2nd Review: Jan 2020
I remember loving this the first time around, but in retrospect I think what I actually loved was probably just the ending (which was still quite satisfying). It took a VERY long time for me to feel like Scarlett was really the same character that she was in GWTW this time through, but I can pinpoint the moment it occurred: about 2/3 of the way through, when (spoiler alert!) Rhett divorces her and then marries someone else. Prior to that, she’s too weak and clingy, obsessed with him and begging him to love her. I can see why Ripley thought this was consistent with her character, though, considering that’s kind of how she was with Ashley Wilkes in GWTW–but that’s just not Rhett and Scarlett. It wasn’t until the moment that Scarlett thought she’d lost him forever that she really picked herself up by her bootstraps and started to build another life for herself.
I did have issues with the fact that Scarlett leaves her children by her first two marriages for her (hated) sister Suellen to raise, so that she can first run after Rhett and then gallivant around Europe unencumbered. She was self-centered in GWTW, but that seemed cold even for her. She redeemed herself only once her real turning point came, after she gave birth to Kat. This was an interesting plot point: after having three babies before and really caring very little for any of them, suddenly, because of what she represents (Rhett, whom she can no longer have), Scarlett falls in love with Kat. It’s implied that Rhett was completely right before this, that Scarlett only wanted him because she couldn’t have him, and probably would have tired of him quickly, had he capitulated. After Kat, though, Scarlett finally becomes unselfish, and capable of love. She grows up, in other words.
This tale isn’t the sweeping epic that GWTW was by any stretch. While it tries to show culture of Charleston and Savannah in the Reconstruction period, there’s really no politics at all, whereas there was tons in its predecessor. Then Scarlett spends the rest of the book in Ireland, which was interesting from a cultural standpoint. It’s portrayed both as a wonderful, carefree community, and also a place filled with superstition. I loved watching Scarlett rise in the ranks of the titled and important of Europe, almost in spite of herself. We finally got to see her reach her potential–and so did Rhett.
The ending really makes the story, though. While GWTW was amazing despite the ending, this one is only great because of the ending. It probably wouldn’t have been nearly so satisfying if we hadn’t had to wait for it through all the turbulence and misunderstandings that came before. But I could have done without a good chunk of Scarlett in Charleston, making a fool of herself while chasing after a man who wanted nothing to do with her.
1st review: December 2014
WOW. So very very satisfying. When I finished GWTW I absolutely had to get this one for some closure (and I read other people’s reviews to make sure I would get it… I’d have been *pissed* if this one ended sad or on a cliffhanger too!) But it didn’t.
Now, I will say early on, the characters seemed a bit clumsier than they did in Margaret Mitchell’s hands in the sense that Ripley would come right out and say things that Mitchell would show in the way the characters behaved, allowing the reader to draw the appropriate conclusions. But I was impressed with how well-researched the book was, so I either got past this, or it stopped happening so much as the book went on.
One other frustration from early on was that Scarlett’s behavior toward Rhett made me cringe with shame for her (“You idiot! You’ll never win him back that way!”) And this went on for a few hundred pages, to the point where I started to think the whole thing was going to be like a soap opera (whereas the original GWTW was an epic, and the historical setting was very important to the story.) But after one pivotal moment, all that changed, and Scarlett became the heroine we loved so much from the original book, and the one Rhett fell in love with, too. The rest of the book, from that point on, was utterly absorbing.
Down to the last 23 pages, I almost didn’t want to finish, because I didn’t see how she could possibly wrap it up happily. But she DID, and I was totally satisfied! Anyone who felt grief-stricken when GWTW was over should definitely read this, you won’t be disappointed!
My rating: ****
Political content: historical only
Violence: none to speak of
Sexual content: present but minor and tastefully done
Language: none that I can think of