First published in 2007 Rhett Butler’s People gives us Rhett’s side of the story in his relationship with Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With The Wind notoriety.
GWTW was written by Margaret Mitchell in the 1930’s, and was turned into an epic American Civil War movie with bucket loads of southern charm and elegance in 1939.
I’m not going to discuss either the book nor the movie. There has been so very much written about both that if you are ignorant about one or the other you might as well get back under that rock and hide away with your unicorn friends.
(My copy of the book was a gift for my 21st birthday, as was the vinyl LP of the soundtrack, both of which I’ve been carting along on my travels for
twenty, thirty, some years. My father told me when death was closing in on him that waltzing with Vivienne Leigh, who played Miss O’Hara in the film, in the UK at wars end was one of his fondest memories.The birth of a girl child didn’t rate a mention).
But back to the book, Rhett Butler’s People.
Two things here to remember :
0. Gone With The Wind is a fictional novel. Fictional – it’s not real. It is a novel that has been created by a writer with an imagination based on some historical reference points.So if we want to pull Rhett Butler’s People apart please remember that it too is fiction.
0. Do not read the reviews. The Reviewers all seem to have forgotten that these books are a work of fiction. How come these Reviewers have so much spare time that they can pull a novel apart, a piece of creative writing, page by wretched page. Imagine sharing a life with someone who does that for a living. How joyless can life be, I have to ask?
Rhett Butler’s People begins with a duel between Rhett and Shad Watling, Belle’s brother, which leaves readers in no doubt that this is the Butler we adored in the original novel. We then go back to Rhett’s childhood, meet boyhood friends and influences, and learn why he was expelled from West Point and is considered the black sheep of his family. It provides Rhett’s backstory which we didn’t get in GWTW. More importantly, his relationship with house madam and confidante, Belle Watling, is revealed.
Rhett begins blockade running off the Carolina coast, launches a lucrative shipping concern in New Orleans, and seeks his fortune in San Fransisco during the days of the gold rush. In the last days of the war between North and South Rhett amazes himself by joining in the fight and the scenes written about the battlefields are truly harrowing.
Then there is Scarlett, still the petulant, narcissistic, beautiful Scarlett. But Rhett Butler’s People is not about Scarlett, but rather the cast of characters, both black and white, that enrich and encroach on Rhett’s life, and provide a deeper understanding of the troubled times of the Civil War.
I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t pick it to pieces and read it for what it was – a most entertaining and fast paced story. There may well be some loose ends from one book to another, but you know what? This is not an episode of This Is My Life.
My only misgivings? Rhett goes awfully ga ga over this chick, Scarlett. Not sure if that’s normal but then I’ve never been ruled by the heart.
And is a 16 inch waist really feasible without the removal of a rib or two?
The weather forecast for the weekend is 27degrees C. I think I will prepare barbeque and test my Mint Julep making skills. My last effort was thirty odd years ago and I remember gaining an understanding why those southern belles were so in need of an afternoon nap.