It may seem crazy to some to think of Gone With the Wind, a perennial favorite for close to 75 years now, as a forgotten book. But among many women of my generation (I’m 44), it IS forgotten. That is to say, my friends KNOW about it, but they’ve never READ it. Something unknown keeps them away from it, tempted though they may be. They toss around all kinds of explanations as to why they haven’t read it:
"It’s dated, it’s too long, I don’t read historical books, I’ll watch the movie instead..."
I think they’re nuts!
I first read Gone With the Wind when I was in eleventh grade. I couldn’t put it down--even sneaking away to the back room of the little store I worked at to read when I should have been dusting shelves or stocking or any of a number of other retail tasks. But I had to see what Scarlett would do next. How Rhett would respond. What he’d do in return. I was lost in Atlanta, a city I didn’t know from Adam, but which held magical charm for me. And Scarlett’s life philosophy--After all, tomorrow is another day--are pretty good words to live by.
I’ve tried to get friends to through caution to the wind and read the book. I chose it for book club and it was a smashing success. Startling after all these years how the book holds up, how there is so much to discuss in terms of the Civil War, Scarlett’s choices, Rhett’s commitment and unique system of honor, carpetbaggers, yankees, midwifery, the South, and so much more. It was an interesting reminder, as well, to recall how different the movie is from the book. Katie Scarlett had children! Several children, not just the tragic Bonnie Blue Butler.
Scarlett was a feminist--of a sort-- before feminism existed. She used whatever means she had to--whatever was at her disposal--to get what she wanted, and she made no bones about it. Was she always right? No. In fact, usually she was wrong. But we cheer her on anyway because she’s so determined not to let life beat her down.
Gone With the Wind probably isn’t as forgotten as I'm making it out to seem--in fact, I could take the other side of my own argument and say it will never be forgotten--but to those women who’ve not made the leap yet, or who would rather watch the movie, and to my daughter’s generation (she’s a week shy of 10), it could well become forgotten unless we, who love it, pass it on.
So here’s to Margaret Mitchell for creating one unforgettable heroine and a book which should never be forgotten.
Now it's your turn. What's one unforgettable book in your reading history?
~Misa / Melissa