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Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind

The story behind a classic

Created date

January 24th, 2012

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind has been a household name since its publication in 1936. The story of a spoiled Southern belle plunged into poverty during the Civil War captivated readers from the start. With 30 million copies in print and a classic film adaptation bearing the same title, it's a tale familiar to most even today. But often overlooked is the amazing story behind the book. Journalist Ellen F. Brown and Gone With the Wind memorabilia collector John Wiley, Jr., fill this glaring gap in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2011). Using never-before-published records and correspondence, Brown and Wiley offer an eye-opening account of how an incomplete manuscript by an unknown author went on to become one of the most successful and controversial novels in literary history.

Labor of love

Foremost among the book's virtues is its detailed portrayal of Mitchell, a petite beauty just as complex and fiery as her heroine Scarlett O Hara. What readers find is a compulsive perfectionist, determined in her mission to craft a romance novel that would bring to life the sights, sounds, and smells of Civil War-era Georgia an ambitious undertaking that would consume her. Mitchell labored off and on for ten years, revising chapters dozens of times, all the while riddled with self doubt. In the days leading up to the book s release, the author tirelessly muddled through final drafts, attentive to every last detail. According to Brown and Wiley, the book s instant success only added to the many challenges that Mitchell faced. A reserved woman who valued her privacy above all else, Mitchell suddenly found herself in the limelight of world attention. Her simple life as a writer was but a memory, lost in the wake of her newfound money and fame. Wherever Mitchell went people cornered her for conversation and autographs. The day's work that once involved plotlines and writing style was now filled with negotiations over movie rights and publishing royalties. Mitchell's historic novel had become an industry of advertisements and merchandising, earning the former newspaper reporter several hundred thousand dollars at a time when the average yearly salary was about $1,300. Struggling in the midst of the Great Depression, readers could relate to a character like Scarlett, who faced her own hard times with grit and determination; this, in part, lean to the book s success. Still, Brown and Wiley's meticulously researched volume does more than simply tell the story behindGone With the Wind.It pays tribute to an author s obsession and hard work, a labor of love.