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Rhett Butler's People Mass Market Paperback – August 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Margaret Mitchell's story of Scarlett O'Hara's and Rhett Butler's beguiling, twisted love for each other, set against the gruesome background of a nation torn apart by war, is by all accounts epic--so much so that it feels untouchable. Yet McCaig's take on what many would consider a sacred cow of 20th-century American literature is a worthy suitor for Mitchell's many ardent fans, for reasons that may not be altogether obvious. It would be easy to look at Gone With the Wind and Rhett Butler’s People side by side and catalog what is accurate and what isn't and tally up the score. In doing so, however, the fan is apt to miss out on the best part of this whole book: Rhett Butler himself. McCaig's Rhett is thoroughly modern, both a product of his Charleston plantation and an emphatic rejection of it. He is filled with romance and ingenuity, grit and wit, and a toughness matched only by a sense of humility that evokes so gracefully the hardship and heartbreak of a society falling apart. It's not hard to love Rhett in his weakness for Scarlett's love, but it is entirely amazing to love him as he rescues Belle Watling, mentors her bright young son Tazewell, adores his sister Rosemary, dotes on dear Bonnie Blue, and defends his best friend Tunis Bonneau to the very end.

To pluck a character from a beloved book and recalibrate the story's point-of-view isn't an easy thing to do. Ultimately, the new must ring true with the old, and this is where Rhett Butler’s People succeeds beyond measure. In the spirit of Mitchell's masterpiece, McCaig never questions that love--of family, lover, land, or country--is the tie that binds these characters to life, for better or worse. --Anne Bartholomew

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Was it strictly necessary to our understanding of Gone With the Wind's dashing hero to flesh out his backstory, replay famous GWTW scenes from his perspective, and crank the plot past the original's astringent denouement? Perhaps not, but it's still a fun ride. In this authorized reimagining, Rhett, disowned son of a cruel South Carolina planter, is still a jauntily worldwise charmer, roguish but kind; Scarlett is still feisty, manipulative and neurotic; and the air of besieged decorum is slightly racier. (Rhett: "My dear, you have jam at the corner of your mouth." Scarlett: "Lick it off.") But it says much about the author's sure feel for Margaret Mitchell's magnetic protagonists that they still beguile us. McCaig (Jacob's Ladder) broadens the canvas, giving Rhett new dueling and blockade-running adventures and adding intriguing characters like Confederate cavalier-turned-Klansman Andrew Ravanel, a rancid version of Ashley Wilkes who romances Rhett's sister Rosemary. He paints a richer, darker panorama of a Civil War-era South where poor whites seethe with resentment and slavery and racism are brutal facts of life that an instinctive gentleman like Rhett can work around but not openly challenge. McCaig thus imparts a Faulknerian tone to the saga that sharpens Mitchell's critique of Southern nostalgia without losing the epic sweep and romantic pathos. The result is an engrossing update of GWTW that fans of the original will definitely give a damn about.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312945787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312945787
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (521 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

294 of 316 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Olsen on December 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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114 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Cindy Hornsby on April 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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198 of 229 people found the following review helpful By rctnyc VINE VOICE on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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