Gone With The Wind is one of my favourite films of all time. It may have a duration near-on four hours but, to me, it never feels overly long. At no point did I feel it was unnaturally padded out, and it’s the very same with the book; the book which is now the longest that I have ever read.
The thing about having seen the film so many times before reading the book is that the images you have of the characters become so clearly defined by experience. The way my mind envisaged the characters of Scarlett, Melanie, Rhett, Mammy, Prissy and Aunt Pittypat were exactly the same as the movie, speaks to the quality of the acting and of the casting.
The only major character where my mental picture was Ashley. Most film lovers tend to agree that whilst Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable and Olivia de Havilland were ideal in their roles you can’t say the same of Leslie Howard. The character of Ashley is one that you can feel some sympathy for in a number of ways since he lost everything because of the war and, to be honest, without Scarlett he would have crumbled and fallen. In addition to this, something more apparent in the novel than in the film, is how much of a coward he is when it comes to Scarlett’s affection. At so many points he could just rebuff her and things might have turned out better for Scarlett… but then again that would have probably not made for so good a book.
Of course, there is one thing that is striking about this book when read in the light of modern day; the racism. I don’t take issue with the language used since it reflects the epithets used at the time. However, the use of the Ku Klux Klan as an organisation joined by most of the adult males from the South was a bit startling. Too was the attempted re-writing of race relations that many were happy as slaves since… well it doesn’t ring true now does it.
Race issues aside, which it is disturbingly easy to forget about, this is an utterly engrossing world that has been written by Margaret Mitchell. The only real difference between the book and the film is the absence of Uncle Henry, the back story given to Scarlett’s parents, the time at which a minor character dies and the absence of Scarlett’s other two children. Given the length of the novel it is remarkable how faithful the film was, in fact at the end I was mentally pleading with the book to to not end the way I knew it was going to. I got a little bit misty eyed before remembering I was on a crowded commuter train… so I managed to hold back the tears somehow. Truly, this is one of the best books that I have ever read.