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Posts Tagged ‘georgia’

Gosh, where to start with this?! The Eighth Life is an epic in every sense of the word. Coming in at over 900 pages of relatively small print, I knew I was either going to lose myself in this one or find it a chore to read. And I lost myself. I loved this historical saga, which takes the reader through an obviously well researched history of Georgia and Russia in the 20th century. It includes WW1 and WW2, the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s regime, independence for Georgia, Gorbachev and so much more.

On a much more personal level however, it is a story of multi generations of one family starting at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in 2007. There are seven sections of the book, each focusing on one particular character, but all with interweaving stories. There are divisions within the family as characters disagree on politics and lives take very different paths.

There is tragedy and heartbreak, but also love and togetherness. It also serves as a love letter to Georgia. In truth, there’s too much in the book to describe in this review, but I loved it and would highly recommend it.

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Such a famous tale probably needs no introduction, but in brief this book – set in the American South before, during and after the American Civil War, tells the story of headstrong, determined Scarlett O’Hara, the people she loves (and doesn’t), the downfall of the South during the Civil War, and of course, the relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett.

In many ways I absolutely adored this book.  Despite being over 1000 pages long, it never lost it’s pace or excitement, and skilfully wove the story of one woman and the people around her, with the story of a brutal war and the effect it had on the Confederacy.

Scarlett was certainly an interesting heroine, and I found my feelings towards her changing often as I read the book.  In many ways, she is thoroughly dislikeable; she is manipulative, cunning, avaricious and cruel.  But she is also prepared to work hard, shows great determination and has massive reserves of courage.  She is not above lying to people to get what she wants, and even marrying men she doesn’t care for, if there is something in it for her.  But there is one man who she can’t seem to get the better of – the handsome, charming, insolent Rhett Butler, who seems as ruthless and unfeeling as she is.

The story starts in 1961, when Scarlett is the belle of the county with most of the local young men wrapped around her finger – except for Ashley Wilkes, the one man who she really adores. But Ashley is due to marry Melanie, much to Scarlett’s horror.  Over the following ten years, Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melanie live through good times and bad as the war takes hold and causes poverty, heartbreak, unrest and unease.  This is a huge sprawling story, I am reluctant to give away more of the plot for fear of spoiling it for anyone who has yet to read it or see the film (I have never seen the film, but certainly intend to do so).

The characterisation for the main characters is excellent; Scarlett and Melanie in particular are extremely well drawn.  Rhett is also a fully fleshed out character, although he does not appear in the book as much as I expected.  Some of the more peripheral characters were less well depicted, but that didn’t hinder the story in any way.  My favourite character was probably Melanie, for her dear heart and caring nature, but I also had to admit to a grudging respect for Scarlett (even if I could never quite bring myself to like her).

However, there was one huge aspect of the story which did make me feel uncomfortable, and which I feel I have to mention – and that is the issue of slavery, which is a predominant theme throughout the story.  I felt that the author was probably at least partly sympathetic to the idea of slavery, and her own beliefs came through in the story.  The emancipation of slaves is depicted as a bad thing, and the Southerners who kept slaves were uniformly portrayed as kind and generous people.  The slaves who were given their freedom were either shown as layabout criminals, or happy to continue in their former positions.  The Ku Klux Klan features in the book, and even that organisation is shown with some sympathy.  It’s hard not to see some parts of the story as blatantly racist, even if the events described were happening in a different time and culture.  I can’t pretend that these parts did not make me wince.

Overall though, this is a big book, with a huge story contained within its pages.  Don’t be put off by the size – it doesn’t get boring, and I found myself feeling as though I knew the characters.  Certainly I was eager to find out how things would turn out for them.  A recommended read.

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Click here for my review of the 1939 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the film ‘Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War’.

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