Mid-1800’s Book Reviews

I should point out that I mean books set in the mid-1800’s, not written then. In January, as I received an amazon gift card, I decided I wanted to finally read Gone with the Wind, and then when I ordered it, some other books were suggested, so I got them, too. Because I am a terrible person, I usually don’t give credit to things I think are well done, and usually just complain and whine about the terrible things. So to change that up, I will start by saying some good things. I’m still figuring out how to say good things about stuff, thank you for your patience and understanding.

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Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

I have determined that this is a good book. I believe other people have made the same determination, so I don’t think there’s much more to say. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book. Pretty much everyone knows this story, so I won’t get into too many details. The movie follows it pretty well, just the book has way more details that greatly enhances the whole story. It’s an engrossing plot, and it’s an interesting look at that time of life. It’s a long book, but it’s a very easy read. Highly recommend.

Now let’s get into not so good:

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Scarlet, by Alexandra Ripley

I am still in shock. I can’t believe the Margaret Mitchell estate allowed this to be the official sequel to GWTW. I’ll start with what’s good about this book – I like the cover. Moving on, here’s my laundry list of things wrong with it:

  1. None of the characters act the same. Scarlet is whiny, wimpy, and highly annoying. She sounds like a teenage girl, not a full grown woman. Rhett is not believably charming, he’s not tough, and he says things I feel like he wouldn’t say.
  2. The majority of the characters in GWTW are killed off or discarded and a whole new cast is brought in.
  3. The plot jumps all over the place. First she’s in Charleston, trying to fit in, then she goes to Savannah trying fit in, then she goes to Ireland (??) trying to fit in. She is seriously unstable, and this ties in to 1 above – she’s never cared what people think of her, so why does she care now? She is way too independent and strong willed to act like this.
  4. The dramatic portions are either unbelievable (Rhett doesn’t like Scarlet, but takes her sailing, doesn’t notice massive storm, boat capsizes), or happen completely off screen (ex. 1 – Rhett takes on a group of former slaves, and angry farmers, single handedly, while Scarlet hides in a bedroom. Guess who’s point of view we got to see.  Ex. 2 – The angry farmers of Ireland are after Scarlet. Everyone hides. Book follows the point of view of hiding for an extended amount of time)
  5. Scarlet has another daughter with Rhett, who she names Cat. Cat talks in the third person. Cat is highly annoying. Also, Cat was born through some kind of mystical Ireland magic, by a mid-wife through some kind of magical c-section. I guess in Ireland, magic does exist. It seems very out of place.
  6. Minor events are described in great detail. Like, instead of saying “Scarlet got dressed and left,” it might say, “Scarlet gazed at her closet of dresses. She fingered the velvet, thinking about how nicely it would set off eyes. She liked her eyes. Rhett always said they looked like a cat’s eyes. Cats were okay. She may have named her daughter Cat, but she really didn’t have any fondness for cats. Also cats might have fleas. So she didn’t wear the velvet. Instead, she gazed at the blue silk. Maybe the blue silk would look nice. She stepped out of her nightgown and pull on the dress slowly. Then she sat at her dressing table, applying makeup. Makeup always brought out her best features. She careful applied rouge, admiring the effect on her cheeks. Finally, she pulled on the matching slippers. She was ready to go head out.” This is seriously the reason why this book is as long as it is. It’s full of filler, with plot points glossed over.

I stopped actually reading the book, and just started skipping ahead because the book was so dull. I had been hoping there was so redeeming feature, but there wasn’t. But Rhett and Scarlet got back together, and they have a new child to replace that other one, now everyone can be soothed that all is right in the world. Gag.

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Yellow Crocus, by Laila Ibrahim

The basic plot of this is the two points of view of black slave taken from her child to raise a white child, and then the white child she’s raising.

Sometimes when I’m reading a book (or anything) I notice something that makes me get an inkling that the author has some kind of agenda. I didn’t notice it at first, but by the second mention, I was thinking something was up. By the 6th mention, I started to realize the author has some kind of obsession with breast feeding. I have nothing against breast feeding, and it’s not my business if someone breast feeds their child, or not. That said, reading about the various women breast feeding various children added nothing to the story. I could see once, maybe twice, because the slave character was supposed to be the wet nurse, but after that, it was excessive. These weren’t just offhand mentions either, it’s described graphically, each time.

Other than the breast feeding agenda, the book is lackluster. I was expecting a lot of emotion and drama, as the white child grows up loving the mammy, but mammy is kind of indifferent towards child. Their interactions don’t seem like ones of love, or of wisdom being passed. Mammy gives the impression of finding the white child annoying, and tells her lots of things she finds wrong with plantation life. She eventually runs away, so the two stop interacting at all.

The child was maybe 12 or so when she loses her mammy, and the story is told primarily from her POV after that, and she continually references her experience with mammy as she grows up, eventually making her question her life on slave owning plantations. The problem is, it’s just flat out boring writing. I don’t think the general premise is a bad concept, at all. It could have been an excellent story, if only it wasn’t so dull.

The ending follows the same lackluster feel of the rest of the book. The child and mammy were made out to have the love of a mother/child, but they don’t even end up as friends. It doesn’t go along with what we are supposed to believe about their love the whole book.

I wish someone else had written this book, or someone else could take this book and revise it. It could have been good, maybe with some rewrites.

In conclusion, I am now bitter about the terrible books. I was thinking about trying to find similar books to redeem these, but I’ve moved on to a mountain climbing/hiking non-fiction kick now, as I am rereading Into Thin Air now, likely unconsciously inspired by my decision to go to the gym (Everest/gym, it’s basically the same). It is a good book though. Lots and lots of goodness. Except for, well, the whole concept of disaster, death and suffering on the mountain. But those aside, totally good. A++, would read again.

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  1. Boo for bad books! I was reading the Game of Throne series, and am now half way through book three. They are decently written, but I am becoming more and more bitter about how the author depicts and treats women. I don’t know if I will keep going after I finish this one.

    1. That’s disappointing 🙁 I started reading the series but got distracted by another book in the middle of the second one. Now I’m wondering if I should finish reading them… you’ve made me a bit curious!

  2. ha so while i was snowed in from the storm i sorta fell down the rabbit hole of watching everest documentaries on youtube, followed by K2 documentaries… the suffering on those mountains yo, it’s real!

  3. I love Into Thin Air. It’s such a great book. If you want to read a good fiction book set in the American 1800s, you might like The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I read it in my book club and it was really very good. Although it’s not about climbing mountains, a book in the similar theme of Bad Things Happen in the Outdoors and People Rise to the Challenge is The Last Season by Eric Blehm. Everyone I have convinced to read this book loves it.

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