Although Scarlet is a pretty shallow person, this book is anything but. Some people have criticized it because it is racially biased. Well, duh! It is set in Georgia in the 1860s and beyond, about the most racially biased time and place in history. If it were written any other way, it would not be true to the times, and not worth reading. If you can't handle reading about things the way they were, don't read the book.
I think Mitchell handled the white vs. black problem extremely well. I came away from this book having a profound respect for many of the black characters, and disgust for many of the whites. But then, is that not life? There are good and bad black people, there are good and bad white people. There are dumb and evil blacks. There are dumb and evil whites. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It is called real life. But what Mitchell gave us was a glimpse into the mindset of the time, both black and white, both good and evil. And, like holding a mirror up to our own faces, if we look in depth, it is scary.
This is only one of the myriad lessons to be learned from this book. It is jam-packed from start to finish.
About Scarlet. I came to dislike her intensely when, as a mature woman, she continued to hold on to childish ideas that could destroy her life. But how rewarding to finally see her able to look in that mirror and see herself for what she was. What happened next? Does she get him back or doesn't she? I wouldn't dare say, but I do know that she would be strong and self-reliant, and with her new-found perspective on life, a lot more realistic, and perhaps a better mother. She is a survivor, and I admire that in anybody.
The narrator, Linda Stephans, is just fabulous. If you have listened to very many audio books, you know that the narrator can make or break it. Ms. Stephans certainly makes this audio book.
Oh my, I finally finished this lengthy book (1076 pages, over 63 hours of listening). I am very glad I read/listened to this book. I should give it 5 stars for being a life-changing book, but because of the literary shortfalls, I just can't.
So here's what I think. The story was good, and very thought-provoking. I see so many parallels in what Ayn Rand was trying to say 60 years ago vs. what is going on in this country today. It is scary and hopeful at the same time. I don't get why we as humans in the 21st century can't understand that when we penalize those who produce we are destroying ourselves. Why do we keep saying things like, "Let's tax those rich b_____s. They can afford it." Well ok, but then who will pay your paycheck. Use your heads, people. The rich guys are the ones with the ability to create jobs for the rest of us. If they are not allowed the freedom to create, where does that leave the rest of us? We will not get far when we are all on government handouts.
So that is the gist of this book. Live and let live. Let those who are able, create jobs for the rest of us. Don't keep taxing and regulating them to death. Or any of us, for that matter.
Now, about the literary side of things. This book is full of lectures. Some of them go on for page after page after page. A lot of good things are said, but many of them are said over and over. The worst one is the chapter "John Galt Speaks" near the end of the book. How many ways can you say the same thing? Whatever number that is, it was reached in that chapter. I read this book AND listened to it as well. About half way through that speech, I put the audio on 3x speed and listened in fast mode. I didn't miss a thing. . .
The story is largely allegorical and I like that sort of thing, but it went a little too far for my taste. Also, the love story just didn't make it for me. It was just too unrealistic. It went something like this: (This might be a semi-spoiler, so be aware)
Woman: Oh Man #1, I have loved you since we were children.
Man #1: You are the only woman in my life. Don't believe all that playboy stuff they say about me.
Woman: Oh Man #2, I have never had a relationship like this before.
Man #2: Now that I can finally admit that I love you, I will divorce my wife so that we may live happily ever after. Well, at least I'll be happier with or without you after I dump that broad.
Woman (upon seeing Man #3 for the first time): "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life, at last I've found you!"
Man #3: I'm sure we can live happily ever after, well, that is, after I save the world and have my near-death experience at which point you sweep in and save my life by taking on a small army single-handedly. We're going to be great together.
Man #2: I always knew you would find someone else. And when I met him, I have to admit I can't blame you. He is AWESOME!
Man #1: Yeh, I kinda like him too.
So taking the good with the bad, it still is a book worth the many hours it takes to read it. (If you listen to it, put the narrator speed on 2x, at least.) I can't recommend it to everyone. It takes a weird combination of being mature and a dreamer to really appreciate it.
A word about the narrator. Scott Brick is one of the most highly rated narrators, and I also think he is very good, but he does some things that bother me a lot. First off, he uses the same syntax for everything. Secondly, he has a way of elongated certain words every time he reads them. "Any" is one of them, or anything with an "n" or "m" in the middle. He reads quite slowly, and does not use a very wide range of characterizations. Still he is a good reader and I am pretty sure I will listen to other books read by him. He just won't ever be my favorite.
"My Antonia" (emphasis on the "i") has been on my "to-read" list for a very long time. Oddly, I ended up with three versions of this book: Physical book, Kindle edition, and audio. I read all of them simultaneously. (I love doing that!) It is beautifully written by the great Willa Cather, and I understand it is very much autobiographical. Basically, it is the story of the Great Melting Pot, how foreign born families immigrated to the United States, specifically the Great Plains, and did their best to fit in, make a living, and give their children an opportunity that could not be had anywhere else in the world. It was not an easy life. These families left everything they knew, even their native languages, to come to the great unknown, with the promise of a better life. My own great-grandparents left Denmark in the late 1800s, in a similar time frame and reason as the people in this book, and brought their three young sons with them, boys who would never know their native land, or ever see it again. That takes guts, and these were gutsy people. Antonia was a strong, smart girl who grew up to raise a big family in the best way she knew how. I admire her.
With all this said, it is not the most compelling book I have ever read. Yes, I cared about the characters, and was involved with their lives, but it is not a serious page turner. It is an easy read, and may be best read by a young adult. In my opinion, it is a good book, and has many elements that make it very worthwhile reading. I just don't think I would categorize it as great. The narrator of the audio book was good, but not great either. He was easy to listen to and did a good job of reading it, but I was always conscious of his reading. He didn't suck me into the story the way a really great narrator can.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about pioneers, and how our country became "e pluribus unum."
Tough, heartwrenching and full of quiet fury. Not an easy and pleasant book at all. Patton does a great work and gives life and feeling to Faulkner's deliberate, hard words.
I recommend it if you are in for something strong.