The Wind Done Gone is the supposed sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Few people have tried to write a sequel to this classic tale and for good reason. The vision of an author is a singular one, and it is difficult to truly capture the spirit of the novel and take the characters to the next plateau even if you are the original author. The Wind Done Gone, however, takes a different tack: to make a sequel using former minor characters as the central character so the reader can discover the outcome and a new perspective of the former major characters through recalls and gossip. Complicated, yes; worth it, maybe.
The Wind Done Gone doesn’t capture the essence of Gone With the Wind; it doesn’t even try. It is a separate story all together which just happens to be loosely based on another novel. There are scenes directly referring to events written in Gone With the Wind, but they are told from a different perspective and are so contradictory that the differences become a topic of conservation or a thinking point. It is often said whenever an event is retold there are three sides to the story: victor’s side, loser’s side and the truth. It’s interesting to wonder how much of the truth lies between these two perspectives and if one or the other is lying to make themselves look better or acquire sympathy.
The Wind Done Gone is written in the style of a diary, and it reveals the story of Cynara, Mammy’s daughter in Gone With the Wind. She is slighted by her mother on a daily basis for Scarlett (referred to as Other in the book) and totally ignored by her father. After being sold to the madam of a whorehouse, Cynara must remake herself and find her own way in the world. Her first step is to take up with a prominent white businessman only spoken of as R. Allegedly this is Rhett Butler, the love of Scarlett who has apparently left Scarlett for Cynara and even goes so far as to take Cynara on a grand tour of Europe, leaving Scarlett behind to fend for herself.
Replacing an elitist white Southern society with an equally elitist Creole community, Alice Randall’s account of the situation of slaves and mixed-race offspring in the Deep South sometimes morphs into a fantasy of empowerment, but her insights are dead on. Randall has depicted the struggle for respect that goes on within the black community even today, where the level of respect grows as the skin lightens.
The story is good and interesting, but Randall makes a misstep in neglecting to make Cynara a full three-dimensional person. The reader discovers all sorts of things about everyone else, but Cynara is only allowed to develop within the story as she relates what other people have done and her reaction. Randall could have explored Cynara’s character and expanded her into so much more, and I was disappointed this didn’t take place. The affair with R. also goes on for longer than I would have liked. To me the affair only takes place because Cynara wants something of Other’s because Other took her mother. Cynara is not treated the best in the relationship -- even if she did get to go Europe -- and after realizing that she can do better, Cynara leaves R. for a black Congressman. By the time this happens I was so relieved I could have cried.
In the end, The Wind Done Gone is a much smaller book that should be read with the thought in mind that it reflects loosely on Gone With the Wind and doesn’t try to compete in any real way. As the author states in the Acknowledgements, “Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind inspired me to think." Once the reader accepts this, is The Wind Done Gone a novel worth reading on its own? In some ways, yes, and in others, no.
The novel is interesting in that it explores how slaves thought and acted in this turbulent time in history. As a black woman, I often wondered how I would have reacted without rights or freedom. Would I accept the status quo and become a “house nigger” (someone who may not work in the big house but is counted on by the master to reveal secrets the other slaves keep) or would I have fought not only for my freedom but the freedom of my other brothers and sisters. Cynara doesn’t; she simply lets herself be led around from event to event and takes advantage of whatever comfort comes her way.
Without the racial issues is the book worth reading? I would say no. The book doesn’t have much else going for it other than including some references to Gone With the Wind and telling the story of a desperate, pathetic woman who would be called a gold digger if she lived in today’s time.
Alice Randall is an excellent storyteller, with flashes of brilliant insight laced throughout her story. Spartan to the point of nakedness, interesting, insightful and well-told, The Wind Done Gone is a book all blacks should read (IMHO) just to be able to see how it could have been.