Well I was tempted to just post a gif with someone giving a middle finger, but heck, I can do better than that. And honestly I want to explain (though I think my updates did a great job of that) of why this is from beginning to end pretty much one of the most disappointing books I have read this year.
I think at this point in time, many Americans have watched Gone With the Wind with Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable.
We all watched as Scarlett and Rhett clashed, how Rhett loved Scarlett who was too stubborn to let go of her girlhood obsession with Ashley Wilkes. We watched Atlanta burn. We saw Scarlett talking about how after all tomorrow is another day.
I saw this movie when I was around 8 or 9. And I fell in love with the clothes and sets. I really didn't get the whole Civil War thing (I was 8) and I was confused about the concept of slavery. Though I was a black female, it had not entered my head that a person could own another person. Of course as I read books and was in different grades I learned more about the Civil War. And what I learned was and still is distasteful to me.
As everyone noted when I posted updates and reviewed Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee I was flabbergasted that authors out there could have characters speaking about state's rights when it came to what caused the Civil War.
How confused and just flat out ticked off I was by characters that actively opposed blacks abilities to go to school alongside white children as a bad thing. I wondered at Harper Lee's own beliefs and how much of that bled into her work. And I find myself wondering the same thing about Margaret Mitchell.
Mitchell was born in 1900. That was 35 years after the end of the Civil War. Reconstruction was over by the late 1870s so she was born about 20 years or so at the end of that.
Growing up in Atlanta I am sure that she heard stories from her parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents about the Civil War. How the Cause was the only thing that mattered, that Yankees were scum, and how the South treated their slaves fairly and like family. And how many slaves were not happy at all about their freedom.
If you ever read Mitchell's biographies she goes into this and what her mother told her about the War and riding to see ruined plantations (I haven't read any of these, just asked a friend who is a Civil War hobbyist who has read a biography about Mitchell).
So with that coloring her perceptions you can read her beliefs loud and clear (at least I do) while reading Gone With the Wind. And there have been many many articles, books, etc. on the fact that Gone With the Wind has actually led to many people erroneously taking that book/movie and concluding that was true to what was going on with regards to the Civil War. That the South was this gentile place, where women were ladies, men were gentlemen, and the Negroes were happily singing in the fields and not at all unhappy with their lots in life. That the Yankees (and how I got tired of reading this word) came along and ruined things for the South by trying to force freedom on those that didn't want to be free. That all of the state's that seceded did so because they refused to be ground under the boot of the North.
The plot for this book is very simple. It follows the character of Scarlett O'Hara, living in Georgia, from the age of 16 to 28 years old during the Civil War and Reconstruction era in the United States. Written in the third person, we get to delve at times into other character's heads here and there, however, our main focal point is Scarlett.
At times I will say that I admired the character of Scarlett. A woman running her own business, making her own decisions, and doing accounts better than a man was definitely ahead of her times. But other than that, there was not much to like or root for with regards to this character.
Initially readers find out that Scarlett marries her first husband because she's mad that Ashley (a man she really knows not a thing about and who she has built up in her own mind) is going to marry someone she feels is beneath him. Marry in haste and repent at leisure was definitely a saying meant for her. We get to read about her very sad and short marriage which produces her first child. Afterwards we don't really get a sense besides pages here and there about what was going on at the same time. We have Scarlett continuously going from her home at Tara to Atlanta to stay with an aunt and Melanie Wilkes (Ashley's now wife) and Scarlett doing so just so could hear any word of Ashley.
At this point the word pathetic came to mind many times to me while reading about Scarlett.
And this is seriously the whole book. It is a lot of reading about Scarlett's machinations of those around her in order to stay close to Ashley. They have some conversations here and there, but man, I wanted to say wake up to her repeatedly.
Scarlett is not written very well in my opinion. Neither are a lot of other characters except for Melanie Wilkes. That was the only character that I found to be complex, to have hidden depths and strength that I was very interested in reading more about. I wish that someone had thought to write a story from her point of view. I would read that.
Scarlett is at times a femme fetale, and other times act as if she's a child. She's smart about business, but really dumb about life and what her actions could mean for her and her children. This makes no sense because we heard about her upbringing by her very rules following mother. So every time Scarlett did something, like inviting people she knew would not be accepted by polite society to her parties, her being shocked at being cut made me roll my eyes.
Rhett was a typical romantic hero. Rude, brash, but very sexual in his dealings with Scarlett. I think readers were supposed to find him charming. I did not. I think it was because even though at times he said some oddly poetic and true things, he like many of the characters tended to show their hypocrisy a few pages later when something came up that could cause them problems.
Case in point, Rhett refuses to volunteer for the Cause until Atlanta falls. Though he did serve (only 8 months) he refuses to talk about it and doesn't care what people say about him. In fact, this is how he appeals to Scarlett, by making her not care what people think and for the two of them and her children to make their own way in the world. Then Scarlett has his child, and all of a sudden he is worried about what would people think of her based on his actions. Apparently he didn't care a thing about what people thought until they had a baby though by all accounts in this book he did love and care for Scarlett's two children. There are numerous actions by Rhett that did not make me sympathize with him at all. Another action was when he took Bonnie away after he had a fight with Scarlett but left the other two children there.
I actually felt for Scarlett quite a bit because all along Rhett has been telling her that she shouldn't care what others think. When she finally takes his advice, he then acts as if everything she has done is wrong, and she needs to be totally different (though he praised her for business acumen and was quite happy with how smart she was when they first married) in order to fit in with the polite society that was happily rejecting them at the time.
There are a multitude of characters in this book that you may be pressed to keep a sheet on, since they come and go throughout the book. For me, most of the characters were cardboard cutouts. For example, the character of Ashley Wilkes was maybe an inch deep as a character. Ashley Wilkes goes on and on about things in the past, wants Scarlett, doesn't want her, does thing that call into question his manhood, and there is not much to him. I think if Mitchell wanted to make him a viable romantic hero for Scarlett there should have been more interaction with these two. And also we should have seen that he was about something. Based on the very little we get about Ashley, as a cold reader, I found him to be lacking and didn't need the character of Rhett always pointing out his flaws to Scarlett.
The writing was crude (there are a lot of slurs against several races in this book) and not in my opinion very good. I think the problem was that anytime a not learned white character spoke, the dialogue became unreadable. I started to hate it when a black character spoke at all. It would take me at least 2-3 minutes to decipher what in the world they were supposed to be saying. Same issue I had with characters like Archie speaking (he being the mountain man that hated women and Negroes) with him sounding like he had never heard the English language. This is a style I hate in books. Also there is a lot of Southerners were treated wrong by the North passages you had to get through. I had to read through how bad Reconstruction was, how without the Klu Klux clan running around poor white women were going to be accosted by angry apelike black men, how crooked the Democrats were, etc. It was just all over the place.
It also didn't help that most of this book was just plain filler. Reading about the actions of the North during the Civil War in long passages at times combined two different genres together for me that did not work well. MItchell was ultimately writing a romance novel, however, it is crammed with historical events that make the book read like a history book. I love history, but this was so boring and slowed the entire book down when the pacing should have stayed consistent.
And that to me leads me to the other problem. The flow of this book. It was all over the place. Told in five parts (and really long parts) the whole book felt overly long. Sometimes the book flowed wonderfully (when Scarlett gets back to Tara with Melanie, her baby, and her son) and then at other times you just read and read and want the end to come (when Scarlett marries Frank Marshall and starts her business) and you realize, nope, more chapters yet to come. The chapters ended on odd notes, there were multiple story climaxes and then when you do get to the end you just feel relief you stuck with it and got done with the book.
The settings of places such as Tara were actually written quite well. I could picture Tara, Twelve Oaks (the Wilkes plantation) and a few of the other plantations that were nearby Tara. However, Atlanta, the homes there, the places, none of that read real to me at all which is surprising. Mitchell crams a lot into this book, but it seemed to me, that if I had not none that Mitchell was born and raised in Atlanta, I would have assumed she had never been there. That is one thing that will drive me a bit crazy when reading a book. I want to feel as if I am at the place that the author describes. I want to imagine it in my own head. Atlanta felt like a mythical place that could not exist based on the way that Mitchell describes it.
The ending when it comes was not surprising at all. Foreshadowing is all over this book as you read it. You know what the end is going to be for Scarlett. Though a lot of people read hope into her lines of "well tomorrow is another day" while watching the movie, I would say they (Hollywood movie) interpreted that wrong. In the end, Scarlett realized how childish and futile it was saying that tomorrow is another day. That she needed to start seeing things for how they were and being a better person. One thing is true, she wants to return to Tara (where she always turns to when things go badly for her, and where she goes to get strong) which leads me as a reader to believe that once she returns she will get what she wants in the end.
All in all, I would say only read Gone With the Wind if it's on a list you have for books you want to read before you die. It did not enlighten me at all. I did not find it that great of a book, and I would not recommend it.