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Rhett Butler's People - Donald McCaig The Authorized Novel Based on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind

Way back when, I posted over on my blog 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.

*****SPOILER*****
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When Rhett is forced to kill his childhood best friend (at the friend's request) 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.
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*****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: http://www.rhettbutlerspeople.com/