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Caroline Gordon: None Shall Look Back

It has been said that this is the novel Gone With the Wind should have been. Gone With the Wind is brash and trashy, while None Shall Look Back is far more restrained and serious. The story is about the Allard family, a prosperous family in Kentucky before the Civil War but which sees its house burnt down by the Yankees, its slaves leaving and some members of its family having to actually work for a living. Gordon is clearly sympathetic to the old way of life – the slaves are, in her opinion, better off before the Civil War than afterwards, unable to take care of themselves without white assistance – but its lack of political correctness does not stop it being a fine novel about the decline of the South.

Coupled with the decline of the family, through the Civil War, is the story of one of their cousins, Rives, who serves under Nathan Bedford Forrest (her friend, Andrew Lytle wrote a biography of Forrest) as a scout. Forrest is an important character in the novel (as, to a lesser extent, are other real life Civil War participants) and Gordon clearly admires him. Rives, whose death at Murfreesboro just a few months before the end of the War is the climax of the novel, and Lucy, his cousin, are in love but their love is put on hold by the war. We watch both grow up, Rives by his direct exposure to war, Lucy by her exposure to the effects of the war on her and her family (including Rives’ mother, Susan). For Gordon, as in Penhally, the end of the Civil War signifies the end of the Old South.

Publishing history

First published 1937 by Charles Scribner’s Sons