Gone with the Wind – Volume One

Matthew from A Guys Moleskine Notebook is hosting a Gone with the Wind read-along. In theory we are supposed to have finished the book this week, but I am a bit behind. I’ve just got to the end of volume one (p505/1011 in my copy) so I thought this half way stage was a great point to reflect on what I’ve read so far.

I am really enjoying it! Scarlett O’Hara has just become my favourite character from a book. I don’t like her all the time, but her flawed character is endearing, and I’m loving her gradual transformation from a spoilt child, into a hard-working woman. Scarlett’s attitude to her son is shocking at times, but I guess that this was not uncommon in this period of history, as most children were brought up by a variety of people other than their mothers.

I’m finding the story very interesting. The plot is perfectly paced, and holds my attention throughout, despite it’s length. I can’t wait to discover what happens to Scarlett in the rest of the book!

My only criticism of the book is that it lacks detailed descriptions. This means that I am often unable to picture the places mentioned. I haven’t seen the film, and don’t know much about this period in history, so am probably in a different situation to most other readers. 

I found Tara Revisited amongst my stock, and so I decided to read it, to give myself a greater background knowledge of the time.




Tara Revisited gives a insight into what life was like for women during the war, but I found that it assumed a basic knowledge of the conflict, which I’m afraid I’m lacking. So, perhaps foolishly, I have also started reading Battle Cry of Freedom, which won the Pulitzer prize for non-fiction in 2003. This massive 950 page chunkster describes the complete history of the war, and so far I’ve found it very readable. You might not see many book reviews on this blog in the coming weeks, but you’ll be able to ask me anything about the civil war!

Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite/The Glimmer Palace – Beatrice Colin

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is one of the best books I have read this year. The blurb on the back cover describes a very different book to the one it actually contains. I’m not very interested in the film industry, and the life of an orphaned cabaret dancer doesn’t sound like a great basis for a novel, but luckily the book bears little resemblance to it’s description.

The book is set in Berlin during the early part of the twentieth century. The central character, Lilly, is brought up in an orphanage, and faces many hardships. When the orphanage closes, Lilly is thrown onto the streets, and has to learn to live independently. WWI plays a big part in the story line. Lilly has to cope with food shortages, disease and death. The suffering of the German people is described vividly, but sensitively. Lilly is one of the best characters I have come across in a while. She is flawed, but her strength shines though – I loved her!  By coincidence I am also reading Gone With the Wind at the moment, and noticed a lot of similarities between Lilly and Scarlett O’Hara. I’d love to ask the author if  this was just coincidence!

It is very well researched, and I learnt a lot about German history. My only criticism is that the historical facts became too densely packed towards the end. There was a point when I began to wonder if the book was non-fiction, and actually went to check! For three-quarters of the book it was a rich, well written, novel about one woman’s struggle against adversity, but the last part of the book was a bit disappointing, as Lilly’s character seemed to get drowned in historical facts, and the famous people began to dominate the plot. This is only a very minor criticism though, so please do not let it stop you from reading this book.

The book was well paced, informative, and entertaining, and I agree with Simon –  the writing style is very reminiscent of Sarah Waters. I’m sure that anyone who loves Sarah Water’s books will love this one too.

Highly recommended.

NB:  This book is called The Glimmer Palace in America.

2000 - 2007 Recommended books

Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a simple, but powerful story of the friendship between two boys. It is told through the eyes of nine-year-old Bruno, who is forced to leave his childhood home in Berlin, and live next to a concentration camp in Poland. He forms a friendship with Shmuel, a young Jewish boy, who by coincidence was born on the same day as him. By talking through the fence, Shmuel slowly explains the horrors of the war to Bruno.

I think that this is the most distressing story about WWII I have ever read. There are no graphic descriptions, it is all left up to your imagination, and it is this that makes it so harrowing. Everything is seen through Bruno’s eyes, and so I built up a very strong connection with him. Bruno fails to comprehend the situation around him, and his suggestions about how things could be improved are incredibly touching.

The writing is easily accessible, and feels realistically like that of a child. The happy innocence of Bruno’s childhood is a beautiful thing. I loved the way that his parents tried to shelter him from the war, but am not sure that this was realistically possible. Surely a nine-year-old boy living in Berlin would have had Nazi opinions forced onto him in school? There were certain other aspects of the book that didn’t ring true, I won’t go into them, as I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book. I’m willing to overlook them, as the message of the book is more important than a few details.

This book made me smile, it almost made me cry, and then it shocked me, and left the plot running over and over again in my head. I think it will be a very long time before the characters in this book begin to fade. This book has gone straight to the top of my ‘books everyone must read’ list. This isn’t because it is the best book in the world, but because it is so accessible to everyone, and is the most powerful anti-war message I’ve found.

Highly recommended, but have some tissues handy.