Julie McMahon is an American living in Melbourne, Australia where she drinks a inordinate amount of coffee and blogs semi-regularly at www.fivedownunder.com about her family’s adventures on the other side of the world. She becomes exceptionally uncommunicative when a good book finds its way into her hands.
I first picked up Gone with the Wind as a 13-year old. It was summertime, thank goodness, as I was to spend the better part of the next few weeks devouring the book. I may have been geographically in the Midwest that summer, but my imagination had me firmly planted in the South.
Nearly thirty years later I have reread it with adult eyes and the staying power of the book has struck me. Who could have written a better heroine than Margaret Mitchell did with Scarlett O’Hara, the belle of the Georgia countryside? Feisty, attractive and coy, she was also greedy, manipulative and selfish. Hardly a heroine worth emulating, but her adventures were well-worth following.
Set on the eve of the Civil War, Gone with the Wind follows the plight of Scarlett and those around her during the War Between the States through to the questionable era of Reconstruction. We witness Scarlett’s fall from gentility as the graceful and leisurely life she has known as a plantation owner’s daughter is destroyed by war. We watch her casual collecting of husbands as she maneuvers her way through life with a combination of flirtation and deceit. We see her unlikely alliance with Rhett Butler, a scoundrel like herself, but whose true motives remain hidden for most of the novel.
Mitchell’s talent lies not only in the theatrical storyline of Scarlett and her unparalleled manipulation of those around her, but in the vivid detailing of a graceful era shattered by war and violence. The suffering of the South at the hands of the Union Army is highlighted, providing a deeper and more colorful understanding of what has been simplistically defined as a war to end slavery.
Margaret Mitchell’s phenomenal bestseller won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the novel. It is an enthralling read, though extreme in length (the hardcover version I read at 13 was over 1,000 pages long). Ideal for anyone with a love of historical fiction, Gone with the Wind is a captivating journey into the past.
If there is any drawback to the book, the reader is left wishing for closure as the novel ends with Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship unsettled. But to quote Scarlett as she once again recognizes an issue too weighty to tackle in one day, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
What is your favorite ‘iconic’ read?
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