Another blockbuster of a novel. More compulsive reading. Two salacious stories set three centuries apart. One a whole town of sordidness and, well, another town of sordidness complete with royal court but from the perspective of one unapologetic woman. Some things, no matter time or place or period details just don't change. What does a woman who is alone and must live by her wits do? Sometimes she has to use sex or her feminine wiles to get by.
Yes, I am about to embark on an end of the summer steamy romance read . . . Kathleen Winsor's door-stopper of a book, Forever Amber. Nearly 1,000 pages of bawdy Restoration England and a woman who must use all her "advantages" to survive. Earlier this year I spent some time in Peyton Place and now I am about to travel back and back and back in time to London, England ca. 1660. Peyton Place was somewhat shocking (even now though it was written in 1956) as it pushed every moral boundary I could think of (and a few I hadn't thought of as well). Forever Amber was written a scant dozen years earlier.
Published in 1944 it was so provocative that it was banned in Boston, which surely helped it sell not only 100,000 copies in its first week but would go on to sell more than two million in hardcover no less and was published in more than 16 countries. From what I gather the more um, sensual scenes are presented in a way that the reader must fill in with their imaginations, but Winsor must know how to tell it in a way that makes it easy for the reader to do so.
It's not the risqué sections that are compelling me to read rather her ability to bring the time and place to vivid is what I am most interested in. "Every detail of life in that period--food, fashions, architecture, interior design, and politics--is covered in the fictional tale of Amber St. Clare. Winsor skillfully dissects the manners and mores of that age in every echelon of society, from peasants to princes of blood."
So far I have only read the prologue which sets the scene and gives the basic background of Amber's parentage. Born out of wedlock to aristocratic parents whose love for each other is deep but politics would drive a wedge between the two families. The two were once set to marry and now their Royalist or Parliamentarian inclinations divide them. It's into this world that Amber is born. Now, sixteen years later we meet up with Amber properly. Two men ride into the village of Marygreen and come upon Amber and ask for directions. This is the young woman they set eyes upon:
"Her honey-colored hair fell in heavy waves below her shoulders and as she stared up at him her eyes, clear, speckled amber, seemed to tilt at the corners; her brows were black and swept up in arcs, and she had thick black lashes. There was about her a kind of warm luxuriance, something immediately suggestive to the men of pleasurable fulfillment--something she was not responsible but of which she was acutely conscious. It was that, more than her beauty, that the other girls resented."
Hmm. A certain je ne sais quoi (which I always lacked, too). This shall be a most entertaining and no doubt enlightening character sketch. Shall I keep you updated along the way? I'm not sure this is an achievable goal, but I am going to try and make my way through the story and finish by month's end (and then it will be on to the second Smiley book). So, onwards and into Restoration England!