I read this book almost cover to cover as a teenager when I lived in the South. I had already seen the movie by then, which is still a classic. But, with a 4 plus hourr screen time (pre mini-series), the director had to leave major parts of the plot out.
Scarlett O'Hara is probably the most compelling heroine ever written, and the story is nothing less than epic. But, with 30 years gone by and a major move to Seattle, the language does make me uncomfortable. If high school children could be forced to read a 500 page book, the same controversy would ensue with "GWTW" as we've seen with "Huckleberry Finn".
Alexandra Ripley modified most of the language in the contracted-for sequel. While the plot wasn't as good because it was just too tidy, the writing did make me less uncomfortable.
Soo, just take the book in context and it should be a compelling read.