Gone with the Wind: is it the greatest fictional love story ever written?
Clark Gable & Vivienne Leigh: the movie image.
Published in 1936, it became an immediate bestseller, and Margaret Mitchell received critical and popular attention. In 1937 it won the Pulitzer Prize, and then quickly adapted to a movie in 1939, which won ten Academy Awards. It was categorized as “A Historical Romance”.
And, we all know it was set in northern Georgia during the drama of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction years. The prime characters were Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler (above image), Ashley and Melanie Wilkes. The novel itself addressed romantic love, unrequited love, jealousy, obsession plus survival and destitution post wealthy lifestyle. It covered the social structuring of gender and class during that period of history: timeline American Civil War 1861 – 1865 = 4yrs and reconstruction years, though the latter left vague in the movie.
Now let’s compare fictional romance with a real-life Historical Romance.
The great love affair between Horatio Lord Nelson, Admiral of the Fleet and Emma Lady Hamilton:
Emma Hamilton had not been unfaithful to Sir William Hamilton since becoming his mistress in 1787 and his wife in 1791 - William considerably older than Emma. Nelson too, had been loyal to his wife as defined of good husband, but had indulged with courtesans. Neither marriage had given Emma or Horatio the fulfilment of love and romance they’d craved, and both had fallen out of love with respective partners.
When Nelson and Emma met for the first time, besotted expressed the intensity of feelings between them, but it was a hopeless situation: they were both married and he due to sail to war. The second time they met, in Italy, the love they felt for one another could not be denied, and during the flight from Naples and the struggle against the French they fell profoundly in love, and by May 1800, Emma was pregnant with Nelson’s child. He arranged rent of a house and set up home with Emma, but his wife refused to give him a divorce. When Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar news reached Emma and she was devastated, but worse was to come. She lost every thing because although Nelson had made provision for Emma and his offspring whilst he at sea he had not named her as a beneficiary in his will. His wife laid claim to all his estate despite no children of her own. Emma ended up destitute and it is said she died a pauper-cum-prostitute.
Nelson and Emma’s love affair lasted 6 yrs. It was an intense, emotional romance that swept them away on a tide of genuine love that knew no bounds yet ended in terrible tragedy: for both.
Napolean and Josephine: Another great love affair, or was it?
The story of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais is supposedly the most passionate and stormy love affair in history.
When Josephine's husband was executed at the guillotine during the Terror in Paris in 1794. She refused to mourn his death and soon became mistress to several prominent politicians of the time. In 1795 Josephine had a brief affair with Napoleon. He was 6 years younger than her, and she didn’t even like him, but it was a politically motivated affair conducted by third parties. Napolean, though, proved utter smitten much to her annoyance and pursued her with intent to make her his wife. She did eventually marry him in March of the following year after an intense an all-consuming love affair for his part, while she had lovers besides. In 1810, after years of failing to produce an heir for him they both agreed to divorce.
A happy and sad affair is this love story: poor old Boney (Napolean) besotted, and Josephine swayed by power of favour and greed.
War And Peace: again a fictional story, but is it a mere Historical Romance? No, for it does not have a single hero and heroine, it has several of each. Yet the Hollywood movie “War And Peace” supposedly based on the novel by Tolstoy, depicts one heroine, one hero, and sort of anti hero.
With Napoleon's forces controlling much of Europe. Russia is one of the few remaining countries unconquered by Napoleon. So it is a Russian epic story of war and the Rostov family, the Bezukhov family, and that of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky’s family.
The principal characters consist of soldiers: Nicholas Rostov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, Pierre Bezukhov, a self-styled intellectual [knows what's right but still does wrong] and is not interested in fighting. Pierre's life is irrevocably changed when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. Although attracted to Natasha Rostov, (Nicholas' sister) Pierre gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, materialistic Princess Helene. When Pierre discovers his wife's true nature the marriage is ended.
Meantime Prince Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. During a visit to the country months later, Pierre and Prince Andrei meet again: cue old friendships/hate/jealousy/desires etc. Prince Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, and the course of true love gets tough, plus this is one hell of an epic and it would take blog after blog post to write a full synopsis. So go buy the book and read the damn thing this time, don’t rely on the Hollywood version, which is just one snippet of love snatched from what is a multiple story of lovers, their lives and their families. Suffice to say there is death, heartache, misery, loves (plural) and both happy and sad ending.
Which of the above is the greatest love story ever told beside that of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet? Bear in mind all were written more than fifty-years ago.
Now, here’s the crunch. According to a poll organised by Woman’s Weekly Magazine in conjunction with the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the novel Star Gazing by Linda Gillard has nudged A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford aside.
It’s official the most romantic novel written in the last fifty years is Star Gazing see
Great work Linda, a Brit on Top for a change.
Quote Writers’ News: Linda began writing in disgust at being unable to find romantic novels that reflected the lives of woman over forty.
Yeah, sock it to ‘em Linda. Not that I even knew “A Woman of Substance” had top billing, did you?
For me, the greatest literary romances: Gone With the Wind/War & Peace and Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore. I forgot the latter, and should add, all Austen novels, the Bronte Sisters, Daphne du Maurier etc., because I loved Carver Doone (wicked anti-hero), I adored Mr D'arcy etc., and got all dreamy about the Captain Jean Benoit Aubin - Frenchman's Creek.
How about you?