What can I say? I have friends (very dear ones, too) who consider this book an absolute favourite. I initally had put down a different book for this post — and one can never run out of options for really bad and really popular books — but they are celebrating seventy-five years of the publication Gone With the Wind, and last week my newspaper supplement devoted an entire edition to it, with ludicrous claims like ‘Frankly, you’d have to be a right varmint to not give a damn about this epic book-film combination.’ I imagine I would be exactly that, because in my opinion, this here is one hell of an awful book. It’s not perhaps the most awful book in the history of literature, but it’s the size of two bricks, the writing is tiresome (no wonder Mitchell never wrote another book, small mercy if anything), the protagonist makes you want to slap her and you secretly cheer each time life screws her up a little — seriously, what’s there to love?
The fact is that I’ve noticed one warped tendency among fans of Gone With The Wind, especially those who champion it as an immortal romance — everyone loves the ending, where Rhett Butler most cruelly (and I’m assuming most unexpectedly) dumps Scarlett O’Hara. (I love the ending too, but then that’s all I love about the book. If I was one of the characters in the novel, I’d have thrown a party to celebrate!) Now, romance is not my favourite genre, but basic romance-reading psychology isn’t supposed to go like that. You see off your hero and heroine riding off happily into the sunset, and you feel a little Mary Sue glow in your heart. Why do people love the ending of Gone With The Wind, then? My personal theory is that whether they admit it or not, everyone hates Scarlett a little. Everyone hopes for her to get royally screwed at some point, so the ending works as a bit of poetic justice. It’s not even a feminist novel, precisely because of the ending. You want brave, cunning, devious heroine who straightens up her stinking lot with style and success, go read Vanity Fair.
What more, the title of the novel is a spectacular wastage of a poem that is perfectly divine otherwise.