20.2.10

Book Review: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor


I have finished Forever Amber, all 972 pages of it! It is the lengthiest book that I have read in a long while and I loved every page of it.

Written by Kathleen Winsor and published in 1944, Forever Amber was considered extremely racy and was banned in 14 US states, however it remains a classic and has gone on to sell over three million copies.

Winsor tells the story of Amber St. Clare, she is 16 and pregnant when she finds herself penniless and abandoned on the unfamiliar streets of London. It is the time of the Restoration, Charles II is in power and London is going through many changes. Amber finds herself alone in the city after following the dashing Lord Bruce Carlton, leaving behind the quiet village life that she had known. Lord Carlton is a constant figure throughout the book, the only man who Amber loves but will never be able to possess fully. Amber has to use her feminine charms and beauty to rise from her sorry state and secure her own future. We follow her through Civil war, the bubonic plague and the great fire of London as she pursues the title of Charles II's favourite mistress and therefore security and wealth.

Kathleen Winsor was American and she had never visited London when she set out to write this great book. She undertook painstaking research over six years in order to recreate the atmosphere of Restoration England. Her thorough research is evident on nearly every page and this is the main reason that I loved the book. I felt as though I had learnt so much and her obvious enthusiasm for the time period is infectious.

Amber St. Clare is a thrilling character, there were chapters where I greatly admired her and others where I would happily have given her a good shake. Amber does everything she can to secure wealth and respectability, however, it is meaningless to Lord Carlton who will never make an honest woman of her due to Amber's lowly position of birth. As a character she embodies the fragile position that women held at the time compared to men. Amber is very cunning and clever yet time after time she suffers set backs due to being female.

The book must have been extremely shocking at the time of publication yet it would be considered mild by today's standards. There are no graphic sex scenes in the book but the behaviour of the characters as they plot and scheme is still shocking to the modern reader.

The descriptions of the Great Fire of London and the Plague are spectacular. Kathleen Winsor captures the terror, pain and sheer stench of death as she describes the impact on the country through the eyes of Amber and those around her.

Forever Amber will now always remain on my book shelf as a firm favourite. I was worried that I would lose interest due to it being so long but I simply could not put it down and I was very disappointed to reach the final page.

16 comments:

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Wow, great review! Haven't heard of this book before, but I'm really intrigued now!

Albertine said...

I've been wanting to read this book for so long but never seen it in bookstores and never remember to order it when I'm online. The thing is, there's just so many wonderful books out there calling to me to be read, and one doesn't know which one to turn to first!

savidgereads said...

I had never heard of this book before now and it sounds marvellous. I think after my love of sensation and of Dangerous Liaisons (which is full od dastardly doings) this could become a firm favourite with me.

thebookwormchronicles said...

Like everyone I hadn't heard of this book, thank you for the great review. I love historical tales! This one is definitely for the TBR list.

Bloomsbury Bell said...

I love a book that makes you sad to finish! I hadn't heard of this before but it sounds like an enjoyable epic. It's amazing that the author had never even visited London - shows what a great researcher was.

Paperback Reader said...

I read about Forever Amber in India Knight's book, The Shops; there's a section about books of the wonderful, enchanting guilty-pleasure kind and Forever Amber is one of them (along with Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; I Capture the Castle; Katherine by Anya Seton, which is also historical fiction). I need to read both this and Katherine as I love the other two and a few others mentioned.

Books that you cannot bear to put down and are sad when they finish are the best kind.

Kim said...

This sounds like such a great story, Dot, I am pleased you enjoyed it so much, it is so very satisfying when you find a book like that. I love the cover too so now it is on my to look out for list (just another one!!)
Thank you for yet another great review

Dot said...

Bookalicious Ramblings- Thank you, if you like period dramas then you would definitely enjoy it, it's a good old love story really!

Albertine- It's always difficult to decide what to read next isn't it! I had waited ages to get a copy but I am so glad that I finally did.

Simon- I think that you would love it, there are plenty of dastardly doings involved!

thebookwormchronicles- I hope that you enjoy it, it was long but so, so good!

Bloomsburybell- I was so shocked that Kathleen Winsor had never visited London as the fine details in the book are brilliant.

Paperback Reader- How funny, The Shops is exactly where I read about it first several years ago but I couldn't get hold of a copy. I was really intrigued about it so was very excited when I saw that Penguin had publised it again!

Kim- Your TBR pile must be getting bigger and bigger! It was such a good read, I think that you would enjoy it!

Charlie said...

I've been waiting for your review since you spoke about the book and the other day I saw it in the book shop on display which I wasn't reckoning for.

You've made me want to read it for definite now. Brilliant review!

Dot said...

Charlie- Thank you! You should read it, made me realised how much I have missed reading historical fiction!

Nadia said...

I'd never heard of this book, but after reading your review I've already added it to my TBR list. Great post! Thanks!!

Dot said...

Nadia- Thanks! Hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

Hi! Just found your blog, I'm a med student wife as well!

Dot said...

Marissa- Thanks for visiting my blog! Just popped over to yours and it sounds as though our husbands are at a similar stage, stressful but exciting!!

Hannah Stoneham said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed this book. I think that it is the best example of historical fiction that has ever crossed my path - as far as I am concerned the old one is the best in that department. I read the book when I was about 15 and can remember literally sobbing for Amber at times. Great read - I am so glad that it has been reprinted.

Thanks for sharing

Hannha

Dot said...

Hannah- I absolutely loved it, it will be one that I will definitely re-read, so much packed into one book!

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