rhett-butler1It’s hard not to see the parallels between Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and McCaig’s Rhett Butler’s People. Rhett’s beloved sister, Rosemary, brings up strong reminders of Scarlett — her first husband, John, loves her to death, but Rosemary’s in love with the idea of another man, Andrew. Her daughter with John dies, and I’ll stop right there before I ruin the whole book.

The novel begins with Rhett going to call out Belle Watling’s older brother, Shad, who has accused him of being the father of Belle’s baby. From there Rhett Butler’s People blurs past his early years to part three, the actual sequel. Except this novel is appropriately named because this Rhett Butler’s People is about just that — Rhett Butler’s people, not Rhett.

“He was disgraced; he would be always be disgraced. He was alone; he would always be alone. Rhett could endure being unloved. He could not live without loving.” {pg. 110}

Major points in Gone with the Wind — Bonnie’s death, Ashley’s surprise party — are skipped over in favor of information about Rosemary’s relationship with her husbands. Bonnie’s death is an especially huge moment for Rhett, and her demise ultimately leads to the end of Gone with the Wind. I don’t understand why McCaig felt the need to only mention this pinnacle moment in a letter between Melanie and Rosemary.

I can, however, understand why this “prequel/sequel” was authorized by Mitchell’s heirs; so much of Rhett’s life reflects that of Scarlett that it’s hard not to think McCaig just changed the characters’ names. For example, after Rhett’s father dies, his mother, Elizabeth, loses her mind; reminiscent of Gerald’s response to Ellen’s death. And, of course, there are also the parallels between Rosemary and Scarlett.

One of the things I don’t understand about this novel is McCaig’s need to include Scarlett’s point of view. For those of thus that have read Mitchell’s classic, we’ve already been privy to Scarlett’s thoughts. The book, like its predecessor, also begins to get bogged down by details about the Civil War/Reconstruction, but McCaig’s novel doesn’t posses the same beautiful writing as Gone with the Wind.

Truth be told, I really enjoyed reading the first two parts of Rhett Butler’s People — the actual “sequel” part seemed rush and was bothersome — and had I never read Gone with the Wind I would have immensely enjoyed McCaig’s “prequel/sequel.” But as I have read Gone with the Wind, it’s hard not to see the parallels and ignore the similarities between the two novels.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • McCaig, Donald. Rhett Butler’s People. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007. Print. 500 pgs. ISBN: 9780312262515. Source: Library.
Book Cover © St. Martin’s Press. Retrieved: April 21, 2009.
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