This is my favorite book in the whole world and if you haven't read it, please take time to at least read some excerpts. And, if you have seen the movie instead, don't let that stop you-it is actually almost 2 different stories.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell (her one and only book).
This is the story of the South during the Civil War era. Scarlett is the oldest daughter of well-to-do plantation family in Georgia. She is privileged and spoiled (and mean, revengeful, without conscience, willful, manipulating and so on......she's a very complicated character). She is all about saving herself and her childhood plantation while trying to win the love of Ashley, another woman's husband. The book is about poverty after wealth, toiling to feed oneself, crooked business practices in fear of going bankrupt, turmoil, death, upheaval, and determination to survive. She learns what it is like to be poor, starving, to lose friends and family, to actually love someone other than herself (of course that would be Rhett Butler).
Scarlett-beautiful on the outside, wicked and self centered on the inside. You will both love and hate her.
Melanie-plain on the outside but magnificent on the inside. She has more substance than Scarlett would ever have. She is also married to Ashley, the man Scarlett convinces herself she has to have.
Ashley-the gentleman of the "Old South" who is forever saddened and changed by the war.
Rhett-the "scoundrel" who sees Scarlett and Melanie for who they really are. He disdains the South and the Civil War but joins the cause at the end of the war in spite of himself.
Keep in mind that the movie is just a skeleton of what the book actually is. Wonderfully written, heartbreaking, humorous, sad and intriguing. You will feel like you lived through the Civil War yourself.