Forever Amber
July 1, 2016 10:28 AM - by Kathleen Winsor - Subscribe

"Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England—that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary—and extraordinary—men and women, Amber experiences it all." (amazon)

This is our July "beach-read" historic fiction book. It's a 900-page romp through the Restoration that was both the best-selling and most-banned novel of the 1940s in the US. The Australian government banned the book with the claim that, “The Almighty did not give people eyes to read that rubbish.” Massachusetts helpfully listed its reasons for banning the novel as pornography: “70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, 7 abortions, and 10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men.” Don't let the length put you off! It's a fast and compelling read.

Guardian: "I was awed by Amber's courage, daring and strength. Rereading the novel now is no disappointment, and I am also impressed by Winsor's subversive feminism and the scope and ambition of her historical imagination. Like all great best-sellers, Forever Amber revealed its age's secret desires and myths. The headstrong Amber - beautiful, empowered, resilient - represents a rebellion other women identified with, even, like my mother, as they hid the book away in the cupboard."

NYT author obit: "Amber St. Clare, the heroine of Ms. Winsor's 972-page work, runs through lovers from a highwayman named Black Jack Mallard to King Charles II at a pace that led a reviewer to recommend using an adding machine to keep track. Amber's flair with words amplifies the effect: ''Adultery is not a crime, it's an amusement,'' she purrs."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, wow! I think it's been close to 20 years since I read this but I remember picking it up at a Goodwill and not being able to put it down. I'm going to have to read it again.
posted by mochapickle at 2:05 PM on July 1, 2016

I enjoyed the crap out of this book. I think my favorite of her lovers/husbands is when she's swindling the Puritan merchant. And I love how Amber is an objectively terrible person but the author manages to make you root for her throughout the whole book.

Bruce did not seem so lovable I thought she should be chasing him for the entire 900-plus pages, but I guess that's central to her character -- she doesn't really learn or grow, she just gets better at scamming.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

What kills me is she intended to write a sequel, but never did. I always wonder how she planned for it to turn out.
posted by corb at 9:34 PM on July 1, 2016

Winsor's next book was Star Money, a roman à clef about her experiences after FA's release. Florence King discussed it in an article which was collected in The Florence King Reader.
posted by brujita at 12:54 AM on July 2, 2016

This book, people.....
posted by bq at 5:55 PM on July 2, 2016

Do we get to discuss the movie in comparison, too?
posted by jadepearl at 7:41 PM on July 2, 2016

There was a movie?! Did it star Liz Taylor?
posted by bq at 8:21 PM on July 2, 2016

I've never even heard of Linda Darnell.
posted by bq at 8:25 PM on July 2, 2016

I say go for it on the movie, although I haven't seen it. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 PM on July 2, 2016

I say we do a watch party, anytime after about, say, July 24.
posted by corb at 10:13 PM on July 2, 2016

Holy carp this is detailed and awesome.
posted by tilde at 4:58 AM on July 11, 2016

Forever Amber ranks up there with Tes o9f the D'Ubervilles on the list of 'most vague deflowering scenes'
posted by bq at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Okay that was a whole lot of fun. I was sad to not find it on audible but considering I share my account with my kids, probably a good thing.

Ordered a few old used hardbacks of hr other books from Amazon.

So are we to infer she married her own Father and slept with her half-brother (who was poisoned by their father/her husband?

All through it I was comparing it to Gone With the Wind and Scarlett which I've read multiple times. (I've read Rhett Butlers People but not compelling enough to re read. )

I thought maybe she'd find out before she married Dad and used it to gain his money that way and a proper title to get Bruce. Or she'd end up with Almsbury instead. But not terribly bothered by the ending. A good study of a period piece (as in the 1940's)
posted by tilde at 11:11 AM on July 13, 2016

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkay. She married her own StepFather, and slept with her step-brother.
posted by tilde at 4:29 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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