Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, Gone With the Wind is a well known epic of love and war.  My copy weighs in at a hefty 959 pages, which is rather remarkable when I look back at how quickly I turned the pages.

I have to say upfront that the story is too sweeping and dramatic for my taste.  It was sort of like a soap opera, Civil War style.  The characters, except for Mammy perhaps, were tiring.  Scarlett is super annoying, Rhett is grating, Ashley is weak, Melanie is naive.  Yet for all of that, I found it all surprisingly enjoyable.

What makes Gone With the Wind so striking is how quickly and [seemingly] easily it pulls you into the world of the Confederacy.  The only other time that stands out in my mind that I experienced that was with The Good Earth.  Interestingly enough, The Good Earth won the Pulitzer only a few years before Gone With the Wind.  Being very readable and yet deep and layered is a quality that I find quite impressive.

Some of my favorite quotes:
I tell you they're born queer. Look at the way they go tearing up to New York and Boston to hear operas and see oil paintings.  And ordering French and German books by the crate from the Yankees!  And there they sit reading and dreaming the dear God knows what, when they'd be better spending their time hunting and playing poker as proper men should.
Throughout the South for fifty years there would be bitter-eyed women who looked backward, to dead times, to dead men, evoking memories that hurt and were futile, bearing poverty with bitter pride because they had those memories.
He felt there was something unbecoming about a woman understanding fractions and business matters and he believed that, should a woman be so unfortunate as to have such unladylike comprehension, she should pretend not to.
A woman had no business even knowing what a mortgage was.
She was twenty-five and looked it, and so there was no longer any need for her to try to be attractive.
Live's under no obligation to give us what we expect.  We take what we get and are thankful it's no worse than it is. 
I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge: my book with a wartime setting.  It was a great experience--I'm glad to have read it--and puts me in the mood to read more about the Civil War.  What a great way to experience some history!

Title: Gone With the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Pages: 959
Published: 1996 Scribner (orig. 1936)
Read For: Back to the Classics Challenge
My Rating: 4.5 stars

13 comments:

  1. If by "grating" you mean AWESOME, then I totally agree with you. ;)

    It is sweeping, but as you say, it's also a straightforward, pretty quick read (especially considering its length).

    I read this for the first time in January, and surprised myself by how much I liked it. I wrote about the characters' fatal flaws here, if you're interested.

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  2. Haha, I have to admit that by the end I felt for him. But still, why did he have to be so stinking snarky all the time?

    I enjoyed what you wrote about it, thanks for linking. Funny that you got less of a lovey-dovey story than you thought, where it was the opposite for me. Maybe because War and Peace kept popping into my head as I was reading, and GWTW is much more girly than W&P. Still, I did enjoy it a lot--loved reading about the war, and loved how accessible it was.

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  3. I love Gone With The Wind! It's one of my true favorites. I really enjoyed the book even more than the movie - if that's possible.

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  4. It's been over 20 years since I've read GWTW, and nearly as long since I last saw the film...despite their real issues depicting race and the South in general, I'm definitely a fan of both!

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  5. I love this book and have read it many times. I really like that the characters are not perfect, but agree with Greg that Rhett is awesome, not grating :P

    Glad you enjoyed it!

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  6. I've never read it! I've seen the movie upteen times. Now that it's the 75th anniversary, I should make a point to read it. I love that the guys like Rhett!

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  7. Hi Melanie,

    I am also among this who came late to the party as far as reading GWTW goes, finally crossing it off the list last year. I read the same edition that you have pictured in your post. I enjoyed it, but it won't crack any of my favorites lists. I still have not seen the movie (hey, if I ever have four hours to spare, you can bet I'll be spending it reading rather than watching a DVD...)

    I had a GWTW coincidence moment last year too, which I blogged about (link below)

    http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/?s=James+ford+home

    -Jay

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  8. I loved it and it immediately entered my top 10. It was also the perfect book for a brave bookclub, willing to read the mammoth over the summer.

    The whole Rhett-Scarlet relationship can be infuriating, but I don't agree that Melanie is naive. She knew what Scarlett was and that she loved Ashley. She's actually incredibly strong, more than Scarlett in many way.

    The great thing about it is the discussion it still generates all these years later.

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  9. I liked this much more than I expected to. I too didn't like Scarlet but I don't think we were really meant to.

    I did really like Rhett though.

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  10. Belle, I've only seen the movie once but reading the book definitely made it really come to life and made me want to see it again. There was so much that I didn't remember seeing, so now I have to find out if that is due to my faulty memory or if it is just due to a book's capacity for depth and detail.

    Crowe, I found the depiction of the South (and slavery) intriguing...although the opinions seemed to be extremes, I liked the portrayal of how opposite two viewpoints can be. I have always felt so far removed from slavery & its after-effects, and have wondered if that's part of growing up in CA. It made me curious to read more, that's for sure!

    Sam, I think it is very re-readable. I appreciate flawed characters, but I like some redeeming qualities as well. Perhaps I would have liked Rhett more if I were attracted to the swarthy type. Or even just mustaches. ;) (how shallow is that? geez, I'm pathetic.)

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  11. Heidi, if there's one thing I discovered, it is that you shouldn't be intimidated by the size. It is very enjoyable reading. Yes, read it!

    Jay, true--the movie is a chunkster too! No small commitment for either of them. And thanks for linking about Aunt Pittypat's chairs. What a character she was!

    Alex, I don't think Melanie was naive about Scarlett's affections, and she certainly wasn't weak. But she did have an extremely hard time imagining that anyone would not desire to do the right thing, just for the sake of being good. She always thought the absolute best of everybody; I guess I equate that with a degree of naivety.

    lucybird, I don't think we were meant to like Scarlett either. In fact, it would have been a much more boring book if centered around Melanie and Ashley, who were more likable, simply because they weren't so volatile!

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  12. Absolutely my favorite book -- ever. I've read it three times and intend soon to reread! :-D

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  13. Jillian, I kept thinking of your enthusiasm for the book while reading it. :) It was pretty amazing how quickly (and seemingly easily) it transported me to the Civil War era--I can see how it could stand up to re-reads!

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