I have heard so much about this book and its lead characters (Scarlett O’Hara & Rhett Butler) but I am not sure why I have never made an effort to read this before now.
I am glad I finally got to it! If there are two things I would always remember about this book they are the amazing array of vivid characters and beautiful evocative descriptions of southern american countryside.
I am amazed at the boldness of the author in creating a heroine who is downright selfish, superficial and vain. But you still end up rooting for her because she is strong-willed, hard-working and so determined to succeed. You can see the influence of author’s suffragist mother in the way she creates strong influential female characters ( like Scarlett, Melanie & Mammy) in an era where women were confined to home duties and needed to be under the protection of their father or husband.
Set during the American civil war, it gives us a perspective of this piece of history from a southerner’s point of view (or the loser’s point of view). Part of this is the everyday racism that is treated in a very matter-of-fact way. It was an obvious part of life, a ‘truth’ that they didn’t question or consider anything wrong with. The author even justifies the formation and actions of KKK! With our current modern sensibilities, this feels uncomfortable and some passages are downright cringe worthy.
Yes, it’s a love story but calling it that is under selling it. More than anything it’s a story of perseverance, of courage and love of land & family. A sort of testament to the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory. When the South goes down, the only ones who survive are the ones with ‘gumption’. Those who refuse to move with the changing times and hold on to the memory of the ‘good old days’ will slowly fade away.
Overall a classic, a must read but I wouldn’t approach it with a love story frame of mind. Read it for its portrayal of an era and a way of life which is only confined to books & stories now. Read it to gain a glimpse of a southerner’s take on the civil war which has had significant impact on the world around us. Read it for the wonderful characters who are not all black or white, everyone has several shades of grey in-between.