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184 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published on November 16, 2007 by rctnyc

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260 of 282 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Correcting Margaret Mitchell
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...
Published on December 30, 2007 by Mrs. Olsen


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260 of 282 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Correcting Margaret Mitchell, December 30, 2007
By 
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (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. 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.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh my dear God., April 28, 2009
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (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. 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.

He

burned

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.
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184 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Can't Go Home To Tara, November 16, 2007
By 
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This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars BEYOND Disappointing, November 24, 2008
By 
Any attempt to carry on Mitchell's legacy will of course fall short, but this book completely underwhelms fans of the classic novel.

McCaig DOES try, with depiction of Rhett's family, particularly his beloved sister, Rosemary, but as a whole the book fails. His writing style needs polish (excessive passive voice, the cardinal writer's crime of "telling" the reader rather than putting them inside the characters, for example) and at times his attempts to meld his story with the timeline of Mitchell's feels rushed.

The worst are the anachronisms. Sorry, Mr. McCaig, but hardcore fans have the book practically memorized, and just too much artistic license was taken when writing "Rhett." The subplot with Archie and having him already acquainted with Rhett from the war just isn't believable at all, and he makes too many mistakes. It's plain from the original novel that Ashley lost Twelve Oaks for back taxes, and it's mentioned several times that Charles Hamilton and his parents were buried in Atlanta (Mitchell's description of the looted cemeteries, for example, which really were desecrated by Sherman's troops) rather than at Twelve Oaks. Furthermore, Charles' and Melanie's father was a veteran of the Mexican War, yet McCaig has his date of death listed on his tombstone as 1845. The Mexican War took place in 1847. Those are a few of the more minor mistakes.

Most insulting to fans of the series is the author's propensity for killing beloved characters and burning things down. Scarlett's house in Atlanta, then - most unforgivable of all - Tara. No thanks.

I really, really wanted to like this novel, but was bitterly disappointed. It's enough of a shame that today's publishers are so reluctant to publish Civil War fiction....to give us such a flawed sequel to a beloved classic is another.

Sorry, I can't recommend this one. Those in need of more "Gone With the Wind" should re-read Alexandra Ripley's "Scarlett" instead. It's still far superior to "Rhett Butler's People."
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great potential, but poorly edited and lacking attention to detail, November 28, 2007
By 
Yeatsian1 (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
Having been enamored with GWTW since I was 12, it was with great anticipation that I sat down with McCaig's "sequel". There were moments when I found it extremely satisfying to be immersed again in this storyline, and getting Rhett's perspective (though only in parts of the book) was helpful in building out some of the reasons things unfolded the way they did in GWTW. For the first hundred pages or so, this was a terrific character analysis of one of the most mysterious literary characters ever created.

However, the inconsistencies with both GWTW and Ripley's "Scarlett" made it quite surprising that the Margaret Mitchell Society allowed this poor continuation of Mitchell's beloved story to be released. Now that I think of it, the fact that there are no editorial reviews quoted on the dustjacket should have clued me in to the fact that this was not as well-received as one would expect, given its endorsement by the Society.

McCaig should have kept things purely from Rhett's perspective, since attempts at replaying scenes from GWTW were not true to the original story -- if you're going to redo whole scenes, McCaig, you've got to have the quotes and descriptions EXACTLY the way they were originally printed. "Close enough" doesn't cut it!

Furthermore, it was very clear that no editor did a full read-through of the manuscript; there were countless typos and multiple instances where entire words were misplaced or repeated in sentences! McCaig had to know that historians and literary types alike would be anxiously awaiting his novel, but he lost all credibility by releasing a sloppy, lightweight book that belied its potential to be magnificent. Really disappointing!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly Mediocre, Which Eventually Dips Way Below Par, Very Disappointing, January 7, 2008
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
The author of this novel must have been excited indeed to write a prequel of some sort to the legendary GONE WITH THE WIND. Nevertheless, he should have focused more on an interesting story and intriguing characters. He constantly fails to engage the reader and visualize his thoughts/character/story. At times, especially earier on in the book, I felt that Rhett Butler must have been friends with Huck Finn, as they both had a passion for running about the creek, and sailing up and down the river on a raft with their own Black companion. Could the author come up with nothing more intriguing. Rhett's family are completely written as cardboard character, and stereotypes. One never gets to fully get into most of the characters because the author never truly takes the time to endelve into helping the reader feel the impact of the relationships.

I felt at many times that reading the book was like reading a rough draft with many missing parts and what was remaining was way under developed. The most hilarious line is "and Rhett swore to himself, he swore he never would be helpless again." GIVE ME A BREAK HOW CORNY AND DUMB WITTED IS THAT.

DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY!!!! IT IS A WASTE AND FRUSTRATING!!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Even close, December 31, 2007
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
I truly can't put in to words how far from good this book was. It was as if Gone with the Wind was written for a man so he could "get through it" There are no romantic scenes, The author skips over most of the emotional points of the book in which I wanted to know how Rhett would feel...the author skipped Rhett and Scarlett's marriage, the birth and death of Bonnie Blue, the death of Melanie. It was simply a book written about the civil war (incorrectly at that) and should not be allowed to be described as part of the Gone With the Wind Legacy. I was bitterly disappointed.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Mitchell turns in her grave, November 27, 2007
By 
Addicted to Rhett (St. Louis, Missouri) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
While I anticipated this book with mixed emotions, I decided to finally
purchase it due to the generally favorable reviews for McCaig's best-known work "Jacob's Ladder".

I read the entire novel the day I got it, as I did not find it to be the
difficult read other reviews have suggested. While I found the opening
chapters to be somewhat interesting (interesting plot, weak character
development) the book loses all perspective and any continuity of story
after Chapter 3. McCaig jumps forward and backward in time so quickly and so often, I had make written notes to remind myself who all of Rhett Butlers "people" were.

Previews promised a look into Rhett's days prior to and away from Scarlett. What the reader gets instead is a Rhett who comes and goes in
this story as often as he did in Gone with the Wind. His "people" often
discuss his escapades with one another or speculate where he is and/or
what he's doing there. Rhett's 'side" of the Scarlett/Rhett love story is nothing more than using some lines of Mitchell's original verse, and having Rhett ponder about it for a sentence or two.

This book is really about the life and loves of Rhett's sister Rosemary and she is, by far, the most interesting character in the novel. McCaig's treatment of Scarlett and Melanie is downright disgraceful. Melanie Wilkes is nothing more than an simple-minded, sex-starved fool. Scarlett is so one-dimensional and shallow the reader is left wondering why Rhett even bothers about her in the first place. The text describing
Rhett and Scarlett's honeymoon sex is absolutely laughable. Quite frankly, do we really give a damn about that anyway?

The final chapters are idiotic... and take a complete left turn from the
original story.

McCaig stated that he thought he could fill in some of the "gaps" of Rhett's life as told by Margaret Mitchell. What he, and the Mitchell Estate, don't know is that fans of Gone with the Wind don't want those gaps filled in. What any good storyteller knows, is that you don't tell the whole story. That's what makes Michell's work a masterpiece. She weaves so many tantalizing tidbits of mystery in and out of her story, the reader is left begging for more.

Unfortunately, that's what the Michell Estate keeps giving us. Of the
two sequels written, I prefer "Scarlett" to "Rhett Butler's People". At least Alexandra Ripley kept true to the original story, and had a much better understanding of the characters.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Epic Disappointment, November 25, 2008
By 
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
I am a huge fan of the original work. I have no problem at all with others trying to write sequels, parodies, etc... That said...
This new book is in no way worthy to be called a prequel, sequel, or associated in any way to the original. Scarlett as a character is completely unrecognizable, Rhett is no longer Rhett, but a clinical mess on the border of manic depressive, and so many other characters that we already know and love are so different, and frankly, unlikable. Scenes were changed so drastically that the reader would never understand a character's motives. The only remotely interesting parts of the book are those that deal solely with McCaig's new characters.
There are not only substantial differences between this book and the original, but was also written as if the other authorized sequel, Scarlett, was never written at all, making it completely impossible to read them together as a series.
When I first read Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, I liked it. I knew in advance what an enormous task it would be to try to re-enter this story with any consistency at all. After reading Rhett Butler's People, I have an even greater respect for Ripley, for at least she tried, and very often, was quite successful. It is obvious that McCaig made no effort whatsover to stay consistent with the story, the tone, the characters, or the ultimate vision of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind. This cannot even earn an A for effort. How sad that is.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your (grand)mother's Gone with the Wind, November 19, 2007
This review is from: Rhett Butler's People (Hardcover)
First of all, Mr. McCaig has done a good job on several points with this novel. He elicits a very real sense of historical time and place. Most memorable here was the retreat of the Confederate troops from Atlanta. It was done pretty well visually in the GWTW film, but very well verbally here, without an excess of words. McCaig's own characters are interesting. Tunis Bonneau, Rhett's childhood friend and a freed slave's son, gives a perspective Margaret Mitchell wouldn't have conceived of. In addition, Rhett's sister Rosemary is very well developed here. One gets the feeling that she is who Scarlett might have been if a man had written the character.

There are a few negatives, though. I felt like some of Margaret Mitchell's characters got less care than then did in the original. Ashley and Melanie especially seemed out of character, a lot less dignified or genteel than they were in GWTW. (Miss Melly writing about sex and seduction in a letter to a friend? God forbid!) And at times I found myself wishing for a clearer understanding of Rhett (as there was of Scarlett in GWTW), and less so of his "people".

Overall, I'm glad I read Rhett Butler's People. It gave me a wider understanding of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction South, in some ways maybe a little more realistically than GWTW did. But when it comes to Rhett Butler, nothing beats Clark Gable and the mystique of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.
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Rhett Butler's People
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig (Hardcover - November 6, 2007)
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