movie: Gone With the Wind (1939)

Well I finally got around to it. I think I was the last person alive who had not seen this movie; and having finally read the book just this year as part of the Great Gone With the Wind Readalong (thanks Erin!), and then being laid-up post-knee-surgery, what better time?

It’s certainly an amazing movie. The score and the cinematography were outstanding; dated, yes, but obviously classic and absolutely admirable even in late 2011. Vivien Leigh made a lovely Scarlett and Clark Gable made a perfect Rhett. If anything, I found Ashley an even more obviously weak man, and Rhett a more obviously handsome and preferable pick, onscreen. I loved the Technicolor! It was beautiful to look at. If I have some criticisms, they are only the obvious and unavoidable ones: even in an almost-four-hour movie, the format clearly doesn’t allow for the inclusion of ALL of Mitchell’s 1000 pages of details. (This is why I always struggle with movies made from books. I am attached to ALL those details.) But to be fair, the movie did a pretty wonderful job of sketching the book in broad strokes; they included just about all the important bits. And if they sometimes felt a bit rushed-together – Scarlett makes her “I’ll never be hungry again” speech immediately upon reaching Tara, giving it less power than it had in the book, after months of suffering there – this method did give the movie the same epic, sweeping, long-time-line feel that the book had. I thought it was awfully well done, considering the obvious limitations of the format. The most blatant exclusion, for me, was Scarlett’s two children from her first two marriages. But maybe this just underlines how important poor little Wade and Ella weren’t to Scarlett in the book!

love the Technicolor!

The greatest divergence from the text, and the only one that really bothered me, was Rhett’s constant declarations of love. The great drama of the book is arguably Rhett and Scarlett’s failure to connect their love for one another in time and space, their passing as two ships in the night, their missing of the opportunity to share their love. Without consulting my text, I’ll venture that Rhett never declared his love, in fact denied it, declared he’d never love Scarlett, until it was too late. This changed things somewhat in the movie and bothered me some. (This is why I mostly avoid movies made from books; they disappoint me.) But you know? It didn’t ruin it for me. This was a beautiful and enjoyable movie.

Poor Melanie’s plainness was emphasized clearly enough; she definitely had some bags under her eyes here and there. The slaves were played as fools in a way that I found faithful to Mitchell’s work, which is also to say kind of cringingly offensive to my eyes today. Rhett was a dish. Ashley was a bore. Melanie was sweet; Scarlett was impressive, powerful, beautiful and conniving; Mammy was a nag, and Ellen was grand. And before I neglect, let me also say, I thought both Tara and Atlanta were very well-done, despite receiving very little attention in the movie compared with the book. We get a few shots of Atlanta as (respectively) booming, powerful, covered in dead and dying troops, crumbling and burning, and being rebuilt, which painted Atlanta-as-character very effectively in very little screen time.

If Gone With the Wind, the book, was a masterpiece – and I say it was – Gone With the Wind, the movie, starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, was every bit a masterpiece in its own right, and surprisingly faithful to the book. I’m impressed. It was a fine way to spend a few hours. If there’s anyone else out there who hasn’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

Gone with the Wind part 5 (ch. 48-63)

Follow the Great Gone with the Wind Readalong at The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Today we discuss part 5.

So first off, head’s up: this post contains spoilers. I imagine there are still folks out there who have never read OR seen Gone With the Wind (I hadn’t!) and if that’s you, I recommend you go away (she says very sweetly) so that you can enjoy the surprises that I enjoyed as I discovered this book for the first time. Fellow discussers and readers-along, welcome.

Oh, Scarlett. Sigh. This was a painful section to read because of all the missed opportunities for happiness that she and Rhett bungled in their respective pride. It was clear to me throughout that they had tender feelings for one another, but they’re both so proud, and Scarlett is so thick, that they don’t get it together in time. For me, that was the tragedy of part 5 – yes, eclipsing even deaths.

So in this section, Scarlett and Rhett are married, and Scarlett achieves relative contentment; she finally has money and security, and has some fun with her new unscrupulous friends. Her relationship with Rhett is only partially stable, and she’s bothered by his odd attitude and the fact that she has still failed to control him, but she pushes these thoughts away. Melanie continues to be a rock, several times solidifying her role as supporter and true friend to Scarlett, who learns to grudgingly appreciate her, at least most of the time. Scarlett’s lust for Ashley seems to cool, but she’s so accustomed to pining for him that she continues to do so even as his polish fades. The birth of Bonnie sets Rhett off in a whole new direction in life; it’s odd to see him so doting and blind to the spoiled child he’s creating, but of course it’s also endearing to see his love for his daughter.

What did you think of Melanie not believing in Scarlett and Ashley’s unfaithfulness? Is she showing again her admirable strength, or is she a fool for her naivete and blindness? I do feel a hint of the latter; but on the whole I agree with Rhett and (as far as I can tell) Mitchell, that she behaves heroically. Once she decides that a person is her beloved friend and deserving of her support, this woman holds on, doesn’t she? I think Scarlett respects her, too, somewhere deep down. I really liked the maturity that finally came out as a result of the “hair shirt of shame”:

With one of the few adult emotions Scarlett had ever had, she realized that to unburden her own tortured heart would be the purest selfishness. She would be ridding herself of her burden and laying it on the heart of an innocent and trusting person. She owed Melanie a debt for her championship and that debt could only be paid with silence.

Finally, here’s Scarlett showing some personal growth! And no great surprise that it comes through Melanie.

I marveled a bit at a society so deeply concerned with gossip that apparently no one thought to say… “Look, Melanie, I don’t care if Ashley boinked Scarlett or not. I like you and I like India and I’m just going to be neutral on the bedroom concerns; is that okay?” I feel like Melanie might have been open to that kind of frank dismissal of her private business; really that might be her first preference: to have people consider her marriage a private matter and butt out. This is a modern angle, I guess, but as a modern woman it’s the first reaction that comes to my mind, if I were an outer-circle acquaintance of the parties involved.

The end-of-book tragedies that destroy Scarlett’s world all over again fell a little short for me. Bonnie was gorgeously cute, but also spoiled and obnoxious. She wasn’t developed much beyond her role as Rhett’s plaything, his doll, and at best, his new lease on life; I was excited for him in that last aspect, but as a character Bonnie didn’t hold great value for me. I think I felt her death coming on, and when it happened it didn’t move me as deeply as I think it was supposed to. Scarlett grieves, but again not profoundly; she’s never cared that much for her children, and if Bonnie was her most loved, that still wasn’t saying much. Her love was heavily tainted with jealousy, too. I felt that Bonnie’s death was a plot device: things had to fall apart again, and she was the object on which all of Rhett’s energies had focused, and around which Scarlett’s world had begun to revolve, so she fell. But it struck me as a clinical move made by Mitchell, rather than the wrenching death of a child that might have twisted my heart. It fell flat.

Melanie’s death, now, got to me much more – Melanie having been such a strong character who I’d come to love and admire. Although she had her flaws right til the end, too: a blind love for Ashley in all his flaws and a refusal to see Scarlett’s duplicity, which was part of her virtue but also earns some disrespect. It was heart-wrenching that she died, yes. But Scarlett immediately then began her triple revelations, and I lost patience. She loves Melanie! Melanie was a real friend! Ashley is boring! Rhett is a) wonderful, b) just like Scarlett, c) loves her and d) gasp, she loves him too! The reader, of course, knew all these things 100’s of pages ago, so her dramatic realizations and emotional flailings just exasperated me. It’s a shame, really, because this book had me firmly in its grasp for the bulk of it. But in the end I think I lost patience.

I spent the book rooting for Scarlett. I identified with her in her worst moments, and refused to pass judgment. But she let me down by not meeting reality when she most needed to, and for coming around when it was just too late, and then for being so dramatic about it at the end. Rhett became more and more sympathetic, admirable, and crush-worthy as the book went on; but he, too, failed to step up when it most mattered. While I accept his argument that Scarlett valued what she didn’t have, I think he was a bit late in letting her see his love; I think he might have won her with a little tenderness. But maybe he was right and her “love” for Ashley needed to run its course. The ending was certainly tragic – two people destined to be together missing one another like ships in the night. But it may have gone on just a bit too long to hold my interest.

On another note – what do you make of that night that Scarlett and Rhett shared in chapter 54? I know that it is understood as a rape scene by some, but I’m not sure I buy it, for this reason: she enjoyed it, and women don’t enjoy being raped. Clearly it was rough and passionate and she wasn’t sure what to make of it; but she enjoyed it, both in the moment and in thinking about it again the next morning. She blushes, thinking that a “lady” doesn’t enjoy such things (i.e. rough sex). But I think rape is a stretch. What do you think? It seemed like the stark honesty of that night, if nothing else, offered the couple one of those chances to share their feelings for one another and seek happiness, but of course they missed the chance when he dashed off the next morning.

So to wrap up here: I loved this book very much. It’s a page-turner. It has heroes, villains, real human characters, war, love, death, and perseverance. It had me completely wrapped up in its pages – I sat by the pool in Key West and trembled with Scarlett and Melanie on that bumpy ride out of Atlanta with the world burning around us. A hell of a great book, although with some real issues regarding racial sensitivity. But the ending fell a little short for me; the tragedies felt a little manufactured, Scarlett’s pain was a little protracted and tiresome, and I was disappointed that her tortured romance with Rhett didn’t have the least final redemption. I thought we’d earned some, but clearly I was wrong. On the other hand, I did appreciate the note of hope or at least the note of uncertainty it ends with. Where is Scarlett headed next?

Finally, thank you so much Erin for finally getting me to open these pages. It was well worth it. Thanks also to my fellow readers-along; it’s been fun to have someone to share with and to see our different reactions. I’m betting some of you found the ending much more satisfying than I did, and I look forward to hearing your reasons.

Great Gone With the Wind Readalong, part 4

Just a reminder, folks: today Part 4 of our Readalong is up for discussion at The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Please do stop by!

Gone with the Wind part 4 (ch. 31-47)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Follow the Great Gone with the Wind Readalong at The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Today we discuss part 4. [Edit: tomorrow the discussion will continue at the HB blog. Please check back!]

Part 4 of Gone With the Wind brings more troubles Scarlett’s way. Good old Will – whom we couldn’t have lived without – brings her the latest bad news: the new powers of the South are trying to take Tara from the O’Haras by taxing them beyond their means. That is, former overseers, Yankees, carpetbaggers, and the social class that Scarlett used to turn her nose up at. Scarlett is visited by the Slattery girl who she feels killed her mother (Emmie Slattery had typhoid, and Ellen went to nurse her, caught it, and died); her new (former overseer) husband intends to buy Tara. This is one of the greater threats that Scarlett has encountered to date. As Gerald, her Irish father, predicted, Scarlett is finally learning to value the land as much he did.

In her distress, Scarlett runs to Ashley’s side, and begs him to run away with her. She again forces a confession of love from him, and a passionate kiss, but again he balks at leaving Melanie and baby Beau. He’s not brave enough to go with her, and/or, he’s too honorable. My personal reaction is impatience with the concept of honor and bravery over practicality; but this is not conceptual honor we’re talking about here. Ashley has a very real wife and baby who very truly need him, and his love for Scarlett is irrelevant. If he didn’t have the desire (or courage) to marry her in the first place, well, it’s too late now. I think he’s right about that, even though he is sort of pathetically spineless. Sorry, all of you who think Ashley is dreamy; I have trouble respecting his wishy-washiness. At least he knows it, though…

Scarlett’s next move, in desperation, is to dress herself up and throw herself at Rhett Butler’s feet. It’s a ploy that almost works, even though she has to play it in the jailhouse, as Rhett has been arrested for stealing the Confederate treasury. But he rejects her, and she grasps at a straw: her younger sister’s lifelong suitor, Frank Kennedy, is powerless under her charms and marries her when she bats an eye. He turns out to have less money than she expected, though (I’m reminded of Moll Flanders…), and she turns an entrepreneurial hand.

If you’ve been following along at all, it won’t surprise you that Scarlett turns out to be a damn fine businesswoman. She can be ruthless with her competition, dishonest, manipulative, and not shy to use her “charms” to attract business; she has a good head for numbers, and coldly acts in the best interests of those numbers. She’s cleaning up, but also struggling with labor issues. Freed slaves? Irishmen? Prison convicts? All the while, Frank is steaming at home over his wife’s headstrong behavior, which brings disrespect upon him in those oh-so-respectable circles Atlanta society is struggling to rebuild. Scarlett has another baby. Her father dies. She is sending money to Tara, now that she’s doing well, and she has succeeded in saving the farm… Will marries Suellen, even though it was Carreen that he loved, all to save the farm. But oh, the irony, that she’s saved Tara only to be kept away from it by her work in Atlanta.

After Gerald’s death, Scarlett connives to bring Ashley to Atlanta, to work for her. Melanie enters Scarlett’s social circle again, and they live in tense harmony in two houses back-to-back. Rhett Butler turns back up, and he and Scarlett play their usual game: Butler lent Scarlett money after he got out of jail (not even requiring that she prostitute herself, how generous) and now points out that she has broken the conditions of the loan by employing and therefore “helping” Ashley. There is some question about where Frank goes late at night.

And now comes the crescendo. Part 4 builds to one horrifying sequence of events. Scarlett has taken to traveling alone, at night, through the bad part of town, and one night is attacked by two men (one black, one white) who try to rape her. Big Sam (remember him? the head field hand from Tara) rescues her. The men back home, meaning Ashley and Frank, take off and leave Scarlett with Melanie, which she takes as an affront. But it turns out the truth is worse: they are secretly members of the Ku Klux Klan, and have set out to kill her attackers. The Yankee soldiers interrogate the women looking for the Klansmen, and Rhett is the hero of the day: he constructs an elaborate scene of fiction in which the men have been out at a whorehouse all night long. They have killed Scarlett’s attackers, and they get away with it (although at the price of publicly declaring the whoring, which is disrespectful to the wives, Melanie included). But Frank has been killed.

This is where I begin to be really conflicted. On the one hand: Scarlett has been attacked. Two men try to rape her. Her tribal menfolk set out to avenge this attack. I’m emotionally behind them at this point, even though it’s outside the realm of law-and-justice which I do believe in. This part doesn’t read as particularly racist; the two attackers represent both races and apparently receive an equal fate, based on being rapists, not being black or white. But, this is the KKK doing the work. Emotionally, as a reader who’s come to love and cheer for (even in my moments of exasperation) Melanie, Ashley, Scarlett, and Rhett, I’m pleased when they get away with murder, literally. But wait! The Ku Klux Klan killing people in the middle of the night, without benefit of trial, and getting away with it? This is most certainly NOT something that I stand behind.

I think I see what Mitchell is doing here. She has painted these upstanding, moral, white Southern gentlemen, who feel the need to go out and protect their women from rape and abuse. Again, this is easy to get behind. But then she sort of gently blurs these positive portrayals in with the Klan. And I know very different things about the Klan, and I don’t get behind them. This is some kind of propaganda. Shame on you, MM, for making me sympathize. Midnight lynchings = bad.

Here’s another difficult concept from the same passage: Scarlett blames herself, and the town mostly seems to blame Scarlett, for Frank’s death. She was out late at night, alone, in the bad part of town, and she was the victim of an attempted rape, thereby forcing him to go out shooting strangers in the dark, which not surprisingly got him killed. She killed him! She asked for it, and she got what she asked for! And then he died! Her fault!

UGH! The concept of a women ever “asking for” rape or attack is disgusting, and I hope no intelligent person subscribes to it (although I fear that some people still do). And no less, Atlanta’s theory supposes that not only did Scarlett bring rape upon herself, but that she left Frank no choice but to go out on midnight rides for justice, thereby putting himself in harm’s way. I don’t think this follows any better than the asking-for-it theory. Scarlett didn’t want Frank out running after rapists in the dark; we can see very clearly that what she wants most is for him to stay home and comfort her, and make her feel safe with his presence.

So, I had some difficulties with this sequence. I look forward to your responses, too.

But, okay, to get back to the story: the newly widowed Scarlett finally receives the proposition that I, for one, have been waiting for for oh, almost 800 pages. Rhett Butler is in the right position to catch her between husbands (as he says), and they come to an agreement: love is not necessarily present, but they can live happily together, and Scarlett will keep Tara and want for nothing. She will have as big a diamond ring as she pleases. All of this does come true; but, what’s this? Rhett seems to regret his ruling against love as part of the equation. I am holding out hope for some real honest-to-goodness romance at some point in this book…

But as part 4 closes, there’s another question hanging in the air, too. We’ve met Belle Watling a few times, and she’s a decidedly sympathetic character. The madam whose house cleared Ashley et al of murder, and who donated money anonymously to help the Confederate soldiers during the war, and who apparently is supported in part by Rhett Butler, has a child away at school somewhere: a son. And Rhett tells Scarlett he has a child away at school in New Orleans: his ward. Now, I see the foreshadowing. These two children are one, but who is the father of Rhett’s ward in New Orleans?

Part 4 ends with Rhett and Scarlett honeymooning in that very place, so I expect to find out soon. I hope for happiness, prosperity, a quiet settling down. I hope for love and romance, and an answer to my questions about the boy. I feel pretty certain I won’t get them all, though; this book is far too much about heartache and reality to give me all these happy endings. What’s next for Scarlett?

And how did YOU react to the Klan? And come on, y’all, a woman never “asks for” rape.

Gone with the Wind part 3 (ch. 17-30)

Follow the Great Gone with the Wind Readalong at The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Today we discuss part 3.

I’m quite late on this one, as noted before vacation – I hadn’t actually read this part before we set out, so it’s posting after my return. Ho-hum. I should be on track for the last two readings: part 4 on Sept. 26, and part 5 on Oct. 17. For now, you can go check out the discussion of part 3 at the Heroine’s Bookshelf, here. As as aside, Erin at HB is doing a fabulous job of leading these discussions! Not only does she summarize chapters, but she also gives us links for further reading on any number of historical facets of this amazing book.

So. I’m still just devouring GWTW; it’s an epic with momentum, emotional impact, and plenty to think about. It’s entertaining, heart-wrenching, and instructive.

These fourteen chapters are fast-paced and stomach-churning. Scarlett is living in Atlanta as the Civil War really ramps up; casualties increase, and the fervently loyal Southerners begin to face the fact that they can’t win this war. Social niceties that Scarlett (and Melly, and Pitty, and everyone) thought could be relied upon fall apart. Scarlett ends up undertaking some incredible challenges, simply out of necessity: she safely delivers Melanie’s (and Ashley’s) baby, and then grits her teeth and grinds her way home through dangerous, contested territory towards Tara. She enlists Rhett Butler’s help in doing this, but he abandons her – near Tara, but not close enough for safety.

When she gets home, she learns that her beloved mother has died, her two sisters are ill and no more tolerable to her than ever, her father Gerald is no longer a rock but rendered a pathetic simpleton by his wife’s death. Everything falls on Scarlett’s shoulders and, again, necessity births greater strength and skill than she would have thought possible.

I never liked Scarlett, in the sense that I would have wanted to be her best friend; but I always respected her, greatly in fact. Conniving, manipulative, and nasty? Yes. But determined? Oh, yes. And now I respect her more than ever; she’s really pulled it together. She’s my kind of woman, in a way: she doesn’t waste too much time whining, not when it really comes down to it. She rolls up her sleeves, picks her own cotton, earns blisters and calluses and loses weight and saves the farm, when her sisters are ready to roll over and die rather than stand up straight. I respect her immensely.

But I’m also concerned for the vision that Scarlett, and everyone around her, has of some reborn Southland. It’s just not going to happen. (Says I, with the benefit of lots of hindsight!) It’s never going to be the same again. And then Ashley comes home… finally… and Scarlett is still wasting her time pining over him. Just like the reincarnated South she dreams of, her perfect life with Ashley is impossible. I’m frustrated at her slowing down her own progress by mooning over impossibilities.

In response to some of Erin’s discussion points:

The descriptions of war are grotesque and well-done; I can really see and feel and smell the horrors. But I guess I failed to be entirely shocked, if only because this is the reputation of the Civil War in our time. Perhaps Mitchell’s contemporary audience was less clear on this point? I think we all learned in school at least about the idea of the Civil War as awful. But she certainly evokes it viscerally here.

Prissy is a deplorable character – as is Mammy, I must add. I have little patience with the way these slaves are depicted. It’s so obviously stereotyping, using set parts, simplifying these black slave who were – hello!! – real people, like every other population on earth made up of smart, dumb, hard-working, lazy, creative, dull, kind and evil people. My greatest difficulty with this book so far is in the portrayals of the slaves. Does Prissy drive me crazy? Yes. And there’s every chance that somewhere, one specific slave girl had all these characteristics that Prissy does; but it’s just too easy to paint them all with the same brush, and that I do not buy. Mammy’s relief and pride at still belonging to a good family is disgusting, coming from Mitchell’s pen. Pork’s pridefulness on being a “house n*gger” is offensive, to my modern eyes.

Rhett Butler… oh, my. I was at least as disappointed as Scarlett when he proposed, not marriage, but prostitution! (And I wonder if she would really have turned him down, as she planned to, if it had in fact been the former?) I think he’s rather wonderful, and I also think that he and Scarlett are two peas in a pod; she’s self-delusive if she doesn’t see how alike they are. It’s funny, because what she hates in him is what carries her through her own life, too.

The momentum of this section of the book is amazing. I couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait to discuss part 4 with everyone! But some of the portrayals of the south, and of the slaves, are getting a little uncomfortable. What’s next?

Gone with the Wind part 2 (ch. 8-16)

Follow the Great Gone with the Wind Readalong at The Heroine’s Bookshelf. Today we discuss part 2.

I continue to be very impressed. Mitchell is positively painterly in her descriptions of people and places. I love the people, and the clothing, the best. I’m not usually all that interested in clothes but the finery of Atlanta’s Civil War era society scene is awfully colorful, elaborate, and foreign to me. This second part of the book has closed in a little bit, I feel, to relatively few characters: Scarlett, Melanie, Miss Pittypat, and Rhett Butler being the features. Scarlett continues to be a character who is not likeable, exactly (I wouldn’t want to be her friend; not that she’d want to be mine!), but is fascinating and I have to say sympathetic – in the sense that I sympathize with her frustrations, even her desire for simplicity, joy, pleasure, attention. She’s human; I understand her. Melanie is less human because she’s so innocent and trusting; it almost stretches one’s credulity, although I guess Southern ladies were trained to be just that, so maybe it’s historically accurate. Miss Pittypat is definitely a caricature, but a well-formed one.

Captain Rhett Butler I find intriguing. I never did understand Scarlett’s passion for Ashley; he seems to be a pretty face and a romantic ideal, and little else. Pardon me for parroting Gerald, but they’re certainly not suited for one another. Rhett, though, should be just up Scarlett’s alley. He’s got spunk and attitude, not to mention he’s also handsome (several mentions of how BIG he is, too) and has plenty of money. Maybe they’re too much alike, with too much irreverence. Certainly he’s not ready to pay her the kind of attention, flattery, compliments, and silliness that she wants. But I find the prospect of Rhett for Scarlett to be much more exciting than the prospect of Ashley.

We’ve moved a little bit away from the slave characters, too, although we did get a brief sketch of “Uncle” Peter and his control over the household. My memory of Mammy dims, but I’m still bothered by a feeling that she (and many of the slaves depicted as loyal and content in their lot) are painted with a political perspective we no longer find appropriate.

Gone with the Wind continues to be a feat: of beautiful, evocative, fine writing and literary descriptions; of character sketches; of historical fiction with all the details; and of suspenseful drama that keeps me turning the pages. I have lots of other reading to do, so I’m putting this one down til the next readalong date (we discuss part 3 on Sept. 5), but with great difficulty! I am grateful that this readalong finally got me reading this classic. Its fine reputation is deserving.

As usual, don’t forget to stop by The Heroine’s Bookshelf for discussion of part 2, and please do join us if you can!

Gone with the Wind part 1 (ch. 1-7)

Oh my. Am I ever glad that I have finally begun to read this book! I shouldn’t have waited so long. It IS a chunkster, and I AM busy right now. But what a book.

How did I get here?

The Great Gone with the Wind Readalong is hosted by The Heroine’s Bookshelf blog. This is what finally prompted me to read a book that’s been on my list for years. Thank you so much, Heroine.

Where am I coming from?

I feel like this is weird, but I have never read this book, never seen the movie, and had only the slightest and vaguest idea what it was about. All this, and I am a Southerner (to the extent that a Houstonian is a Southerner… that’s a different post). In my mind, this book is a little bit crossed with The Glass Menagerie. I don’t know why. I read the latter, in high school, although I do not seem to have a lasting impression of it. I think I did admire it; I remember the glass menagerie itself; I remember the suitors and my frustration with the mother. But there are some blurry lines between the one masterpiece of Southern-set fiction which I have never read, and the one I have. By the end of this readalong I certainly expect to have that cleared up!

What’s the drill?

Erin of The Heroine’s Bookshelf is hosting this readalong that involves 5 discussion dates, by which we will all have read 5 sections of the book. I am doing my best to pace myself so that the section in question is still fresh when the discussion comes along. So, we can all hop over there to join in a discussion, which I certainly will. But! I have my thoughts to share with you here, too.

What do I think so far?

This is an extraordinary work, just in the sense of evocative description, Mitchell’s ability to place me firmly in the time-and-place. At the end of the first page, I was hooked and admiring. She chooses very unique adverbs that draw my attention and let me see what she sees. The twins’ “long legs, booted to the knee and thick with saddle muscles, [were] crossed negligently.” Crossed negligently? She could have spent a paragraph trying to tell me what she has shown with that one adverb. “They were as much alike as two bolls of cotton.” Or earlier, Scarlett’s “green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanor,” because “her true self was poorly concealed.” I already feel like I know a great deal about all 3 of these characters – with no dialogue – and all this on page one! I’m all the way in.

As promised (threatened?) by Erin, I was indeed tempted to just rush past this first section and keep going. I’ve decided to stick with the schedule, though, which allows me to read other books in between. Part one was delightful, and able to stand alone, at least for a bit. I got to know Scarlett, appreciated her odd and not completely likeable personality and traits. This is a good stopping point, as a chapter of her life ends; part two will clearly begin the next. I look forward to it.

Please be sure to stop by the hosted readalong discussion, too.

book beginnings on Friday: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Thanks to Katy at A Few More Pages for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

I know, I know. But I’ve never read it! I’m in good company, too, because I’m reading this one with The Heroine’s Bookshelf‘s readalong. It’s not too late to join in! (Okay, you might be a bit behind, because the discussion of the first 7 chapters is Monday. It is possible.) I’m very excited.


Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.

There you have it; we’ve met our lady. Have you read this book? Care to join us?

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