I was 14 when I first read this book in Hungarian. Then when I knew enough English 2 years later, I read it in English. It wasn't easy to get back then. I managed to find it in this small store that carried like 20 books in English. I still go back and re-read my favourite scenes from time to time.
The first time I read it was during the summer break. I'm glad that I didn't have to go to school, because it would have been agony. It took me about 2 weeks of constant reading to get through the 1100 pages. I was sad, I felt hunger, longing, everything with Scarlett. I started reading when I woke up and finished when I had to go to sleep. I read while eating. It was wonderful. The reason why I keep going back is to be with them again. I wish Margaret could have written a sequel for it. Sadly, I heard she was working on one when she died. This book is the one book that I will always have on my shelf for the rest of my life, within reaching distance. I'll probably have to buy it several times, my original English copy looks like a lettuce.
As you can see, I have a love affair with this book.
I was taken by Scarlett's journey. She was just 16 at the start of the book. She was a lot like the girls today at that age. She loved to flirt, be the centre of attention, gossip. She was protected by her loving parents, fought with her sisters. A regular girl. Then the war came and everything changed. I could relate to her, I could be her as her whole world changed and she lost everything.
This was most of all a coming of age story. A regular girl who was faced with hardships, and had to grow up too fast, or perish. She could only survive if she found the inner strength to do what has to be done. Sometimes I think about her, when I think something is too hard, as she was digging in the garden of a slave for old carrots. She found her determination there. I feel I can overcome anything.
Perhaps the difficult part of the book is how it treats slavery. Though it did make me think of one thing, especially when it came to the shanty towns outside Atlanta. It made me think of how the former slaves also had their world changed, and perhaps freedom wasn't what they expected it to be. They were still outside society, and they had a hard time getting jobs, making a living. It seemed like not even the people from the North wanted to help them. There should have been some sort of a government program to employ them, and to economically build up the South. For decades, the Southern states were a lot poorer than the Northern ones.
I have read both sequels, but reviewed neither. So I want to talk about them a little here.
Scarlett was a good book and I did enjoy it, but there were some things that bothered me. It was more about Scarlett's love life, and had a lot of personal drama, rather than the historical time playing into their personal lives. The books after that were just a disaster, and I never knew that they were original Hungarian creations until I read about it on the internet years later. Those were about Scarlett's children.
The other sequel was Rhett Butler's People. It wasn't completely a sequel, as it didn't pick up after GwtW. It was more like Rhett's story. This brought a more believable ending to their story, though perhaps a sadder one.
Overall, Scarlett's story is immortal, and happens every day. Girls become women, often too soon, in too harsh ways, and they have to find a way to work through them, even if it means tough decisions. This book sometimes helped me find the strong woman in me, and I recommend it to everyone, especially young women, to help them become strong too.