(no star rating yet)
I’ve been whining for several months to anyone who would listen about how mortified I was by the size of Gone with the Wind. I’d told my sister to buy it for me even though I hadn’t seen it before. And quite honestly, had I known back then that it’s a 1400+ pages book, I wouldn’t have bought it. Now, I can’t be happier that it happened this way because this book is my newest obsession.
I would first like to clarify that before becoming a part of the blogsphere, I had only heard brief mentions of the musical (or is it a movie?). So, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure at all what I was getting into except for the fact that it was a book that tackled a side of the Civil War. But being a book that exceeds a 1000 pages in length, of course and thankfully enough, that’s not the only thing it’s about. And because it’s such a massive book, my edition having 1,448 pages, I have decided to split up its review in two. I have reached the midpoint of the book and finished 3 parts of it, and this is what I’ll be reviewing for y’all tonight and for the Monster Review-A-Thon.
The story starts with introducing us to Scarlett O’Hara, the beauty of her town, the one that all the boys in town want to court around. And as any normal sixteen-year-old, this gets to her head, making her, in my own personal opinion, the most insufferable main character in the world. Or so things started for me anyway. The author takes her time to familiarise us with the setting, whether that’s the town or its people or their interactions with their slaves. Though I don’t always enjoy such elaborate descriptions and books that start out with what basically is a biography, something about Margaret Mitchell’s writing style made all of these details and stories about characters, whether main or side, compelling. And I think had I skipped these bits, I don’t think I would’ve connected with Scarlett as the story progressed and understood her feelings behind the way she thought about her hometown and Atlanta which she moves to later on. And when she’s returning to her town, I could feel it in the very depths of me and see it so clearly –home. And to be able to feel, to actually immerse myself in the story so profoundly has been the best entertainment I’ve had in months.
There are more characters in the book than one could possibly count, and therefore, I’ll only be able to focus on my absolute favourites, and, of course, out of obligation, Scarlett O’Hara. Let’s start with her. I spent the first 500 pages of the book despising her, rolling my eyes at her every thought and sentiment. Her selfishness and inability to widen the horizons of her thoughts, her ignorance and self-absorbed-ness, and her indomitable stubbornness… The number of faults in her personality drove me to the brink of insanity and frustration. Why, oh, why does anyone care at all for someone so insufferable? Why, of course, she is so good at pretending, therefore all those around her get to see her as a sweet, caring person, while we readers get to suffer because of her professional hypocrisy. Except for Rhett Butler; the man who saw through the multiple faces of the Southern belle.
“It’s only hypocrites like you, my dear lady, just as black at heart but trying to hide it, who become enraged when called by their right names.”
My, oh, my does Rhett Butler make me happy! He may not be the gentlest man out there, but I did enjoy every single scene he was in. The banters between him and Scarlett were probably the pinnacle of entertainment for me in this book. I loved how he called her out on her every bluff, how he steered conversations in directions that would show her true colours that she was taught to conceal. This materialistic, outcast has clearly seen too much of people and been on so many different sides of arguments that he had a clearer picture of events than most did. He knew rather than felt, and he wouldn’t have been as rejected by everyone had he not shoved his ideas at people who were so steadfastly drowned in their patriotism and raging determination to “defend their cause”. Or did they do it because they knew he was right but couldn’t help with his negativity?
And at this point, I would like to quote another character that I admire loads as well.
“We should have paid heed to cynics like Butler who knew, instead of statesmen who felt –and talked.”
The character I am quoting here is Ashley Wilkes, the man who is primarily introduced to us at the very beginning of the story as the Scarlett’s man. And this bit I’m quoting is from one of my favourite parts of this book. This is a sentence out of a beautifully crafted letter written by Ashley. A letter that Scarlett does not understand a single bit of but cherishes nonetheless. I rolled my eyes endlessly while reading her thoughts regarding this letter because while she stood there, trying to find between the lines proof of Ashley’s love for her, I felt every one of Ashely’s words. His views on war coincide with mine perfectly. And to find a literary character from the early 1900’s with political views that are congruent to mine, I couldn’t help but feel the glory of literature. But beyond this particular bit of the story, I admire Ashley because he is actually the sort of man that I would admire. Sullen, literary, but a courageous patriot when necessary.
And there is, finally, the amazing and pure down to the core, the sort of woman that is rare whether in our current days of “liberation” or those of the past during which a woman was to conceal her heightened emotions, Melanie. Even though I’m nothing like Melly, she’s my favourite kind of people in the world. It’s why my best friend is a lot like Melly. I just hope she doesn’t end up crushed the way kind-hearted people like her are. She’s one of the characters I’ll be backing till the very end.
Now, I want to discuss an essential element in this book –the war. I worry about this kind of information because I don’t know much about history, and no matter how profusely my family may discuss political issues, I seem to fail to grasp them on any level. Thankfully though, I admire the way Margaret Mitchell has gone about the topic of war here. She didn’t only babble on about it in straight out facts the way some books do, but instead she made us live it through the many characters of the book. We saw people’s different views of it, their varying levels of determination to back up the cause, and those who do not believe in it but fight for it out of obligation, those who seem to be so opposed or hardly bothered by the issue but in the final and necessary moment decide to fulfill their duties. We see the war in heated conversations, in wounds of strangers, in sadness over a long lost beloved, in ravaging fires and in stilling hunger.
And I enjoyed that immensely. It so resembles the current reality of the world, and I was so sucked in the story I could almost live it. -sighs-
There is so much to talk and I’m not sure what I should be covering…
Aside from the fact that the author describes surroundings and landscapes with marveling care, she has a wonderful way with describing people as well. She focuses on details that make it so easy to visualise the characters –even draw portraits of them if you want. Not only that, but also dresses and garments and jewelry. Really, you could draw pictures off her descriptions throughout the story.
I think things picked up for me especially when Scarlett started to change because of the harsh reality of the war surrounding her. I don’t want to spoil things for you and I still haven’t read much past this point so I will not ramble about it. But since the story does cover such a large chunk of time, we get to see the characters grow and change; we see how war could wear someone out or build them up to their full potentials. And these little, gradual changes that will probably lead to a fantastic end that I, thankfully, don’t have a clue about, are what I plan to be keeping a keen eye on as I tackle the second half of this book.
So far, it has been a most fascinating journey. I can’t believe I have read a little over 700 pages of it all in one week and still intend to put up with till the end. Me, whose largest read is a Harry Potter book! I’m beaming with self-pride and I’m so incredibly happy with how this story is going. I’m 8 books behind on my Goodreads challenge and should be hoarding smaller reads to catch up, but I can’t bring myself to part with this mesmerising story yet. My advice is, whether you’ve watched the movie/musical or whatever it is, or if you haven’t, do look up this book and DO give it a shot.
You might end up cherishing even more than I do. And then I’ll envy you for your ability to outdo me in connecting with these characters and there surroundings, but I’ll also be proud of you for having stuck all the way to the end with it all.
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