie would have experienced had Gerald not – soft–heartedly – bought Prissy along with her. (Now, there's a point: how is Scarlett a more valid human being than Dulcie when the latter shows far more care for her child than Scarlett ever could or would? I kept forgetting Scarlett even had a son – and so did she.)

There is also, since this was an audiobook, the issue of the narration. It's mostly very good – the individual characters' voices worked beautifully, and there was little confusion. But the reader has a trick of reading some lines – such as moments relating to Scarlett being petulant or unhappy, but not all – in a voice which reminded me of nothing so much as Shirley Temple.

I'll give Ms. Mitchell this: this book makes me want to follow up with more about Reconstruction, from both sides of the Mason–Dixon line.

It's a big, sometimes sordid, sprawling soap opera. And I'm not sure I've ever seen such a fascinatingly repulsive point of view. Scarlett is an ignorant and whole–heartedly self–centered stupid little b*tch, and I have to hand it to Mitchell: she did a staggeringly impressive job of character development and historical story–telling through the Scarlett lens. (To clarify: Scarlett's character developed very little, but it is through her unique perspective that others' character and growth are charted.)

How could the South think that it would be a matter of "welp, we lost. At least we tried" and back to business as usual? And how could they think that even those who were once the very bottom rung of the social ladder wouldn't cut loose once catapulted a ways up that ladder?

I never thought I'd sit through a defense of the KKK. GWTW is one of those books one kind of feels obligated to read. So I did. I'm not sorry. But (one more time) as God is my witness, I'll never read Mitchell again.
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LibraryThing member ShavonJones
One of the first long books I ever read as a pre-teen growing up in the south. Loved it! Was absolutely convinced I was Scarlet (even though I'm Black).
LibraryThing member KimMR

The first time - and until now the only time - I read this book was in December 1975. I had just finished high school and my best friend persuaded me to read her favourite novel. Every afternoon for about three weeks I went to the local beach for a couple of hours to sunbake and read. From that first experience of reading Gone with the Wind , the novel became associated in my mind with the feeling of sunshine on my skin, the smell of the ocean, the sound of waves breaking on the sand and the sense of freedom which came from having my post-school life stretching before me. Those are the impressions that have stayed with me over the years, rather than anything about the work itself.

Coming back to the novel almost thirty-seven years later has been a very different experience and not an altogether positive one. I don’t mean that the experience has been all negative, as there are a number of aspects of the work which I like a lot. Firstly, I think Mitchell deserves praise for creating a heroine who is not a likeable character. Scarlett does have some positive qualities – she is practical and highly resilient – but throughout the novel she remains essentially unsympathetic and, well, stupid. There are few writers who would be prepared to make the central character in a romance quite so unlikeable.

Secondly, Mitchell’s account of the Civil War and in particular its affect on the civilian population feels authentic. As I read the chapters dealing with the war, I felt that Mitchell was writing about real and not just imagined experiences. Thirdly, the novel has moved beyond being just a work of fiction. At least in part because of the film adaptation, it’s an intrinsic part of American popular culture and therefore of English-language popular culture. In many ways, Gone with the Wind has become the story of the antebellum south, of the Civil War and of the Reconstruction, as well as an iconic love story.

However, on this reading, the negatives I perceived in the work had more of an effect on me than did its positive qualities. While I think that the novel is flawed in a number of ways, I’ll only deal with one of the problems I have with it in this review: the way in which Mitchell deals with racial issues.

A novel set in the south dealing with the Civil War and the Reconstruction will naturally have characters who reflect the attitudes towards slaves and slavery held by the white population at that time. Moreover, a novel written in the 1930s will reflect 1930s attitudes towards race. I don’t expect “political correctness” in relation to issues of race in a novel written before – say - the 1960s. However, regardless of whether it is realistic, the layering of 1930s-style racism over 1860s racist attitudes was, for me, disturbing and unpleasant.

Mitchell deals with race in two main ways, through the narrative and in the language used to describe the black characters. In the narrative, slave owners (and in particular the O’Hara and the Wilkes families) are depicted as caring philanthropists who treated their slaves with kindness and compassion and never abused them. “Good” slaves remain devoted to their former masters after the war and only “bad” slaves – the supposedly less intelligent field hands – pursue freedom. All “free-issue” former slaves are “trashy”, lazy, shiftless and abusive. According to Ashley Wilkes, slaves were not miserable, so there was no problem with the use of slave labour. Further, according to the narrative, the only reason for the creation of the Ku Klux Klan was to enable gallant southern men to protect their womenfolk from being sexually assaulted by former slaves. There is no acknowledgement in the narrative that the lifestyle and culture to which southerners were so attached was based upon human beings buying and selling other human beings. Nor is there any suggestion that there could possibly have been anything wrong with this as a way of life.

In relation to the use of language, black characters are described either as animals or children. For example: Mammy’s face is described as having “the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey’s face” and later as having “the sad bewilderment of an old ape”. Elsewhere in the text, Mammy’s eyes are said to see “with the directness of the savage and the child”. Pork is described as having a face “as forlorn as a lost and masterless hound”. The “lowest and most ignorant” of the former slaves are said to conduct themselves “as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do” and are described as being “like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects”. Scarlett is outraged when the dignified Uncle Peter is humiliated by Yankee women, but then reflects that these women “did not know that negroes had to be handled gently, as though they were children, directed, praised, petted, scolded”.

As I read, the language used to describe black characters kept jumping off the page. Such language was not only used to describe the perspective of white characters, it was also used as part of the narrator’s – or author’s – voice. Even if such language is entirely consistent with 1860s or 1930s attitudes towards race, I found it deeply repellent and it adversely affected my response to the work as a whole.

It may be argued that for Mitchell to have questioned the myth of slavery as a benevolent institution or to use different language to describe her black characters would have been anachronistic. However, Mitchell had no difficulty acknowledging the hypocrisy of gender relations in the south and, through the character of Scarlett, she challenged accepted standards of female behaviour. I accept that Mitchell was a product of her environment and that the attitudes towards race demonstrated in the novel are not unexpected. However, it was impossible for me to ignore the racism in the narrative: it was just too pervasive for me to overlook or accept.

Many, many readers cherish this novel. I can understand why: the grand sweep of the epic is very compelling. Mitchell created a romantic vision of the antebellum and Civil War south and she peopled the world she created with memorable characters. But I can no longer respond to the novel as an iconic romantic drama. Rather, I see it as a work with some good points but with many flaws. In some ways I wish I hadn’t re-read the novel, as its bright place in my memory has now been dimmed. On the other hand, it’s been a very interesting exercise and an experience I’ve enjoyed sharing with my friend Jemidar (and with Jeannette before she threw in the towel and with Anna until she scooted ahead!).

I’ve downgraded my rating from the four stars I gave the book when I originally added it to my GR shelves. This is a compromise between the five stars it deserves for Mitchell’s achievement in writing a story which has such an important place in American popular culture, and one star for those things about the novel which I dislike intensely.
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LibraryThing member laughingwoman6
I read this book many years ago when I was a teenager. All I really remember about this book was that I loathed Scarlett O'Hara, what a b*tch. I find it hard to say I loved the book since I couldn't stand the main character.
LibraryThing member elaine58
I've read this book ten times not necessarily because I like Scarlett and her manipulative deception, but because she is also fearless and determined. I also enjoy the historical backdrop of the Civil War era. On another note, while I realize another author in recent years "added" to the story, I've not read this book. I simply can't imagine perfecting the story and choose to leave Scarlett and her story to my imagination, the way Ms. Mitchell intended.… (more)
LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Read from July 26 to August 01, 2011

I've read GWTW twice before and I love it. But this time around I was again too distracted by lots of other books. (It was part of a readalong and I was a bad participant!)

Read in March 2008

** spoiler alert ** 03/26/08 - Books with unresolved endings usually annoy me. But not this one. The reason is simple. In my mind, it's not unresolved. Scarlett has finally grown up and Rhett has finally moved on. It took Scarlett 12 years to realize that she loved Rhett and that he loved her...she kind of deserves the brush off. In my head, they do eventually get together though. I mean, they are so perfect for each other. I can't wait to read Rhett Butler's People!

03/04/08 - Scarlett is in Atlanta, she's done with her one year of mourning, and she got out of going back to Tara for her disgraceful dancing while in mourning. I feel so bad for Scarlett...the fact that people of the pre-Civil War South thought that women should mourn for 3 years in black after the loss of a husband. Wow. And I know Scarlett comes off as selfish and vain (yes...she IS both of those things), but she's only 17! How many unselfish 17 year olds do you know? I feel like people don't give her a chance....And Melly IS one lame 18 year old. I love this book.
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LibraryThing member schmal06
You would think at 1000+ pages it would drag, but it never does. This is probably my favorite book. It really is better than the movie and that is saying a lot. I thought it might be dry or overly verbose but it was perfect. Everything a novel should be.
LibraryThing member maribou
I came to this book with an open and curious mind, and I could describe its virtues (I finished it, after all). However, the overt racism, and worse yet, nostalgia for the systematic racism of days gone by, were appalling. Every time I started to relax into the story (and there were quite a few such times), some awful piece of bigotry jarred me out of it and made me feel ashamed of having any liking for this book at all.… (more)
LibraryThing member JerryMonaco
This is a very badly written and very popular book. But worse it is a mendacious and hurtful book, a distortion of history and an inspiration for U.S. southern revanchism.

Through the popularization of Hollywood it's effect on U.S. culture has been bad in almost every way. This is a book that glorifies racism and lies about history. The greatest and most democratic period in U.S. history was the time we label "Radical Reconstruction." This time period is dealt with in a deeply racist manner that doesn't fail to glorify the night riders of various KKK-like groups. In terms of racism this book should be ranked with "Birth of a Nation" for its retrograde effects on civil rights.

But more than that, the book is badly written. About all I can say is that it is a little better written than the average romance novel and it is not as clunky, unreadable and ridiculous as Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." But there are many everyday romance novels that are more fluent and better plotted than this monstrosity.

So why was it popular? It's racism and its pseudo-feminism both struck a chord that is deep within U.S. culture. Now days the racism is hardly ever talked about, but the pseudo-feminism is lauded as if Scarlett was the first strong woman in literature.
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LibraryThing member fromthecomfychair
What did I really know about the sufferings of southerners during the Civil War and Reconstruction? Well, I surely have a different picture after reading GWTW. Although the movie is quite faithful, even in the dialogue, it's basically the story of a love triangle. It's only reading the book that you realize that a whole piece of civilization was destroyed, along with the slavery that made it possible. I'm really glad I finally read this. It was so much better than I had imagined.… (more)

Publication

Scribner (1936), 1048 pages

Original publication date

1936-06-30

Pages

1048

ISBN

068483068X / 9780684830681

Language

Original language

English
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