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.