I moved on from Cold Comfort Farm thinking I’d met quite the heroine in calm and competent Flora Poste. Just 50 pages with Scarlett O’Hara were enough to tell me I hadn’t seen anything yet!
Gone with the Wind, which I hadn’t read, or watched before, has to be one of the biggest surprises I’ve had during this challenge. I had no idea it was such a huge book – over 1000 pages, in tiny type – but every few pages seemed to bring a fabulous plot turn, or a dry but witty observation, or some fantastic character insight. I absolutely loved every second of reading this, and I can’t wait to read it again. There were a couple of times when I stopped reading for a second just to turn to my husband, or colleague, or fellow passenger on the bus, and say: ‘I can’t believe how good this book is! I never want it to end!’ The plot tore through Scarlett’s life bringing births, marriages, unrequited love, war, murder, and politics, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages to see what came next. I actually read the last ten pages or so whilst walking home from work along a manically busy road during rush hour because I couldn’t bear to wait any longer to see what happened.
The main draw of the book is Scarlett, the spoiled, hard, single minded young woman that would probably be awful to be around, but I loved her anyway. She makes some truly terrible choices, but every step of the way I was on her side. I have got all the time in the world for a woman who tries to flout society’s crappy sexist rules, and so what if she does make mistakes?
It seems that nothing will ever go right for Scarlett: even when she gets what she wants, somehow, it’s not quite the triumph she thought it would be. I kept being reminded of a song from Wicked (yes, it’s all about high culture here) when Glinda, the good witch, sings of her rise to power:
‘I couldn’t be happier
Though it is I admit, the tiniest bit unlike I anticipated
But I couldn’t be happier; simply, couldn’t be happier
But getting your dreams, it’s strange but it seems a little, well, complicated
There’s a kind of a sort of cost;
There’s a couple of things get lost;
There are bridges you cross you didn’t know you’d cross until you crossed
And that joy, that thrill doesn’t thrill like you think it will.’
Scarlett fights so hard for what she wants that she finds herself slowly sacrificing the values that her mother brought her up to live by, one by one, until it seems there’s nothing she wouldn’t do if she felt she had to. It’s a fascinating journey. It’s a long time since I’ve felt so invested in someone’s story, and a long time since I’ve finished a book and immediately tried to force it on everyone I know. I fell completely in love with it, and I want everyone else to, as well!
PS: My favourite line from the book: ‘India was not easy to live with these days. The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely on her shoulders now. She was twenty-five and looked it, and so there was no longer any need for her to try to be attractive.’