Well I survived the slog. At points I honestly didn’t think I would get through the novel and really should have waited having just finished the five books of Martin’s epic saga, but I did and I didn’t. It took me nearly three weeks to read the novel (which, yes I know, isn’t a lot of time for some people – but it was never-ending for me), and they were three very long weeks.
Counting for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge, the Tea and Books Reading Challenge and The Classics Club, I am definitely glad I read the novel (aside from the story of course) because it puts me that much closer to my yearly goals! Technically I’ve finished the Tea and Books reading challenge (my original goal was Earl Grey Aficionado, or six books) but I upgraded last month to the Sencha Connoisseur level which is eight books.
The story itself is overwhelming when you try to take all of it into account and there’s no way you can so I’m only lightly touching on a few of the things which stood out to me.
- The hardest thing to wrap my mind around is that this is Margaret Mitchell’s first novel. Let me say that again, her FIRST NOVEL. How can you ever follow-up something as epic as this? From the packaging (a line in the bio mentions no one told her the South lost the Civil War until she found out when she was 10) to the characters (Rhett, Scarlett, Melly, Mammy, Dilcey – they go on) this is definitely one of those novels that doesn’t come around very often. I have read somewhere that her second novel, Lost Laysen, appears on many lists as one of the best novels never read because it was so overshadowed by Gone With the Wind.
- Overall I thought the characters were genuine, most of them were able to raise some sort of emotional response from me (none more so than Scarlett) and although many were pure caricatures, Mitchell wrote them in such a way that they came to life on the page. I know a lot of the critiques of this novel come from the way Mitchell wrote about the slaves and African American’s, their language and descriptions of their incompetence and naiveté, but honestly if that’s what’s going to piss you off about this novel why are you reading at all? You’ll be pissed off by any novel written from any perspective that isn’t your own. I won’t go more into it – but basically take into account what was going on in the time period and who the author is. I’m not saying I approve of slavery or the descriptions of the slaves, but without keeping perspective you’re likely to not agree with anyone.
- Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melly – UNREQUITED LOVE. Need I say more? Mitchell when asked said the novel was about survival, and it truly is, but I believe it’s even more so about star-crossed lovers and mistimed/unrequited love. Part of this has to do with maturity and circumstance. Even though I was always frustrated with Scarlett – from her childish innocence and demand for love and affection to the final pages where she realizes who she loves and why she loves them, you can’t help but root for her in the end. She’s survived and she’s pushed through and even though she has comfort and money, she’s lost love and decency.
- I didn’t mind the Civil War setting as much as I thought I would. And let’s face it the talk of magnolia’s and a slower pace of life really made me miss the South. Even though it’s been nearly 150 years and a lot has changed, some things sound incredibly similar (check the additional quotes).
I’m looking forward to the film (which I will get from the library soon). As I was reading the book only vague bits and pieces of the film were coming back to me and I apparently didn’t remember a lot of the major plot points.
Recommendation:Aside from READ IT. My major recommendation is to break it into multiple parts. The book is conveniently split into four parts and if I would’ve paid attention to this I would have read the first two parts then taken a break and read something else and then followed up with the last two parts. It is definitely worth the read, but you do have to dedicate a lot of time and attention to it to get its full value.
Opening Line: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”
Closing Line: “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” (Whited out.)
“When a Southerner took the trouble to pack a trunk and travel twenty miles for a visit, the visit was seldom of shorter duration than a month, usually much longer. Southerners were as enthusiastic visitors as they were hosts, and there was nothing unusual in relatives coming to spend the Christmas holidays and remaining until July…Visitors added excitement and variety to the slow-moving Southern life and they were always welcome.” (160)
“‘All wars are sacred,’ he said. ‘To those who have to fight the. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles…’” (230)
“A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright. Of course, she had discovered that this was not altogether true but the pleasant fiction still stuck in her mind…Why, why her mind stuttered, I believe women could manage everything in the world without men’s help—except having babies, and God knows, no woman in her right mind would have babies if she could help it.” (580)