In which Scarlett O’Hara attempts to win back Rhett Butler. Because Scarlett learning her lesson at the end of Gone With the Wind by being denied her soulmate is just too gloomy.

Alexandra Ripley
(Pan Books, 1991)

Perhaps the most annoying element of this brick of a book is the “so it is” portrayal of the Irish. The romanticisation of the Deep South in Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 original can be excused as nostalgia for a long-vanished age. I’m not sure even that justifies its reactionary views, but at least Mitchell packed in the action, and had a stunning set piece at its mid-point.

Scarlett lacks such a background, and crosses the Atlantic in search of an equivalent. Scarlett herself promptly forgot the lesson she learnt in the fog in Atlanta, and goes after Rhett just as she went after Ashley. The portrayal of Ireland in the 1870s is just a bundle of laughable clichés, covering every possible stereotype of the Irish. And it shows a political naivety by treating the fight for an independent Ireland – a fight that was still killing people in 1991 when she wrote this book – as equivalent to Mitchell’s romanticised Deep South.

I liked it as a bodice-ripper, but it left an uncomfortable impression.

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