Book Review: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

by Jenn (eating bender) on May 1, 2012

How do you write a book review about a classic like Gone with the Wind? It seemed daunting – the summary alone encompasses 1,000+ pages of plot. I was tempted to “think about it tomorrow,” as Scarlett O’Hara would say, but decided I had to gush about it while it was freshest in my mind.

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In Short

It’s difficult to encapsulate this book in a few sentences. It’s a story of peace and war, love and loss, hope and despair. More than that, it presents a chronological look at a time filled with uncertainty in America – the Civil War and Reconstruction – while also depicting the moral and psychological growth of its characters as they undergo dramatic changes to their way of life. Read this book first and foremost because it is a classic deserving of its awards and praise, but also check it out if you enjoy immersing yourself in other periods of history. Margaret Mitchell paints a vivid picture of life in the South, from belles and beaux to Yankees and Confederates and everything in between.

The Details

The story centers around the infamous protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara, chronicling her journey from a spoiled 16-year-old Southern belle in 1861 to a weathered yet determined grown woman in 1873. Of course, the significance of these years goes far beyond Scarlett’s life. Much of the book is devoted to intricate details of the South during the Civil War, from mere talk amongst townspeople to the brutality of battle when the fight reaches their own backyards. There is bloodshed and lives lost for the Cause – a way of life that Southerners (particularly in Georgia, where the story is set) held onto with a determination they were ready and willing to die for. Margaret Mitchell also does a thorough job of showcasing what life was like on the plantations before the war broke out, from barbecues and balls to the dynamic between the families and their slaves.

Beyond the war, there is rebuilding and Reconstruction. It was interesting to think about what I learned in high school textbooks versus what Margaret Mitchell writes about the South during the period – how the Yankees were viewed, the deceptive practices of Carpetbaggers and the hatred of Scalawags. These terms didn’t really present their full impact until I was reading them from Scarlett’s point of view, as well from the perspective of the other Georgia residents.

Through it all, there is a pulse of romance. The opening line of the novel may be, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful,” but as Mitchell goes onto explain, men seldom realized it. She possesses an undeniable charm that leaves most men putty in her hands. But charming though she may be, she is not always willing to conform to the standards of a “great lady” in her day. She can be coarse, brutally honest and, as you’ll see when the plot unfolds, far too smart for her own good (and I say that with sarcasm, imitating the thoughts of the people of her day). When Scarlett meets Rhett Butler, things really start to get interesting.

I could go on and on, but I’ll let you get to reading already! What I admired most about Margaret Mitchell – other than her story – was the way she developed the characters. Each one is so full of life and personality that you come to appreciate them regardless of whether you would think and act the same way they do. They share commonalities but can also be irreconcilably different. Are you a Scarlett or a Melanie? An Ashley or a Rhett? These are questions you may find yourself smiling about as you work your way through those 1,000 pages. And they are worth it.

***

Big thanks to my sister-in-law Cara for providing me with the motivation I needed to finally complete this epic – yes, epic – book. She had a feeling I would enjoy it, and I truly did. I’m looking forward to watching the movie, too. It’s already in the plans for this weekend!

Have you read Gone with the Wind (or seen the movie)? If so, what did you think?

Abrazos,

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy May 2, 2012 at 12:16 am

I just finished this book two days ago, and it is so well written. I enjoyed it immensely and am glad that you did, too! Makes me wonder what took me so long to get around to reading it. It’s now one of my favorite books.

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2 Jenn (eating bender) May 2, 2012 at 12:25 am

I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, too, Wendy! I wondered the same thing – glad we both decided to finally dive in. :) Have you seen the movie?

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3 Cara (Twinthusiast) May 2, 2012 at 8:21 am

Oh I’m so glad you liked it! This is definitely a book that sticks with you.

Great review. You’ll have fun watching the movie now, which is so good but even with four hours of footage leaves out so many characters and plot lines. Enjoy!
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4 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I’m so excited to watch it!

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5 Christina May 2, 2012 at 8:34 am

I have never had much interest in Gone with the Wind… but because of your review I think I will pick up the book. I have seen just bits and pieces of the movie when I was younger.
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6 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I would love to hear what you think if you do decide to pick it up! :)

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7 emily (a nutritionist eats) May 2, 2012 at 10:22 am

I have not read this book….and I need to.
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8 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Yes, yes you do! :)

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9 BroccoliHut May 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

I know I’ve expressed my enthusiasm for GWTW before, but just to reiterate…I love this book! I’ve read it three times now, and it just gets better each time. I really enjoy the movie too, although it’s not quite as epic as the book in my opinion. I could talk about this book forever (I’ve even written papers on it–nerd alert!), but suffice it to say that it’s one that I will love forever!
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10 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I love how much you love it! It was definitely one of those books where immediately upon finishing, I knew I would read it again someday. I know I will learn more and pick up on new details every time I do. Looking forward to the movie – they never quite compare but I’m sure it will be fun to see Scarlett and Rhett come to life! :)

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11 Melissa @TryingtoHeal May 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Ok, it’s going on my kindle…but, I think I might actually like to read this in a hard copy…

To the used book store I go!!!
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12 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Yes! I bought mine at a used bookstore, too. Love those. :)

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13 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner May 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I’m sad to say I have only seen the movie….and couldn’t even finish it. I honestly didn’t care for any of the characters; perhaps I should read the book for a better experience! Kudos for finishing an epic novel. :)
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14 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thank you! You know I definitely felt that the characters were a bit much when I started reading, but as time goes on (in the book at least) they undergo so many different situations that test them, that I grew to love them. I highly recommend trying out the book if you want to give it a second chance!

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15 Val May 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Makes me want to cook up some Southern food!
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16 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

There were so many dishes I was curious to try as I was reading!

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17 Val May 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Foods from your favorite books sounds like a fun recipe challenge to me ;)
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18 Emily May 2, 2012 at 9:44 pm

My FAVORITE!!! Watch the movie!!!
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19 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I love your enthusiasm, Emily! I can’t wait to watch it this weekend!

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20 Susan May 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Geez, sounds like I need to jump on the GWTW bandwagon! Maybe after HP… :)

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21 Jenn (eating bender) May 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Do it!! But only after we have a proper HP debriefing. And Sister, of course! I’m excited to read that after I devour Insurgent by Veronica Roth – which, by the way, I don’t think I’ve gotten you on the Divergent trilogy yet. This must change soon! Alright…after HP. :)

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22 Marie July 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I’m afraid I’m the only one in the world who didn’t care for this novel. Well-written, yes, but Scarlett O’Hara was so detestable! Perhaps I will enjoy the movie more.
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23 Jenn (eating bender) July 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm

She definitely had her moments when I was reading, too! I recommend checking out the movie, if only because it’s a classic. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

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24 Nolan February 22, 2014 at 11:19 pm

I had read a lot of James Mitchner and thought of him as the great American novelist. But this blows him away. I also love Thomas Hardy who is a poet aside from being a novelist.
This work is right up there with them. She is a genious. I have thus far read 600 pages and thoroughly enjoyed every one. Great insights in charactors and interesting plot. I too am looking forward to finally taking on the movie which I was never interested in.

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25 Kartik Purwar July 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Thank for the fantastic review you have given it surely did help me lot in my English project
and yes the 1000 page book was worth it.

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