Picks and Pans Review: Scarlett: the Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Alexandra Ripley

Well, fiddle-dee-dee! Damned if Alexandra Ripley hasn't gone and written a sequel to Gone with the Wind that is surprisingly readable and absorbing.

Which is not to say that if is a literary masterpiece. But neither was Margaret Mitchell's original 1936 novel, even though it won the Pulitzer prize.

Scarlett O'Hara, that most spoiled of southern princesses, is still spoiled in Ripley's novel, at least for the first 400 pages. The book opens with Melanie Wilkes's funeral in 1873, spends seven years and 820 pages keeping Scarlett and her true love, Rhett Butler, apart, and ends in 1880—not to spoil the surprise—in a wav that will satisfy every 13-year-old girl who ever pestered her mother as to whether Rhett eventually came back.

The new, politically correct Scarlett tends to a dying Mammy. Though five different times here, Scarlett threatens harm to her black maid Pansy, Ripley mostly avoids the mine field of race relations and dialect. She does this by getting Scarlett out of the Old South and over to Ireland in the book's second half to visit with O'Hara relatives on their native soil. This PC Scarlett also is a feminist role model, running her own farm, making her own investments, bearing a child (guess whose?) by her lonesome and vowing, just as she swore she would never be hungry again in the first novel, never to wear restricting corsets again. And she overcomes a drinking problem through sheer willpower. (Are we talking TV movie or what?)

Ripley's prose is serviceable and straightforward, if nothing to linger over (except when Scarlett decides an oyster "looks like a hawk of spit floating in old dishwater..."). Still, the book is fun and an entertaining way to spend a weekend, particularly for those who have read the original or at least seen the movie. Besides, tomorrow is another day and we can always think about great literature then. (Warner, $24.95)

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