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Rhett Butler’s People, by Donald Mccaig
Download Ebook Rhett Butler’s People, by Donald Mccaig
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This astonishing novel that parallels the great American classic novel, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, has been twelve years in the making. Now, the most beloved and most widely-read saga of the American Civil War is retold from the point of view of its unrivalled hero, the dashing and enigmatic scion of the South, Rhett Butler. See what Rhett is really thinking as he sits in the armchair listening to Scarlett declare her love for Ashley. Find out what happened on the other side of the cupboard, where Melanie was hiding.Discover the truth of Rhett’s relationship with Belle Watling.Brought to vivid and authentic life by the hand of a master, Rhett Butler’s People fulfills the dreams of countless millions whose imaginations have been indelibly marked by Gone With the Wind . Rhett Butler’s People covers the period from 1843 to 1874, nearly two decades more than are chronicled in Gone With the Wind . Readers will.get inside Rhett’s head as he meets and courts Scarlett O’Hara in one of the most famous love affairs of all time. – The New York Times .
- Sales Rank: #369928 in Books
- Published on: 2007
- Released on: 2007-11-06
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 9.21″ h x 1.57″ w x 6.14″ l, .0 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 480 pages
Most helpful customer reviews
325 of 352 people found the following review helpful.
Correcting Margaret Mitchell
By Mrs. Olsen
I picked up this book with an open mind. I enjoy fanfiction and new takes on old favorites and never believe that any work is sacrosanct. GWTW from Rhett Butler’s POV sounded fascinating, but that’s not what this book is. It’s not a retelling. It’s not a sequel. It’s not even–as I first thought–an attempt to whitewash the character of Rhett Butler. It is a correction of the flaws the author perceives to exist in the original.
Many other reviews mention the inconsistencies between this book and GWTW (to which this book must and should be compared), and it’s important to consider these not just because it’s a kind of cheating not to work within the framework of the source novel, but to consider why McCaig made the changes he did. For example, there is no mention of Scarlett’s miscarriage. Why? Because it doesn’t fit McCaig’s image of Rhett Butler. Then McCaig’s Rhett Butler is simply not Rhett Butler.
The Rhett Butler McCaig creates bears almost no resemblance to Mitchell’s complex, cynical, wry observer. McCaig’s Rhett is morose to the point of clinical depression and very nearly the embodiment of all manly virtues. He is friend to every man, black or white. This puts his character in conflict with the very foundation of the Confederacy. Does he believe in it or doesn’t he? That might have been an interesting conflict to explore, but instead, McCaig simply leaves it there on the page, without explanation. Rhett loves and supports blacks on this page. On this page, he loves and supports the Confederacy. The end. McCaig expects you to accept Rhett as he tells you he is, rather than as he shows him.
This happens frequently as numerous characters refer to Rhett as a rakehell and a renegade, but this is never substantiated in the story itself. Just saying a character is a rakehell doesn’t make him one when all you show him doing is mooning over the habits of loggerhead turtles, nobly supporting every helpless creature that crosses his path and having palpitations whenever Miss Scarlett smiles at him.
Yes, that’s right. This Rhett is reduced to a lovesick schoolboy on first sight of Scarlett O’Hara and on every occasion thereafter. Gone are the sparkling scenes where he taunts and teases Scarlett, admiring her very worst qualities and loving her for them. Instead, the love scenes between this paragon of a Rhett and this confident, erudite and unrecognizable Scarlett are on the level of second-rate romantic bilgewater. (“Scarlett. Sunshine, hope and everything he ever wanted.”)
Other scenes are referenced but skipped over and replaced with McCaig’s inventions, again to facilitate his vision of Rhett. Instead of a scene where Rhett offers Scarlett a green silk hat from Paris to deliberately torment her false sense of propriety, knowing she will be torn between wanting to wear it and not wanting to expose herself by throwing off her widow’s weeds, we get Rhett breathlessly offering Scarlett the yellow silk shawl she in turn makes into a sash for Ashley. Only this time, instead of the silk shawl being a minor symbol of Rhett’s easy profligacy in a time of want and self-denial, McCaig constructs a ludicrously maudlin tale of the shawl having belonged to Rhett’s adorable Bonnie-Blue-esque niece, who had been killed in the shelling of Charleston. Scarlett is somehow supposed to recognize what–in the original–Rhett obviously knew was a rather tacky and gaudy trifle–as the deepest offering of a devoted man’s heart. When she fails to, she crushes the tenderest hopes of this noble creature.
There are occasions when he can’t avoid retelling scenes from GWTW and that is frequently where he gets tangled up in the conflict between his Rhett and Mitchell’s Rhett. A prime example is the flight from Atlanta, where he can’t quite make the abandonment of Scarlett work for this lovesick, devoted, perfect Rhett, and so Rhett’s motivation is lost in a murky jumble of the romantic uncertainties of a schoolboy. (She never really loved me. I might as well go to war.)
McCaig never comes close to matching Mitchell’s voice, as perhaps he shouldn’t. But since Mitchell’s feminine story was written in a voice that was stringent and vigorous, it is odd to read this masculine story couched in overwrought, flowery prose (“The frosty Milkyway stretched across the heavens to the horizon where it drowned in the ruddy penumbra of guns.”) I must also mention, as have others, the frequently disjointed quality of the writing. There are paragraphs made up of sentences that bear no relation to each other and conversations abruptly switch topics depending on what the author needs to have the characters say rather than the natural course of the conversation.
And this isn’t even getting into the large sections of the book that are given over to characters that never appeared in GWTW. McCaig’s own dear creations. In fact, a case could be made that McCaig sets up his Rosemary Butler as a new and improved Scarlett, giving her similar travails but a more womanly attitude and forebearance and awarding her the coveted prize in the end.
But the key problem in this tale of an alien Rhett and Scarlett isn’t that McCaig is entitled to his interpretation. It’s that McCaig had no taste for the original. He says as much in an interview in the New York Times, where he admits that he had never read GWTW when approached by St. Martin’s to pen a “sequel.” When he did finally read it, he pronounced everything but the Civil War bits as “Oh dear.”
So then why write it at all? He admits to “four parts poverty” playing a role in his decision. But it’s abundantly clear that he does not understand Mitchell’s characters and what motivated them and with all the fundamental mistakes he makes, it is also clear that he does not care to. He is more interested in constructing his new, improved versions. It is impossible to read this book without feeling that this was his aim: to show how GWTW ought to have been written.
138 of 147 people found the following review helpful.
Oh my dear God.
By Cindy Hornsby
As MANY MANY have said before me, the book started out good. The “filling out” of Rhett’s background made you understand how he could have turned into the sometimes hard and unbending man of Margaret Mitchell’s imagination. I began reading the book with judgment held fully in reserve but then, like a snowball, the book began rolling downhill, gaining speed and weight at it went. Finally, when I closed the book, my jaw was hanging open, my eyebrows were even with my hairline and the only thing I could say was, “McCaig is an IDIOT!”
Until the last half of the novel, the only MAJOR problems I had was with McCaig’s version of Melly. Melly, the constant in GWTW, who was naive, trusting, believing the best of all around her, shy, unconfident, unknowing and selfless to a fault. McCaig’s Melly became a scheming woman who knew all about Ashley and Scarlett and made sure they were never alone. McCaig’s Melly didn’t trust Scarlett as far as she could throw her. McCaig’s Melly became a woman who could write about lovemaking with Ashely in letters to Rosemary Butler. Not only would that NEVER have happened in the day and age Melly “lived” in, Mitchell’s Melanie Hamilton Wilkes was no more able to put pen to page to write about sexual relations than she was able to commit adultery against Ashley. Not only did McCaig not understand one cell of Melly’s character, he slandered it in the process of completing this joke of an “authorized sequel”.
After choking down this horrible version of Melly for chapter after chapter, Rhett Butler started growing odd himself. The character the book was supposed to be about in the first place was twisted into some soft, depressed man who wouldn’t be recognized by Mitchell or her followers. To top it all off, after all of the characters basically lost their minds, lives or personalities in the last few chapters, not only did McCaig burn Scarlett’s tacky Atlanta house to the ground, he burned Tara. Tara.
Donald McCaig is an idiot. There are some things you don’t do, even for money. Absolutely violating, raping and pillaging a classic and iconic piece of American Literature is one of them. As a writer himself, you would have thought he could figure that on his own. You would be wrong.
210 of 242 people found the following review helpful.
You Can’t Go Home To Tara
No novel will ever be an adequate sequel to “Gone With The Wind,” and no writer will ever “complete” Mitchell’s story. “Gone With The Wind” is an American epic, the tale of the fall of a doomed civilization and the dissolution and reunification of the Union. Against that backdrop, Mitchell portrayed a passionate, tragic romance between two characters with whom readers themselves fall in love. No author will ever recapture the magic of the original, whether in a prequel, sequel, or “other story,” because the novel is complete “as is.” Like any work of fiction, the work ends where it ends. In the case of GWTW, the reader is left longing for answers, just as Scarlett longed for Ashley, Rhett longed for Scarlett, and, at the novel’s conclusion, Scarlett schemes to win Rhett back.
Mitchell wrote with conviction and zeal, because the story was one that she knew well — she’d grown up among people who had lived through and fought in the Civil War and then endured the humiliation and struggles of the Reconstruction period. Basically (the literary critics are going to kill me for this), GWTW is the American “War and Peace,” and Scarlett O’Hara is our Natasha. We will never know what happens to Rhett and Scarlett, however, because Mitchell, a consummate storyteller, didn’t choose tell us.
That said — I am enjoying “Rhett Butler’s People,” because it’s not a bad read and tells a story of its own. Those reviewers who are proclaiming that the book is “awful” are, I think, merely pining for the original. I recommend “Rhett Butler’s People” to anyone who is not so attached to Mitchell’s novel and characters that he or she can’t put aside GWTW and take McCaig’s book on its own terms. If you view McCaig, not as trying to complete GWTW, but rather as imagining — as any author does — what Rhett Butler’s history might have been, this is an engaging novel with which to while away a winter’s afternoon.
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