Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (movie too)

5 stars - loved it, have read it 4 times (so far)
1937 Pulitzer Prize

Wowee! One of my favorite books of all time. I read it as a teenager, as a young adult, as a less young adult, and once again as a middle aged adult. Amazing story, every single time. Now THIS would be a great book to foist on high school kids (if, I suppose, one could get them to actually read it).

For those few readers who might not have heard of it, the story centers around Scarlett O-Hara, daughter of a wealthy cotton plantation owner and is set before, during, and after the Civil War. I'm no fan of reading history, but I sure got plenty of it reading this book. Ms. Mitchell intertwines the details of the Civil War with several compelling character studies.

I admit to wanting to be like Scarlett O'Hara when I was growing up. Who wouldn't? She knew what she wanted and she got it! Kind of a ruthless bitch, but, oh well. But she isn't the only character in this book and Ms. Mitchell paints an in depth picture of the principals as well as some of the minors in the story. There is a character for every taste. You want noble and honorable? Ashley Wilkes. You want dutiful and strong? Melanie Wilkes. How about rough and conniving? Stick with Rhett Butler. Heck, even Mammy and Prissy and silly old Aunt Pittypat have enough written about them so that one gets the feel for why they do what they do.

That, friends, is what makes a great story for me. A story where the spectrum of human character and emotion is laid out for the reader to ponder. A story where Stuart (George Reeves of Superman fame) and Brent Tarleton are more than stick figures.

As a New Englander, I am always moved by reading a southern view of the Civil War. A pointless battle which was, as most wars are I fear, about little more than money and power.

If you have only seen the movie, there is a lot more to savor in the book. But now that I have mentioned the movie...

Gone With the Wind played several times each year at a movie revival theater in Boston and during the seventies I went in to watch every opportunity I had. So when I rented it, I was kind of juiced about enjoying it all over again. Sadly, I did not.

I am sorry to say that Gone With the Wind, the movie, just hasn't stood up well over time. It falls victim to the movie making style of 1939. The primary distraction for me was the incessant sound track of swelling violins and dramatic music which overpowered the action. I can't blame the film makers. Sound was still a relatively new thing in 1939 and to be able to supplement their scenes with beautifully scored music was no small part of what made the movie attractive to film goers. But it was too much.

The beauty of the cinematography is still there, as is the delightful casting of all the major roles. Come on, Clark Cable? Vivian Leigh? Their performances are still great. And, yes, the burning of Atlanta was cool to watch because I know that it was a real set tumbling down. The sets, the on sight panoramas, yup, all superb, but even with all that, I didn't make it much past intermission. 

My advice? Stick with the book. You won't be disappointed.


  1. I enjoyed reading your review, N...many thanks. I reluctantly admit that I've never read it - although I saw the movie years ago. Perhaps it's time to reconsider. Many thanks and good luck with your beautiful blog! Yay for Mango-Momma!

  2. I have seen the movie many times (one of the videos we owned in Saudi Arabia, and so we watched it a lot - that and Larry of the Sands (Lawrence of Arabia)... Speaking of which, you should add Seven Pillars of Wisdom to your reading list... Maybe I enjoyed it more because I had been to so many of the places he described, and GOT his whole interaction with the 'natives' not to mention his own issues...). It was only about 5-6 years ago that I decided to actually read GWTW, and wow. The book is SO MUCH BETTER than the movie. And I liked the movie. But the book was just on a whole different level of enjoyment. Ashley was so much less of a sot and more of a true gentleman in the book. Melanie was much less of an airhead. I had a lot more sympathy for Scarlett in the book than I did in the movie. In the movie she just seemed like a preening bitch; in the book she was struggling to make a life out of a catastrophe. I'll definitely re-read the book before I watch the movie again.

    -Dr. Liz, who, apparently, is not reading about how to measure the effectiveness of fluoroscopy techniques...

  3. This is in my top 3 favorite books. I read it at least once a year. I hate the movie though.

  4. GWTW is one of my four favorite books. I first read it when I was a young teen and saw Scarlett and Rhett as a romantic couple. In my later teens I reread it and Scarlett seemed like a rebel who flaunted authority. In my 20s when I was very involved with the women's movement I read it and saw Scarlett as a feminist. In my 40's I reread it and saw Scarlett as a woman who made questionable choices because of the men in her life. I think It's time to read it again. Scarlett seems to grow along with me.

  5. As a Southerner who loves history, this was one of my all-time favorite books when I was younger. First read it when I was about 12 and was swept away by the romance. Saw the movie for the first time when we moved home from Europe, when the 100th anniversary of the WBTS [War Between the States, AKA as the War of Northern Aggression down South] came 'round and it was revived in local cinema. LOVE the music! Loved the film, although the characters on film are not fully realized versions of the book characters. Re-read it in my late teens and again in my mid-20's and was increasingly more disturbed by the slavery aspects. A complex, albeit evil, relationship. Remember a trip to Charleston many years ago, visiting a museum on slavery. The usual bad stuff one expects, but also examples of some post-War ex-slaves who chose not only to stay with their former masters but who used their own meagre savings to help pay the taxes to save the master's - and the ex-slave's - home. Not sure I could ever rise to that level of forgiveness, but there was some love along with all the hate.

    An idealized version of the Old South for sure, not a history. I think what I took from it that lasted was Ashley's understandable but ultimately self-defeating yearning for an idealized past versus Scarlett's determination to face the future and do what it takes to survive.



  6. I have read the book about 400 million times, starting when I was 11 years old. I actually found at a book sale a copy from the second printing of it, and added that to the 3 other copies that lurk around my house. My idiot mother bought me the sequel when it came out, but that was a bad follow-up, and only got read once. The Mitchell family should have resisted the prospect of making more money with a second rate sequel. Now, like Sue, I'll have to pull out one of my copies of GWTW and read it again.

  7. Sounds like I will have to read this book! I've seen the movie many years ago and loved it, though I still cry when thinking about Rhett's daughter being killed by the fall from her beautiful pony. I know that most of the movies I've seen that were made from books just don't come up to the wonder of the books.

    This is the kind of book, from the sounds of it, that the Thoene's write. Their Shiloh series is one that I would highly recommend if you liked GWTW.