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The Wind Done Gone    by Alice Randall order for
Wind Done Gone
by Alice Randall
Order:  USA  Can
Mariner, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Imagine what Margaret Mitchell would have thought of The Wind Done Gone. Alice Randall has turned the story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler's Gone with the Wind (GWTW) world upside down and told it from the perspective of the slaves and servants. As a result of a settlement in a lawsuit over copyright infringement brought by the Mitchell heirs against the author/publisher, the book cover now lists it as 'The Unauthorized Parody'. However, the novel is much more than a mere parody of the familiar story of white plantation life in pre- and post-Civil War Georgia. Instead it is well-written and touching book of slave life narrated by Cinnamon, the daughter of Scarlett's nanny Mammy and Scarlett's father.

While it helps to be somewhat familiar with the basic GWTW storyline and characters, it is not necessary. Readers will still appreciate Cinnamon's struggles and insights on life. Slave life was very hard in mid-1800's Georgia which was 'dirty laundry what needs washing', and Randall creates a vivid picture. Since this is Cinnamon's story, the white characters mostly have nicknames such as Other for her half-sister Scarlett, Planter for their father, Lady for Scarlett's mother and Mealy-Mouth for Melanie, rival to Scarlett for the beloved Ashley Wilke's affections. The famous plantation is not Tara in this book but 'House that Twelve Slaves Built' where the 12 pillars out front represent the strong backs of slaves and the vertical fluting on the columns signifies whipping scars on the men's backs.

As the book opens the war is over, Cinnamon is living in Atlanta in a nice house in a nice black neighborhood, and the home's owner is RB (Rhett Butler)! Through a series of flashbacks we learn of Cinnamon's earlier life at the plantation when she was forced to share Mammy's affections with Other. Randall shows this with a great turn of phrase when Mammy says 'Get dressed chile' to Cinnamon but 'What's my lamb gwanna wear' to Scarlett. When Cinnamon is a young teenager she is sold to family friends in Charleston to appease Other's jealousy of the attention (however limited) Mammy gives to her own daughter. Through a series of misfortunes she ends up at a slave market and is bought by a brothel, fortunately by kind-hearted madam Beauty who becomes Cinnamon's life-long mentor. We also learn that RB had become Cinnamon's lover when she is a young woman still at the plantation, well before he marries Other after the war. But this means the continuing pain of having to share a loved one with Other continues - first Mammy and now RB.

When Mammy dies Cinnamon must return to the plantation where Other still lives. Although Cinnamon is now living a more affluent life and has RB's love, as she says 'forgetting is to forgiving as glass is to diamond'. So this brings up all the old insecurities and conflicting emotions of both love for Mammy and deep-seated resentment that she loved Other better.

Shortly afterwards, when Cinnamon and RB go to Washington for RB's business interests, Cinnamon meets an intriguing and attractive black Congressman. Randall's description of Reconstruction-era Washington during the brief period when blacks had some political power is fascinating. It was a time of a 'group of Negroes shining brightly as their ... flame burns down as our time passes'. Soon laws were enacted to enforce segregation and limit rights for Negroes and their time was past. However, Cinnamon has met someone who respects her as an equal, not just a beautiful former slave for whom he lusts as RB does. Readers who have come to admire Cinnamon's spirit and intelligence will enjoy the book's ending which, while not a fairytale ending, is still very satisfying.

The Wind Done Gone is highly recommended on several levels. It is both a portrait of life from the underdog's point of view, but also an engrossing story of a resilient woman who finally comes to realize her self-worth. One can understand why the Mitchell estate was upset. The GWTW characters are engrained in American literature and film and as familiar as Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer. However, the white folks in this story are definitely the weak and foolish ones, while the black characters are strong and intelligent. It is somewhat reminiscent of the recent film Gosford Park where the servants were the smart ones and the people in charge. One can only wonder what Alice Randall will write for an encore.

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