Here are the characters that have become symbols of passion and desire: darkly handsome Rhett Butler and flirtatious Scarlett O'Hara. Behind them stand their gentler counterparts: Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton. As the lives and affairs of these absorbing characters play out against the tumult of the Civil War, Gone With the Wind reaches dramatic heights that have swept generations of fans off their feet.
Having lived in Atlanta for many years, narrator Linda Stephens has an authentic ear for the dialects of that region. Get ready to hear Gone With the Wind exactly as it was written: every word beautifully captured in a spectacular unabridged audio production.
©1964 Stephens Mitchell; (P)2001 Recorded Books, LLC
"Beyond a doubt one of the most remarkable first novels produced by an American writer. It is also one of the best." (The New York Times)
"The best novel to have ever come out of the South...it is unsurpassed in the whole of American writing." (The Washington Post)
sometimes a little drawn out but always character building and scene setting the reader was well chosen and kept a good flow i loved it and couldnt stop listening loved and hated the ending left me flabergsted for days.
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).
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.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
I simply can't believe Linda Stephens was allowed to announce the chapters as though she were calling out bingo numbers! She hollers triumphantly in the moments after someone has died or some serious development has occurred and before the next chapter will continue the story. A real pro narrator will make the chapter headings neutral. But not this poor excuse of a narrator. It's all about her, and we never forget she is reading us a story. She never rises to the level of Juliet Stevenson, Davina Porter or Humphrey Bower, just a few of my favorites. Chapter 22 and Chapter 57 were especially irritating. I could wring her neck!
ELLE aka PlantCrone of the Great Pacific Northwest. I enjoy almost every genre-S/F, Action, Biographies and Histories & Romance
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.
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!
This was an absolute joy to listen to! The reader had such wonderful character voices that I could picture every moment in the book. I am so glad I listened to it before watching the movie.
I will continue to listen, but this reader while she may be good for another story.....just doesnt get the tones or diction right....
I have been wanting to read this book for years, never got around to it. I wanted to see the movie... never got to that either. When I found this Audiobook I finally got my opportunity to receive the story I had been searching for for so long.
What a great performance! Linda Stephens is wonderful in bringing to life that beautiful Georgia drawl, it literally wraps around your ears. The story is wonderful and well written but I truly believe the performance was what really brought it to life for me.
I'm sooo glad I didn't read the book or see the movie before this! I much preferred the images in my head supplemented by Linda's wonderful performance.
Must Listen again!!!
I have seen the movie multiple times, and read the book years ago, but this audio version is great. It was like I was listening to it for the first time as there was so much I must have missed in the past. The narration is excellent, she even does some singing which enhances the story. It is a long book, but very enjoyable. It really gave me more of an appreciation for what life was like in the south during the Civil War.
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