The Wrath to Come: Gone with the Wind and the Lies America Tells (Hardcover)
An examination of Gone With the Wind, the myth of the Lost Cause and what they can tell us about American history and culture today.
'The narrative took my breath away' Philippe Sands, author, The Ratline
'An extraordinarily and shockingly powerful read' Peter Frankopan, author, The Silk Roads
'One of the must-reads of the year' Suzannah Lipscomb, author, Journey Through Tudor England
Sarah Churchwell examines one of the most enduringly popular stories of all time, Gone with the Wind, to help explain the divisions ripping the U.S. apart today. Separating fact from fiction, she shows how histories of mythmaking have informed America's racial and gender politics, the controversies over Confederate statues, the resurgence of white nationalism, the Black Lives Matter movement, the enduring power of the American Dream, and the violence of Trumpism.
Gone with the Wind was an instant bestseller when it was published in 1936; its film version became the most successful Hollywood film of all time. Today the story's racism is again a subject of controversy, but it was just as controversial in the 1930s, foreshadowing today's debates over race and American fascism. In The Wrath to Come, Sarah Churchwell charts an extraordinary journey through 160 years of American denialism. From the Lost Cause to the romances behind the Ku Klux Klan, from the invention of the 'ideal' slave plantation to the erasure of interwar fascism, Churchwell shows what happens when we do violence to history, as collective denial turns fictions into lies, and lies into a vicious reality.
About the Author
Sarah Churchwell is Professorial Fellow in American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the author of Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream and Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby. She was co-winner of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer's Award and longlisted for the 2021 Orwell Prize for Journalism. She lives in London.
Eye-opening and at times jaw-dropping; a powerful reminder of the prejudices and suffering horrors of the recent past, and a call to arms to learn from the lessons of history. Highly recommended' Peter Frankopan
'An extraordinarily and shockingly powerful read... With meticulous research and fine structure, it offers a most disturbing arc that transports us from now back to what we thought was another era but which is, in reality, so deeply enmeshed with the intolerances and prejudices of today. At times the narrative took my breath away. I was riveted from start to finish' Philippe Sands
'Sarah Churchwell's brilliant and provocative guide to understanding the twenty-first century dis-United States of America explores America's myths about itself, through that great Hollywood myth about the South and racism, Gone With the Wind. If you want to know why Donald Trump connects with so many Americans today, as a link to the 'Lost Cause' of the Confederacy, Churchwell's account offers the answers' Gavin Esler
'A brilliant and important book that exposes the truths hidden by one of the world's most famous stories and, in so doing, reveals how the (im)moral weight of this tale has not only shaped American culture over the last century but is shaping American politics and society today. One of the must-reads of the year' Suzannah Lipscomb
'A painful reflection on how the ghosts of the civil war still haunt US culture' THE TIMES
PRAISE FOR BEHOLD, AMERICA:
"This is a timely book. It's also a provocative one... [Churchwell is] an elegant writer, and when 'America First' and 'the American dream' come head-to-head in her book during the run-up to World War II, the unexpected (and alarming) historical coincidences begin to resonate like demented wind chimes... Behold, America illuminates how much history takes place in the gap between what people say and what they do."―New York Times
"A fascinating new look at 'the entangled history' of 'America First' and 'the American Dream.'"―New York Magazine
"Churchwell has cast a wide net in her research, drawing into account not only politicians and pundits, but also journalists, novelists, ministers, and ordinary Americans. The result, appropriately enough, is a bit messy... But that messiness illustrates the ways in which these phrases have always been, as the historian Daniel Rodgers memorably put it, 'contested truths.'"―The Nation
"an enthralling book, almost a primer for the ferocious dialectic of US politics, inspired by the events of 2015/16. It will no doubt take an influential place on a teeming shelf of Trump-lit. Much of its force derives from the echoes of the present it finds in the thunderous caverns of the past, blurred by the distortions of history. Passionate, well-researched and comprehensive, it is both a document of our times and a thrilling survey of a half-forgotten and neglected dimension of the American story."―Guardian (US edition)
"In clear and graceful prose...[Churchwell's] book is a reminder that 'we do not have to accept others' narrow understanding of our meanings."―Publishers Weekly, starred review
PRAISE FORCARELESS PEOPLE:
"Blends biography, scholarship and literary journalism to generate a narrative that is almost novelistic in its urgency….Ms. Churchwell is committed not only to digging up long-forgotten historical nuggets but also to telling a well-crafted story.” Wall Street Journal
“[A] compelling biography….The book is stuffed with wonderful and quirky cultural nuggets….Above all, Churchwell does a fantastic job of conjuring the magic of the Jazz Age, as well as its more lurid side." USA Today
“[A] rewarding work, a history of 1922 as it was lived by the Fitzgeralds and their circle, as well as by the fictitious cast of The Great Gatsby. Like the jazz that defined the era, the book tells its story through digression and repetition, building up a pattern of internal references and refrains." Washington Post
“[T]he liveliest contribution to Fitzgeraldiana to come my way in years... ... impressively researched.” American Prospect
"An unusual mix of criticism, biography, and true crime, all of it bound together by Churchwell’s lyrical prose and, frankly, the sheer force of her will. Not everything is new here (how could it be?), but it's an evocative read. It belongs on the tower, even if somebody else’s book has to come off. A-”" Entertainment Weekly
“Sarah Churchwell’s zesty cocktail of history, biography and literary criticism (with a dash of philosophical musing) so vividly captures the disordered existence of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald during the 18-month sojourn on Long Island that inspired his greatest novel, many readers will close her book astonished that Scott managed to write The Great Gatsby at all....She does a brilliant job of re-creating ‘the world that prompted F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby.” Newsday
"Churchwell (Behold, America), a professor of American literature at the University of London, delivers an impassioned critique of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and its influence on today’s political polarization. Writing at the height of the “Lost Cause” movement, Mitchell highlighted the modernity of her protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara, but refused to allow Scarlett—or any other character—to feel empathy for the book’s enslaved Black characters."—Publishers Weekly