Peggy Riley is Scarlett O’Hara

Gone with the Wind

Author and playwright Peggy Riley is originally from LA, but now resides on the North Kent coast. She has worked as a writer in residence at a young offenders’ prison, a festivals producer and a bookseller. She also runs workshops for writers. Her debut novel, the bleakly brilliant Amity and Sorrow, is about God, sex and farming, and hones in on three women on the run from the charismatic leader of a polygamous cult: one father, two daughters and 50 wives. Her filmic alter ego is Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Eithne Farry

I am an old friend of sleeplessness, as sleep and I have a terrible relationship. I pursue it; it scorns me. We battle through the night until it completely overwhelms me with dark, heavy dreams it takes all day to shake. Turning myself right side over from a long-haul flight, my sleep is particularly strange. I long to be Sleeping Beauty, spindle-pricked and prince-waiting, dozing for a hundred years. I’d even take Snow White in her glass box of sleep, instead of being this Goldilocks, forever looking for the right bed, the right sleep.

Fairy tale princesses get a bad rap. Yesterday in a bookshop I heard a mother say she wouldn’t buy her daughter Sleeping Beauty, as ‘all she does is sleep’. I thought only ‘bliss’. Bring me a spinning wheel and some fairies – stat.

In seeking a heroine that hadn’t been drawn, my sleep-addled brain found another princess, one of America’s Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara is a handful of a character: vicious and fickle, spiteful and jealous. She takes what she wants and never wants what she gets. But she rides all the rough waves that surround her – war, poverty, the madness of parents, the death of a child, the loss of her many loves – with style and an evolving grace. She even survives the wearing of curtains. I have no doubt that when Rhett leaves her at the door, she shuts it and has a good night’s sleep. She is at peace with herself: after all, it is the needs and impulses she has that make her so compelling, so watchable. And I know that, refreshed of a morning, she simply mounts her horse and charges after him, makes him give a damn. Rhett Butler cannot resist Scarlett O’Hara and neither can I.

Peggy Riley