on December 16, 2007
When I first heard that Rhett Butler's People was coming out and that it was authorized by the Mitchell estate, I got vary excited!! I could hardly wait to get my hands on it and I ordered one for my mother in-law for Christmas as well.
I must say that I was disappointed. The writing style and the historical detail were good, although, the book did drag in a couple parts. I also found that McCaig wrapped up all of the loose ends, without leaving anything to the imagination. I find it hard for the characters to live on in the world of my imagination, when an author wraps up everything so neatly.
Some of the characters seemed to be written out of character. Melanie Wilkes is a big example of this. She was still the loving, meek woman she was in Gone With the Wind; however, Craig has us believe that she wrote intimate letters to a girl friend about sex. Mitchell's Melanie would never have done this.
I did enjoy McCaig's take on some of the minor characters, such as Wade and Belle. However, if you haven't read Gone With the Wind and only saw the movie, you won't know whom some of these minor characters, such a Wade, are.
I am not sorry that I read Rhett Butler's People. It was worthwhile and I enjoyed it for the most part. In my opinion, it is not a work of literature that will stand the test of time like Gone With the Wind has.
on November 18, 2007
I'm not even sure where to start in putting my feelings about this book into words. Gone With the Wind is one of my all time favorite books, and Rhett is right up there in my favorite, fascinating male characters in fiction and I was looking forward to a good meaty look into Rhett's life before Scarlett. Boy was I ever wrong. This book is called Rhett Butler's People for a reason - it's not just about Rhett, it's about all the people in his life and there are WAY too many of them.
I totally agree with other reviewers on Amazon US that the story seemed to be told as snapshots in a person's life instead of true story telling, and the way he jumped back and forth from one person's point of view to another was very distracting to this reader, and I admit to giving up at 150 pages and from looking at some of the other one and two star reviews on Amazon US I am very glad I did so. I was quite irritated at the way the author used scenes and characters from the original book and wrote his own version of them, and worse yet worked his new characters into those scenes. This author even managed to ruin Prissy and Aunt Pitty Pat, and from reading the other reviews I see that he managed to rewrite "history" as Ashley, Melanie and even Scarlett are not what they were in GWTW.
For me, the mistake made was telling the story of Rhett and his "people". Rhett is a fascinating character who had a colorful past before he met Scarlett. He traveled to burgeoning San Francisco and the California Gold fields - a colorful period in our country's history - and it's barely touched upon and only via letters Rhett wrote to his sister. Letters, I might add that were destroyed by their father so she never read them, yet they are recreated in the book as if they were? What's up with that? I think if the MM Estate had taken the tact of writing Rhett's story totally from his viewpoint and given me a good strong meaty story about Rhett and his life before Scarlett, and not rewritten moments from GWTW they might have had a winner here instead of a turkey.
IMO, this book is not worth wasting time or money on, there are too many good books to be read and too little time in this world. If you're dead set on reading the rest of the story, get it from the library and then if you love it, buy it.
on March 11, 2011
At least it was an interesting one, but unfortunately it did not translate well to paper, at least not with Donald McCaig's pen.
I was intrigued when I heard about "Rhett Butler's People" because of the potential insight into one of the most fascinating characters in American literature. Having said that, Rhett's mysteriousness (similar to that of Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights") is definately one of the most magnetic aspects of his personality, along with the way he comes and goes without explanation in Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With The Wind" and in Alexandra Ripley's "Scarlett" (which, by the way, I happen to like). But I still looked forward to finding out more about him, what made him tick, what drove him to his actions, and most of all, what drew him to Scarlett O'Hara, the most fiery, exasperating and passionate woman he had ever met. I did not expect, any more than I did with "Scarlett" for it to equal GWTW or Margaret Mitchell's style of writing, for that would be utterly impossible as both are colossal and wonderfully unique. But I did at least think that RBP should have matched both Mitchell's timeline, been true to the basic essence of the characters, and at most have gotten certain names right (while he didn't necessarily have to follow "Scarlett", although it would have been nice, he could have made an attempt to make sure Rhett's mother and younger brother's monikers remained the same!). But no, McCaig ended up almost completely destroying the aura that surrounds this legendary epic story of love, war and survival. Whatever insight was fleetingly shown quickly dwindled with an incoherent strew of secondary and minor characters that come and go so rapidly along with several sub-plots that left me confused, annoyed, and ultimately, feeling cheated (so much so that I once tossed the book across the room in frustration). Even Belle Watling, for whom I had compassion and who interested me in GWTW, lost sympathy from me, having been presented (along with Rhett's sister Rosemary) more or less as the long-suffering herione or at least the object of Rhett's love and affection to the point where I just couldn't stomach it any longer. I too, had a hard time believing that she and Scarlett would have become bosom buddies or that Melanie would have been a two-faced, sneaky eavesdropper who gives the term "keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" a new meaning. Melly had no guile and she could never be so secretive and devious, she saw the good in everyone. The crucial aspects of what caused Rhett to leave Scarlett - her miscarriage, which is never mentioned, or the death of their beloved daugher, Bonnie, which is unforgivably reduced as yet another pathetic attempt to connect Melanie and Rosemary as Victorian-era pen pals. It is obvious that McCaig skimmed over the original novel and by his own admission read his wife's notes so he could basically rewrite certain passages with his own descriptions to the point that he could not be accused of plagerism, and gave him an excuse to be lazy regarding the telling of Rhett's "life story". But the juggling narrative does nothing to enhance either the book or Rhett's point of view. (Was the plot point of the paternity of Belle's son really necessary?). Ashley is even more weak-willed and boring, Scarlett is a pale shadow of the headstrong woman that she was, Melanie is unbelievably butchered and devoid any selfless qualities, and, most lamentably, Rhett is nowhere near the swoon-worthy, magnetic man that readers admire. The author's physical descriptions of the characters are even off and I could not picture the actors from the 1939 film here, as I did in GWTW and SCARLETT. Ripley did her research and there is not a doubt in my mind that she read the book, and I could see Rhett and Scarlett taking the paths that they did in that sequel. Rosemary was more believable as a spinster, not a thrice-married woman who seemed to be a cheap imitation of Scarlett. And Scarlett was indeed an independant and a woman of action, not the pining, passive defeatist that McCaig reduces her to as she submits to endless drudgery and catastrophe in her family plantation. The Scarlett we all know and love would have devised a plan to get her husband back and he in turn, would not have fled across the Atlantic to drown his sorrows while his beloved and her clan were left at the mercy of hardship.
I can only give my opinion but I have a hard time understanding why Mitchell's estate sanctioned this novel, especially considering that they also sanctioned SCARLETT, which to me, is the only true sequel to Mitchell's masterpiece. Did they not read the manuscript of RBP before it was published? It qualifies more as fanfiction than a novel deemed worthy to be supported by the desendants of Margaret Mitchell. Not that there's anything wrong with fanfiction, as I write that kind of thing myself. But it should be presented just as that, not an official part of the GWTW legacy.
For fans of "Gone With the Wind," it is inevitable that "Rhett Butler's People," the authorized novel based on Margaret Mitchell's classic tale, will prove to be disappointing. But that does not mean that fans should avoid Donald McCaig's novel, because time and time again you will get to come to your own judgment regarding what he is doing with these character. What will be most surprising is that the Mitchell estate has decided that this book, which begins before and ends after the events in "GWTW," has nothing to do with Alexandra Ripley's "Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone With the Wind'," the first novel authorized by the estate. These books were mandated not so much by a desire to find out what happened next, what with the "will she or won't she?" ending of the original representing the epitome of literary ambiguity, but by the necessity of maintaining a copyright over the character. That means that Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, one of the iconic female characters in literature (along with Emma Bovary), has been reduced to being more like Tarzan and Superman, where there are competing visions that are supposed to be accepted on their own terms. Does this mean that there will be authorized novels in which anything goes, where Scarlett runs off with Ashley and such? It sure looks like the Mitchell estate has opened a bigger can of worms with the publication of this second authorized novel than it did with the first one.
I read "Scarlett" so I knew I was going to read this book as well and studiously avoided reading reviews, comments, or diatribes on McCaig's book. When I picked it up to read it I paid less attention to the title than the claim on the back of the dustcover (which I always remove so that nothing happens to it and so that I do not read anything about the book) that this was "The Other Side of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told" (Take that Wm. Shakespeare). My expectation was that McCaig would be doing with Scarlett and Rhet what Orson Scott Card did with Ender and Bean when he wrote "Ender's Shadow" as a parallel novel to "Ender's Game." So I was looking forward to, for example, finding out exactly what Rhett did during his service to the Confederacy after he left Scarlett and company on the road to Tara. But I discovered that the title of the book was no lie, and there is more about what characters who did not exist in "GWTW" did during the war then there is about Rhett himself in that regard. I knew that Belle Watling would be a more pivotal character from Rhett's side of the story, and I suspected that Belle's son in New Orleans would play a prominent role, which proves to be the case. In fact, the book begins with a young Rhett Butler about to have a duel with Belle's brother, who has accused Rhett of getting her pregnant. Rhett has denied paternity, and since we believe him the question of paternity becomes the book's biggest mystery. I thought I had it figured out, keying on the idea that the boy bears a physical resemblance to Rhett and thinking that it would explain the animosity between Rhett and his father, but I proved to be wrong and the disclosure of the truth ended up being so inconsequential that it did not seem worth the effort.
Since he is not trying to tell the story of "GWTW" from Rhett Butler's vantage point, McCaig puts himself in a position of being damned if he does and damned if he doesn't by introducing new characters. The most prominent of these would be Rhett's younger sister, Rosemary, whose correspondence with Miss Melly and closeness to her brother make it improbable (retroactively speaking, of course), for her not to have been mentioned in "GWTW" (although she does appear in "Scarlett"). However, other creations, such as Rhett's friends Andrew Ravanel and John Haynes, end up to be not worth the bother, especially since McCaig creates the former by borrowing from the history of a real Confederate raider. I liked the irony of what becomes of Ashley Wilkes, but have no doubt that what will offend "GWTW" fans the most will be the depiction of Miss Melly in this book (I totally dismiss attacks on McCaig for using language appropriate to the racism of the time). You can understand how Scarlett becomes a minor character in this book, since this time the focus is on Rhett, but Melanie Wilkes becomes a different character and everything she writes just rings wrong to me. What happens with Archie Flytte before and after what is in "GWTW" strikes a note of discord as well. On the plus side, Mammy does not die at the start of this one and there are certainly other things that you can willingly incorporate into your expanded version of the story of Rhett and Scarlett..
In terms of what happens with Rhett and Scarlett when we finally get to the long awaited tomorrow that is another day, I prefer Ripley's version to McCaig, and not just because she uses an entire book to get to the next fade out whereas he takes less than 100 pages (remember how much Mitchell throws at Scarlett in the last 100 pages of "GWTW"). I was actually intrigued by the notion that Scarlett would go to Ireland and become "the O'Hara," which made sense given how much she cut across the grain of Southern decorum, even during Reconstruction. However, both Ripley and McCaig achieve their reconciliations by circling Scarlett through her past for second pass at Rhett (not to mention throwing in a big fire for good measure). For Ripley that is through another pregnancy resulting from what we will politely call ravishment, while McCaig not only sends Scarlett back to Tara but essentially sends Tara back to where it was at the end of the war (Scarlett might never be hungry again, but that does not mean her cotton picking days are over). I also do not like seeing who gets killed in the final chapters of "Rhett Butler's People," and it was this stark contrast with the litany of death at the end of "GWTW" that made me knock down the rating on this book to the point where rounding up or down was moot. However, none of this is intended to dissuade you from reading the book, because you should make up your own mind about what happens here and there is definitely plenty for you to make up your mind about before the next authorized novel comes out a decade or so from now ("GWTW" from the perspective of either Melanie and/or Ashley or Mammy and/or Prissy would be my guess, because I can see all of those working). Plus reading this book will probably inspire you to go back and read the original, which is always a good thing.
on December 14, 2007
As a work of historical fiction, I would have happily given this novel 3 stars. I liked Mr McCaig's writing style and enjoyed many of his characterizations. It didn't particularly concern me that Mr McCaig had a different interpretation from mine of many of the 'Gone With The Wind' characters. Judging from many of the other reviews written on Amazon.com, many of us have differing views about different characters and I can imagine many a passionate debate about the mystery of Rhett, or the qualities of Melanie.
The reason I give this novel two stars is that it seemed to me that many loose ends were too neatly tied off. Some of these loose ends are the aspects of truly great novels that enable fans to give characters a life of their own far beyond where the story written by the author ended.
The neatness described by Mr MCaig, for me, stifles the story. Having said this, I would recommend the novel to others as a readable historical fiction but I would offer a caution. This is Mr Caig's fiction around 'Gone With The Wind' - don't expect it to neatly accord with yours.
on December 6, 2010
I wanted to read this book beacause I was so in love with gone with the wind, I did not want it to end. Not satifyed with what was left,I needed more, I needed closure, I needed to know what else could have happened. It was pleasent to read and I liked how the author wrote about each character in their own presepctive from chapter to chapter. I also enjoyed reading about Rhetts points of view, especially about Scarlett and also about what sculped Rhett to be the man he is, a man who has cativated every reader. What I was dissapointed in the most was the ending. I felt the characters were not being true to what Mitchell wrote about in 'Gone with the wind'. Sequeals are usually never as good as the originals. None the less, I think you can never read enough about this story.
The review headline states it all. It's boring & disappointing. Too many times rhett butler is absent during times where he seems to be off on an exciting adventure & we the reader can't go with him cause we a stuck hearing boring characters talk about it.
Rhett Butlers People is not much of an improvement over the novel Scarlet.
Oh why oh why do they keep getting boring authors to write boring follow ups to Gone With The Wind.
I mean please seriously, If Margaret Mitchell's estate is so hell bent on crapping all over A classic masterpiece. Then here's a suggestion for you. Get George Lucas to write an atrocious prequel to GWTW. That should top off your literature atrocities.
Knock it off already
on October 31, 2007
Donald McCaig is known for his civil war novel, Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War, and reconstruction novel, Canaan: A Novel of the Reunited States after the War. A copywriter turned sheep farmer, McCaig is also known for his writing on A Useful Dog. Critics respect McCaig's careful prose and his attention to historical detail. With this background, McCaig was chosen to undertake the writing of a second sequel to Gone with the Wind. Rhett Butler's People is the second novel to re-examine the lives of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Rhett Butler's People follows Rhett Butler's life across the South from 1843 to 1874. We all know how Butler courted the indomitable Scarlett O'Hara of Gone With the Wind. In Rhett Butler's People, we learn how Rhett first met Belle Watling. Butler's troubled relationship with his Charleston family is also told in the new account. Of course the novel details Rhett Butler's tortured relationship with Scarlett O'Hara. For fans of both Gone with the Wind and history, Rhett Butler's People will be able to correct the romanticized view of the South that Margaret Mitchell captured in her 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind. Given that Rhett Butler moved around the South more than Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler's People will be able to capture in greater detail the multiple experiences of slaves, poor whites, and slave-owners in the years preceding and following the Civil War. Also, if you missed reading Tino Georgiou's masterpiece--The Fates, go and read it.
on December 25, 2012
Very captivating book, and I would recommend it to any fan of Gone With The Wind who is longing for more.
on February 8, 2015
In comparison to "Gone With The Wind" and "Scarlet", "Rhett Butlers People" is terribly boring. The writing is dry, and doesn't have the same spellbinding storytelling that throughly captures your heart like the original. I had to force myself to finish.