Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

The Authorized Novel Based on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind

Not long ago, I posted over on Let's Gab about Rhett Butler being one of my favorite heroes. Here's what I said about him: "Smooth talking, slick. Yet vulnerable, too. He loves Scarlett, and makes no excuses for her. He accepts her for who she is. Even loves her for it. That’s seductive."

This book is about Rhett's family history - his people and friends, and Gone With the Wind from his perspective. Truly an interesting, fascinating, sad, depressing, and fabulous book. And indeed, Rhett comes across as all those things I quoted above, and more.

In GWTW, Rhett is this larger than life character, who swoops in to save the day, save Tara, save Scarlett, and be the all-around rakish hero to Ashley's milquetoasty boring good-guy. Rhett Butler's People delves into Rhett's background, his father's cruel treatment of him and of the slaves they owned, and shows Rhett's total lack of prejudice; in fact his closeness to the slaves on the rice plantation. So close that he works the fields with them.

We see Rhett as a flawed character; loving, idealistic, and then having his ideals trampled upon by his own parent. This sets him up for his entire story. We see him head over heels in love with Scarlett, knowing that she cares not one whit for him, except in the bedroom. We see his love for his friends. We see him take on a father role for a boy not his. We see his love for his little sister, and for his friends. Does he sound too good to be true? Not at all. Our first glimpse of him is on the dueling field, shooting and killing his opponent and walking away without a backward glance.

McCaig paints a full and interesting portrait. I was completely caught up. It was so not what I was expecting. The secondary characters are not really secondary at all. Rhett's sister, his friend Andrew Ravanel, Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett, even Ashley plays a large role.
McCaig writes Rhett beautifully. When he gives Scarlett the yellow scarf as a token of his love and then returns to see it on Ashley as a sash on his new uniform, you can feel his heart break.
When Rhett is forced to kill his childhood best friend in order to save him from hanging (he's black and was set up by the KKK in the post-war South), you feel his heart break.
*****END SPOILER*****
This was a fabulous character study, and an interesting history lesson, although several liberties were taken with the history, placing our characters into historical battles, and into conversations with Congressmen and other political figures. It begins several years before the war, and ends several years after.
If you are a GWTW fan, I highly recommend this book. It kept me riveted. I fell deeper in love with Rhett than before. He's immensely human, tremendously flawed, exceptionally vulnerable, and extremely likeable despite all his flaws.
The rest of "his people" are equally as riveting, heartbreaking, poignant, and touching. Read Rhett Butler's People, people. There is also a web site devoted to the book:


  1. I have seen lots of lukewarm reviews of this one! I am looking forward to reading it to get my own perpsective on it.

  2. I read GWTW a couple years ago, and loved it. So I know I'll check this out now. :P

  3. You know...I've never read or seen GWTW. I'm going to have to do that. Then add this one Lori.

  4. I clearly remember reading GWTW and feeling cheated by the movie because there's so much more to the story.

    Reading your review, which was excellent by the way, gave me that same sort of feeling.

    When I read GWTW I didn't picture the actors from the movie I sort of created my own characters in my head. How was it with this book? Your own Rhett? Clark Gable?

  5. I kept trying to picture Clark Gable, Rosie, but it wasn't him at all. It was so much deeper and complex than he portrayed in the movie. I can't picture a single actor in the role of this Rhett. He was just too... too.

  6. Don't I completely share your feelings on rhett butler! The review sums up the book wonderfully.

  7. Thanks, clezevra, and welcome to our blog!

  8. Sounds intriguing. I remember reading Gone with the wind, or rather starting it, and never finishing it for some reason.

  9. It is really interesting, Erin! You don't have to have read GWTW. If you've seen the movie, it's sufficient knowledge to read this book.

  10. Good review. I read GWTW for the first time when I was 14, after seeing the movie... much more to the book! Also read "Scarlett", was OK, loved the descriptive writing. But Rhett Butler's People was AWESOME! I loved getting the full picture of Rhett as we did of Scarlett in GWTW and the flipside of Melanie's tolerance, her inside story and finally a more realistic picture of Ashley Wilkes (what did Scarlett ever see in him anyway?!) This book is really "the rest of the story".. I couldn't put it down & miss it terribly now that it's finished! A must read for any GWTW fan... coming from a world class GWTW fan!


Have you read it? What do you think?

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