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Forever Amber

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Kathleen Winsor

"A lusty historical novel." --Seattle Post-Intelligencer      "A prototype for the modern blockbuster." --Los Angeles TimesMay 31, 2003      "As a feat of storytelling,Forever Amberis irresistible." … see full wiki

Author: Kathleen Winsor
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
1 review about Forever Amber

Could Have Been a Restoration Gone With the Wind . . .

  • Jun 25, 2010
  • by
Even though Kathleen Winsor wrote "Forever Amber" in 1944, the willful self-possession depicted in her protagonist, endows the she-devil courtesan Amber St. Claire with a permanent ranking as one of the all time most unforgettable divas of the historical romance genre. Over 900 pages long, "Forever Amber," stands the test of time, portraying the Restoration court of Charles II with a well-researched authenticity and pragmatic candor that needs not rely on the bodice ripping details of more modern romantic classics. Rather, Winsor's novel moves with the swift frenzy of the author's featured venues: the Great Fire of London and the undiscriminating Black Plague. Her main character glides toward her goal with the unstoppable force of a hurricane and whether worthy or not, the reader cannot help but applaud her ascent and breathlessly await and bewail her ultimate failure to learn life's greatest lesson.

Sounds familiar? Change the venue to plantation America and another Civil War and you just might be skimming the pages of "Gone with the Wind."

Humble, Amber is not. She follows the archetype of Scarlett O'Hara--the beautiful woman who can have anyone but nevertheless relentlessly pursues her man no matter how badly he disappoints her. Lovely, ruthless and clearly conscious-free, she embodies the mores of a time when the most essential asset for a woman was not only her beauty but, her ability to utilize her brainpower under its guise. Instinctively knowing that a thrilling destiny lies ahead within the capital city, sixteen-year-old Amber gambles running off with cavalier Bruce Carlson whom she loves unconditionally from the very start. Whether or not her obsessive and sometimes reckless love for him self-serves to achieve further aggrandizement of the most esurient nature, the reader cannot help but applaud her expectations, revel in her successes and yet simultaneously understand her desire for the one thing she cannot obtain. Everyone admires and cannot help be fascinated by the beautiful villainess who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

From the get-go, the reader knows all too well that Amber like Scarlett may get her man when the convenience of time and place is in her favor. The long run, however speaks for itself. The published novel supposedly is only one fifth of that which Winsor originally intended. At the end of the novel, Amber remains, at a few years short of thirty, at the top of her game. Winsor keeps her the one constant in her illustrative equation depicting yet another age of corrupt morals and wildly schemed machinations leading to the accrual of wealth and power. Her motivation steers her steadily toward what she thinks she desires most, position and privilege that will elevate her status to that acceptable for a marriage with Lord Carlton. In the course of the novel, Amber rises to the top of her materialistic world, but fails to change within; her soul does not transform in any way--she remains forever the hard yet outwardly beautiful substance for which she is named. For this reviewer, this is why Forever Amber, although a delightful read for many reasons fails to fully engage the emotions. Allowing Amber to realize her folly through some cathartic moment rather than continue along the same self-serving reiterative drive would have allowed some empathy to enter what is only an arena of self-destruction and disappointment. Better to have had Amber see Lord Carlton, as Scarlett eventually sees Ashley, for what he is--an unfulfilled dream with little substance. What is needed in Forever Amber is the Rhett Butler archetype--a man of character entering her life to show her what she needs to know for further inner development. Forever Amber fails to capture the full story of Amber St. Claire in a more satisfying literary way despite its historical accuracy and insightful portrayal of the ultimate in scheming females.

Bottom line? "Forever Amber" will entertain on many levels and in many respects remains a classic of historical romance. In terms of story structure, it fails in that its main character, the at-times despicable and all-times superficial, Amber St. Claire really does not grow inwardly in any outstanding way. She remains a fixed entity in which the wonderful kaleidoscope of Britain's Restoration age wheels about her providing for her an illusory smorgasbord of all things material from which she can grab. Author Winsor creates a huge tome of a book of page-turning enjoyment that stands the test of best-selling time. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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