Friday, June 27, 2014

Meet Scarlet O'Hara's Grandmother, Solange

Solange, a French heiress, travels to Saint-Domingue with her new husband to claim the sugar plantation that is part of the marriage settlement. When they arrive, the island is in chaos. The slave revolt has driven the French planters into the main city of Cap-Francis. The newly weds get little from the island. The plantation is in disrepair and uninhabitable. However, Solange takes in Ruth, a child orphaned by the slave revolt. Solange and Ruth form a symbiotic relationship that extends from her childhood to encompass three generations of the family.

It's not easy to write a prequel. The main characters whose lives you have to connect to are already established. However, the progenitors are fair game. I thought McCraig did a good job with Scarlett's grandmother, Solange. She has the same feisty spirit, desire to succeed against the odds, and an attractiveness that gains her three husbands.

Ruth, or Mammy, is a much less well defined character. As a child at the beginning of the book, she is Solange's accomplice, and a very successful one. However, I felt we didn't get to know her
well. The emphasis was on Solange. We do learn more about Mammy's history, but for me it wasn't completely satisfying. I particularly disliked the amount of dialect the author used when Mammy was telling a story. It was hard to read and diverted my interest from the story to trying to figure out the pronunciation.

I won't spoil the ending, but the characters you loved in Gone With the Wind have changed rather dramatically at the end, which is the barbeque scene from the original book. I also have trouble with the characterization of Scarlett riding about the countryside in men's clothes. She was a hoyden, but I thought that was a bit extreme for the South in that time period.

The book is an interesting read to see how another author envisions the events leading up to Mitchel's novel. I wasn't particularly impressed, but if you read it, you may feel differently.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.