Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?
Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
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Buy *Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books* by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy online

Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books
Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
336 pages
July 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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I think this must have been a hugely enjoyable book to write, and I envy the authors, who together run a freelance journalism company with many credits to their names. In this enjoyable collection, they have produced the back-stories of some of the greatest, certainly some of the best-known, books of all times.

The title comes from the fact that Margaret Mitchell, a reluctant but determined novelist, composed one of the most-read romances of the twentieth century - with a heroine named Pansy. Luckily, at some point, she began to have second thoughts about that moniker and altered it to more suit the fiery character of her leading lady – Scarlett. It's hard to imagine that Gone with the Wind would have survived with Pansy as its female protagonist. Mitchell famously kept the novel, at which she worked arduously every day, in envelopes under the carpet until she had a stack taller than herself, and at first refused to give it to an interested publisher. The Atlanta scribbler had grown up surrounded by amateur Southern historians and raconteurs who talked endlessly of the Civil War and its aftermath, and that knowledge sunk in. Her book, a larger-than-life portrait of one woman, two men, and an era, made Mitchell a millionaire almost overnight. But who knows how well it would have fared with a heroine named Pansy in place of the indomitable Scarlett? Mitchell, too, had changed her name while writing her now legendary bestseller, reverting to her maiden name instead of the more pedestrian Peggy Marsh. And the book's title also underwent a transformation – its original title was "Tomorrow Is Another Day."

Another novel with a darker aspect was Lolita. Written by Russian émigré Vladimir Nabokov, the book emerged over many years of contemplation, from an idle thought about a pedophile who comes to a tragic end. The final product was a noire comedy that became one of the most popular films of its time, but only after the book had survived original publication by a press known for its erotic offerings, censorship (arguably increasing its interest) and transcontinental republication.

The fifty books in this compilation are varied, from The Cat in the Hat by "Dr Seuss" to Casino Royale by former real-life spy Ian Fleming. The many tragedies in the private life of Jane Austen's family have been painstakingly researched. Fans of the "Harry Potter" series will be pleased to find out more about its prodigious author, J.K. Rowling. Nonfiction is also represented, with Samuel Johnson's The English Dictionary and Stephens Hawkings' A Brief History of Time, among others, being examined.

Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara? will fit neatly in your trip valise and can be dipped into for short, sharp flavor bursts. Start, as I did, with your favorite books or authors, and work your way to others you know less about. Prepare to be informed and delighted.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Barbara Bamberger Scott, 2008

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