Sunday, January 11, 2009

Julie's Review: Rhett Butler's People

Summary: Margaret Mitchell's story of Scarlett O'Hara's and Rhett Butler's beguiling, twisted love for each other, set against the gruesome background of a nation torn apart by war, is by all accounts epic--so much so that it feels untouchable. Yet McCaig's take on what many would consider a sacred cow of 20th-century American literature is a worthy suitor for Mitchell's many ardent fans, for reasons that may not be altogether obvious. It would be easy to look at Gone With the Wind and Rhett Butler’s People side by side and catalog what is accurate and what isn't and tally up the score. In doing so, however, the fan is apt to miss out on the best part of this whole book: Rhett Butler himself. McCaig's Rhett is thoroughly modern, both a product of his Charleston plantation and an emphatic rejection of it. He is filled with romance and ingenuity, grit and wit, and a toughness matched only by a sense of humility that evokes so gracefully the hardship and heartbreak of a society falling apart. It's not hard to love Rhett in his weakness for Scarlett's love, but it is entirely amazing to love him as he rescues Belle Watling, mentors her bright young son Tazewell, adores his sister Rosemary, dotes on dear Bonnie Blue, and defends his best friend Tunis Bonneau to the very end. To pluck a character from a beloved book and recalibrate the story's point-of-view isn't an easy thing to do. Ultimately, the new must ring true with the old, and this is where Rhett Butler’s People succeeds beyond measure. In the spirit of Mitchell's masterpiece, McCaig never questions that love--of family, lover, land, or country--is the tie that binds these characters to life, for better or worse.

Review: I will admit I've never read the book Gone With the Wind but rather my sister and I do an annual Gone with the Wind (Two-Disc Edition) night, which we did over the holidays. I have to admit if it wasn't for watching the movie before I read the book I would have been lost with some of the characters.

I think in order to truly appreciate this book you need to be a huge fanatic of not only Gone With The Wind, but of the Civil War. Frankly, the majority of the book was too steeped in Civil War history for me to even enjoy. Besides the big battles that you learn about in history class, I was lost. I think if you are into that period in our history than you'd truly love this book. It shows how the South was too sure of themselves when going to fight the North and how things were after the war was over.

I will say it was interesting to learn about Rhett as a young boy and man before he met Scarlett. We learn of his true relationship with Belle Watling and how he came to Twelve Oaks where he met Scarlett O'Hara. Which, of course, it one of the best love stories of all time. We see their courtship and marriage through his eyes. At times I felt that Rhett was portrayed as being more obsessed with Scarlett than in love with her. Scarlett is portrayed in the same fashion that she is in the movie: headstrong, spoiled and high maintenance.

This book took me a long time to get through. There were too many characters to get to know and care about that I felt that a chart would have been helpful, but at some point I didn't care anymore. I did like getting to know Melly better and to find out that Rhett had a sister and what she was like was very faciniating. The book is divided into three parts, with the last part being called "Tara", which is really the part of the story that all GWTW fans want to know about, "what happened after Rhett left Scarlett and walked off into the sunset?" As a fan, I have to say I was happy with the resolution. It was very satisfying and yet wasn't completely wrapped up in a bow, which I don't feel would be of a service to these great literary characters.

My advice, get the book at the library, read Part III and skip the rest of the book.

Final Take: 3.5/5


Jenn January 11, 2009 at 10:33 PM  

Did you read Scarlett, Julie?

Julie January 12, 2009 at 10:14 AM  

No I haven't. I heard it's not worth it. From what I've read this book has a much better ending and sticks to the characters as Ms. Mitchell wrote them.

Jenn January 12, 2009 at 11:18 AM  

I'm one of the few people that liked Scarlett, I guess. Ripley moves away from the original characters after the first few chapters, which is good because she couldn't write for them at all, and moves Scarlett on. I liked to see her grow.

It's good for a lark on the TBR pile. (Not that I need to add to that though, do I ?) LOL

Serena January 13, 2009 at 10:50 AM  

this sounds like a book for me...i've read the original and seen the movie many times...though I'm sure a good bloggy friend of mine would enjoy this more...or maybe utterly hate it.

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