Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

Winsor’s book takes place during the Restoration — when Charles II was returned to the crown in the 1660s– and begins with Amber running away from home with Bruce, a Lord traveling through the countryside towards London to see the restoration of the King. But when she discovers she is pregnant, Bruce runs off to America and leaves Amber pregnant and alone.

As the story progresses, Amber’s liaisons help her gain wealth and titles as well as several children. Eventually, she becomes the king’s mistress and mother to his son (which was just one of several issues), but she still carries a torch for Bruce and his return to England challenges the life she has built for herself.

Boston banned this book when it was first published, but that is where I purchased it five or six years ago and promptly gave up reading the novel. I’ve been reading this book in spurts since August, and it’s taken me this long to slog through nearly a thousand pages.

It’s not the subject matter that bothered me; Amber’s sexual liaisons are written so that the reader can use their imagination or not. It’s just that the novel lacks character development with a barely believable story line, and the story isn’t the slightest bit romantic. Amber is childish, selfish, and spoiled and uses her natural beauty and sexuality to get what she wants throughout the entire book. She never learns! And while I can read long novels with unlikeable characters (Scarlett O’Hara, anyone?), there must be something more than sheer will to finish that encourages me to read the novel cover to cover. There’s just no point to this novel.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Winsor, Kathleen. Forever Amber. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Originally published 1944. Print. 972 pgs. ISBN: 9781556524042. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Chicago Review Press. Retrieved: November 14, 2010.
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9 thoughts on “Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

  1. I read this numerous times while growing up because it plunged me into a time and place that I found riveting. The British Civil War and Restoration England are fascinating, and Winsor captured the history, the intrigues, the personalities quite vividly. The events and surroundings were greater than the central story of Amber and Bruce. However, I was also affected because ALL Amber’s choices were about securing Bruce’s love, an impossible task because he was an aristocrat…when Amber was more highly-born than he, if only she could have known and claimed her true identity. I’m a sucker for irony.

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  2. Christina, thanks for your comments. I appreciate what you’re saying, though I do think Amber learned a great deal; perhaps the problem is that it wasn’t what she was supposed to learn.

    She went from an innocent but headstrong child-woman to an ambitious schemer. Her native stubbornness evolved into an impressive resourcefulness, but that admirable determination was channeled into her social climb rather than any noteworthy advancement of her soul.

    What never changed was her devotion to Bruce, or rather to the goal of obtaining his love. Her life’s journey was like a circle revolving around a central point; the wheel can roll forward but the rim will never touch the hub, no matter how far they travel on their track….

    My young self liked to gorge on the tragedy of Amber’s story: that she had everything–youth, beauty, wit, fire, the love of a good man (remember Rex?), healthy children and eventually wealth and prestige–but she would, and did, give it all up for the one thing that would never, ever be hers. I doubt I’d enjoy the book today but it hit all the spots when I was a kid!

    I actually think Amber is the British equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara, do you?

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    1. Thanks for your follow-up comment, Jaime, and I do understand what you are saying. She does change a lot throughout the book, but I guess I continued to be irritated by her fixation on one thing and blindness to what she has.

      There are parts of Scarlett I see in Amber, but at the end Scarlett realizes what she has in front of her. She realizes her mistakes, and I never felt like Amber ever did.

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  3. “…at the end Scarlett realizes what she has in front of her. She realizes her mistakes, and I never felt like Amber ever did.”

    I think you’re right. Amber never considered any of the things she did in her pursuit of Bruce to be “mistakes,” not really. The ends would justify the means as far as she was concerned. This is true even when she relinquished everything she’d worked hard to gain in life, risking ridicule and worse, in order to follow him across the world into the unknown.

    Scarlett, on the other hand, learned true remorse for her mistakes and she grew up emotionally in other ways, as well. She didn’t remain fixated at one stage of development forever like Amber does, which is why Scarlett can live without Ashley but Amber cannot live without Bruce.

    I never for a moment imagine Amber succeeding in her pursuit of Bruce, nor do I see her ever being happy without him. However, I believe Scarlett is going to either entice Rhett back or she will forge her happiness without him.

    Now I’m an adult, Forever Amber is a book I would recommend for appreciating the depiction of 17th century Britain. It’s not one I’d offer to someone hoping to connect with a protagonist. 😉

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