It is difficult for me to understand how I could be so interested in such a long book filled with characters that I have such little sympathy for. But there you have it; I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the period. Well, not anyone, if you are offended by overt racist comments, this would call for some thickening of the skin. Scarlett did strain credulity with being so scatter brained in some areas and insightful in others.
Linda Stephens is wonderful. Character voices are clear consistent and enjoyable. I will look for more from her.
Linda Stephens is simply superb in her reading of one of the great novels in American literature. Everything is crystal clear, and the attitudes of the characters and the narrative voice are powerfully suggested. The book is long, but it never FEELS long when read this well.
Having been born an umpteenth generational Georgian, I have been a fan of GWTW since my first encounter with the movie at age fourteen. Of course I have read the novel, but wanted to add this audiobook to my collection of all things GWTW. I did however, hold my breath about hearing someone's idea of what Southeners are supposed to sound like. You would be surprised at how often it is done so tooth-grating awful a real Southener can't stand to listen, and there are some movies I just can't watch due to the butchering of our dialect. Linda Stephens not only got it right, but did a good job with the dozens of voices. Must have been quite a chore to get through the entire tome, but she did it well and never failed or sounded bored. It was a joy to listen to.
I kind of don't want to give this book 5 stars. I'm going to, because it was epic. Seriously, it's a really, really good read and Margaret Mitchell is a really, really good writer. She captures the feel of a generation that is lost and a bygone world and makes it real, pulsing with life and bittersweet memory and pride. Her characters are wonderfully vivid and complicated and conflicted, larger than life archetypes symbolizing the different elements of society each one represents. And the story is sweeping and grand. If you've seen the movie and thought it was gorgeous and epic, Hollywood only barely did justice to the source material. Gone With the Wind is deservedly one of the greatest Civil War novels ever written.
But... there is a really big "but" here:
"Here was the astonishing spectacle of half a nation attempting, at the point of bayonet, to force upon the other half the rule of negroes, many of them scarcely one generation out of the African jungles. The vote must be given to them but it must be denied to most of their former owners."
There are a few things that Hollywood rather prudently left out in the cinematic version, and one of them is the fact that every white male character joins the Klan to oppose Yankees and freedmen in the period of Reconstruction following the war. And this is described in approbatory terms by the narrative viewpoint. Indeed, throughout the book, Mitchell compares African-Americans to monkeys, apes, and children, describes slavery as a generally benevolent institution in which kind slave owners took care of their "darkies," and when the slaves are freed, society crumbles because black people are destructive children who can't function without white people telling them what to do. Reconstruction (in which the South learns that yes, you really aren't allowed to own slaves anymore and yes, you really did actually lose the war) is a horror beyond enduring, but we're meant to mourn the lost world of balls and barbecues attended by rich white plantation owners and their loyal, happy slaves.
Now, you may be saying, "Well, sure, the characters are racist, of course former Confederates are going to be racist." And that's true, I wouldn't have a problem with the characters being racist and flinging the n-word about. That's just historically accurate. But the authorial viewpoint makes it very clear that Margaret Mitchell shared the POV of her characters. Everything about the antebellum South (except its sexism, which is treated with satirical amusement and thoroughly lampooned by Scarlett in everything she does) is glorified and painted in a rosy hue. All sympathy is with rich white Southerners when Reconstruction destroys their world. Their former slaves? The author takes pains to describe how much happier and better off most of them were before being freed. Black characters are all offensive racial stereotypes who are constantly described (not by other characters, but in the narrative POV) as apes, monkeys, and children.
I don't think you have to be overly "politically correct" to find Gone With the Wind to be a hard book to get through at times, with really glaring evidence of the author's Southern sympathies and unquestioned racism.
And yet I'm giving it 5 stars. I suppose in the interests of political correctness I should knock off at least a star, but I have to be honest: I was just enthralled by this long, long novel from start to finish. Even while I was sometimes gritting my teeth at the racist descriptions and all the "Wah, wah, poor plantation owners, the Yankees took away all their slaves, life is so hard for them now!" I wanted the story to keep going and going. I wasn't bored for one moment.
The protagonists, of course, are what make this a timeless love story. Note that's "love story," not "romance," because there's very little romantic about Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Scarlett is an evil, conniving drama queen who if she had been raised in a society where women were actually allowed to do things would rule the world, but since she wasn't, she just learned to wrap the world around her finger and tell it to go to hell. She is absolutely the most self-centered character you will ever meet: in her mind, she is literally the center of the world. She sees nothing, understands nothing, and cares about nothing that isn't of direct and immediate importance to herself. And yet within her narrow, blindered view of the world, she's brilliant and adaptive and resourceful and unstoppable. The destruction of that glittering world of ball gowns and parties and negroes waiting on her hand and foot, in which she was raised to expect the world to revolve around her, is harrowingly depicted in her trials during the war and after it, and in her downright heroic accomplishments keeping not only herself but her extended family alive. Never mind that she never actually cares about anyone but herself, she does what has to be done, which is largely why her sister-in-law, poor Melanie Wilkes, believes until her dying day that Scarlett is a wonderful, noble, loving sister, even while the entire time Scarlett was hating her and coveting Melanie's husband Ashley.
Then there is Rhett Butler. The most brilliant Byronic rogue ever. Rhett kicks Heathcliff and Rochester's prissy white English arses and ascends to the top of the literary man-mountain as a first class scoundrel and anti-hero with a dark, brooding swoon-worthy heart. Because he's ruthlessly pragmatic and mercenary, smart enough to know right from the start that the South has started a fight it can't win, and he makes millions as a "speculator," enduring the wrath and hatred of his peers and gleefully, smugly giving them the finger, and yet in the end he goes off to be a hero. And survives, and becomes a (very, very rich) scoundrel again, and his reputation keeps going up and down throughout the book. He is the only man who is a match for Scarlett, because as he points out, they are so much alike. Like Scarlett, he's awesome and caddish and hateful and the best character ever.
Scarlett and Rhett's relationship is so much more tempestuous, conflicted, and compelling than in the movie. Every time they are together, it's like watching two grandmasters drawing knives and sparring. They were truly made for each other, they deserve each other, they could be happy together, and yet how could it end in anything but tears?
Oh yeah, I loved this book. Parts of it are so offensive, it will not bear scrutiny to modern sensibilities (it was pretty darn offensive when it was written, even if they did make a toned-down Hollywood movie based on it a few years later), and if you can't stand reading Mark Twain and all his uses of the n-word, then Gone With the Wind will probably make you want to throw the book against a wall (which will make a big dent, because this is a big book). But it is powerful and moving, the drama is grander than any epic fantasy doorstopper, the romance is hotter than anything I've ever read (I am not a romance fan and I don't usually describe romances as "hot," okay?), and the characters are fabulous and melodramatic and you care about every one of them, even (especially) the African-American characters, despite Mitchell's offensive treatment of them.
This is certainly not the only "problematic" book I've ever enjoyed, but never have I so enjoyed so problematic a book. If it weren't so damned racist, I'd give Gone With the Wind my highest recommendation. If it weren't so damned good, I could castigate it as a well-written but really offensive book whose author misused her gifts. But it's both, so I recommend it, but my recommendation comes with a big fat warning label.
Linda Stephens, as the narrator, truly does this book justice. For a book full of Southern characters with different regional accents, and with such strong characters of different races and genders, good narration is critical, and Stephens does a wonderful job, even with the flat, nasal Yankee accents. Her Scarlett and Rhett now sound more to me like the "real" ones than Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Absolutely a top-notch reading. So if you're looking for a long, long book to engage your attention for many hours, you can't go wrong here (keeping all the above caveats in mind).
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.
The book is so much richer than the film could ever be. It's really a character study into the nature of the people who lived through the civil war and those who didn't. It is written through the eyes of Scarlett, who is a survivor regardless of the cost, and the people who clung to her for their own survival.
Unfortunately, this novel is politically incorrect. If I were black, I would be very angry when reading it. Considering the publication date, it should be noted that during that time, (1936) racism existed throughout the U.S. and this book, unfortunately, reflects those belief. Regardless, it remains one of the very best glimpses into the civil war south.
S. J. Swan
I've always loved this movie. I'd never read the book and assumed it was close to the movie. It isn't. It's so much better! The narator did a great job too. This audio book is 49+ hours, but totally worth it!
I am a retired Court Reporter and I LOVE books. All kinds of books but my favorites are mysteries and period books. I like civil war books and some biographies.
My favority all time book. I've read it several times but listening to it is the best. I highly recommend it to anyone. There is a reason it's a classic.
I LOVE books. And dogs & quilting & beading & volunteering.
Part of my youth, I read "GWTW" in high school in the 50's-a time when segregation still ruled, even 100 years after the civil war. It was a matter of discussion in my debate class-'should schools be segregated or integrated?' until the mid 60s when the civil rights movement finally brought it to the for front.
Of course I've seen the movie many times, but it was very abridged - the book is so much more and narrated so well that I found myself unable to pull myself away, even though I knew the story well.
I encourage young listeners who haven't experienced this iconic view of the civil war and the results to the white (and black) south post war. It's not only a novel, it's an educational experience in many ways.
Not being from the south, though I have friends who have moved north from southern climes,I found this book is an enlightening view of women's lives post war. Many current southern traditions have come down from those old days.
Read/listen once again to this wonderful novel of the old south. It'a long but well worth your time.
Listen to it-have your young adult children listen to it too. You might be surprised at how it affects you.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
Yes, this is the ultimate GWTW listen. It is so well done and the story so enthralling. Not to be missed.
Scarlett and Rhett, of course! I also liked the way it follows the movie sometimes almost word for word. Yes, I know the movie came later and it is a testament to the many authors and directors that the story was so closely adapted.
For the most part she has the accents down pat. I really enjoyed her reading. No one can do Rhett like Clark Gable but she gives it a shot.
Gee, I think they did make a movie out of this... I'll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.
Some parts of this book made me cringe with the stereotypes and the glorious klan, etc. but I feel that just like Twain's Huckleberry Finn we need the original story to really appreciate how far we have come today. I don't believe political correctness is accurate or viable in this book. Appreciate it for it's flaws and all.