Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
WHICH comes first, the chicken or the egg? It's not so very different
from asking, what should I do first, read the book or see the
film? Although, in the latter case, there might be a solution.
If, for instance, you don't mind seeing the characters through
a director's eyes, then by all means, opt for the film. But if
you prefer your own interpretation, the book is the answer.
And so it is with Gone With The Wind, Margaret
Mitchell's epic novel, set in America's deep south, that centres
upon one of literature's most enduring heroines - the young and
outrageously spoilt, Scarlett O'Hara who, we learn on the very
first page, 'was not beautiful' although 'men seldom realized
when caught by her charm'.
In fact, men flock to Scarlett like bees to a honey pot but it's
Ashley Wilkes, 'so handsomely blond' and 'so desirable' that Scarlett
loves. But for Ashley to return Scarlett's love, it would all
be too easy. In fact, there would be no novel as such.
So instead, he marries his cousin, Melanie, a woman dismissed
by Scarlett as 'a mousy little person' - though not before she
bares her heart and soul to the young man in question. And here,
it might do well to remember that what Scarlett wants, she usually
Unfortunately, not only does she suffer the humiliation of rejection
but her outpouring is overheard by none other than the dashing
profiteer, Rhett Butler - a man who was 'dark of face, swarthy
as a pirate' and 'with eyes as bold and black as any pirate's
appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished'.
Four very different characters, whose lives become inextricably
entwined as the winds of civil war sweep aside their old and priviledged
way of life, bringing in its aftermath, a new and hateful menace
- the dreaded carpetbagger.
Gone With The Wind is written in a wonderfully descriptive
prose that transports you to the very heart of 1860's America.
The characters too, as we have already seen, leap at you from
the pages, and like the story itself, are totally convincing.
It is, though, Scarlett who stands head and shoulders above the
rest. And while it would be all too easy to dismiss her as spoilt,
selfish and manipulative, there is a vulnerability about her that
tugs at the heart strings - never more so than when she returns
to Tara after her momentous journey from war-torn Atlanta.
That doesn't mean there aren't times when you'd like to take
her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. But Scarlett
is also high-spirited and headstrong - attributes that, in a woman,
were frowned upon in the 19th century but which, ironically, are
today termed 'feisty' and generally admired by society.
Gone With The Wind is a classic of its time and unlike
traditional classics is, for the most part, easily understood.
There is, though, one exception - Scarlett's Mammy's dialogue
which is written phonetically. Yet how could it be otherwise when
she is 'shining black, pure African'.
A wonderful book, it will absorb from start to finish and, quite
possibly, leave you wanting more.