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Topic: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

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Subject: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
Date Posted: 12/1/2009 12:39 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2009
Posts: 296
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Just finished this book and I really liked it and was wowed by the author's great historic detail - But - the book seemed to end abruptly for me and that just didn't seem right.  Then as I was reading other people's reviews I noticed that someone said the published book is only 1/5 of the original.  Which would make sense with the way it ends - so my question is - does anyone know was the entire thing ever published?  And if so where the heck do you snag that at?  It kind of annoys me that it was just left hanging there and then really annoys me to know that there is more written. 

Date Posted: 12/1/2009 1:16 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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That, as I understand it, was due to edits from her original publisher.  So in other words, the manuscript (5th draft, btw - I just looked it up:P) was the only unedited version & the book has never been altered from the original edition - published in 1944, I think - to the most recent ones.  Everything that I've ever read about it - quotes from Winsor herself, etc. - were that her publisher whacked off the majority of it, and it was still banned in 14 states:P  I doubt there was anything in the original to warrant that much hubub.  This was back in the 40's, so they'd probably go feet up in the floor if they read some of the stuff we consider relatively tame now.

Last Edited on: 12/1/09 1:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/1/2009 1:26 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2009
Posts: 296
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Damn that sucks - it just seems to end at a strange place.  Yes she is leaving England but there is so much more that could have been written.  I was kind of looking for the unrequited love ending and also for the "you got what you deserved" ending of her either losing her money, beauty and/or love. 


I don't figure the cut out parts were really randy - her writing is just not in that style.  I wonder where the cuts were made?  I'm guessing there was a last part of the book that was just chopped.

Anybody have any good resources about the novel itself?  Kim, you say quotes from Winsor herself - where did you read those at?

Date Posted: 12/2/2009 5:05 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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Oh, crikey.  Some obit piece on her I read when she died several years ago.  It's probably online somewhere, I'd have to see if I can find it.  I think she has a pretty detailed wikipedia page, but I don't know if it has as many quotes - haven't checked.

Date Posted: 12/2/2009 6:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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Here it is, Jeanine - from The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/kathleen-winsor-548239.html:


May 29, 2003
Kathleen Winsor
Author of the racy bestseller 'Forever Amber'

Kathleen Winsor, writer: born Olivia, Minnesota 16 October 1919; married first Robert John Herwig (marriage dissolved 1946), second 1946 Artie Shaw (marriage dissolved 1948), third Arnold Krakower (marriage dissolved), fourth Paul A. Porter (died 1975); died New York 26 May 2003.

"Adultery is not a crime, it's an amusement." Amber St Clair, the sexual adventurer created by the writer Kathleen Winsor as the rambunctious heroine of her historical romance Forever Amber, is fond of such amoral remarks. They helped ensure that Winsor's début, published in 1944, both achieved notoriety and became a bestseller as perhaps the first bodice-ripper of modern fiction.

Within a week, the racy 972-page novel had sold 100,000 copies in America and within a couple of years three million people had bought the book - despite, or perhaps because of, its being banned by 14 US states. It became a bestseller in 16 countries, including Britain, where its publication in 1945 coincided, paradoxically, with the popularity of the film Brief Encounter, that ode to repressed passion and sexual renunciation.

For the next 25 years, Forever Amber was a kind of rite-of-passage reading for teenage girls everywhere. The romance is set in the libertine years of Restoration England and starts with Amber at 16, pregnant and penniless on the streets of London. However, within a couple of hundred pages she is the mistress of Charles II. Amber runs through lovers so briskly that one reviewer suggested the reader might want to use an adding machine to keep track.

The Attorney-General of Massachusetts, in explaining his reasons for banning the book, said that he had counted 70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, seven abortions, 10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men and 49 "miscellaneous objectionable passages". He added: "The references to women's bosoms and other parts of their anatomy were so numerous I did not even attempt to count them." The book was publicly burned in that state. (The novel did not titillate every reader: when the ban was reversed the appeal judge said the book had put him to sleep.)

Even before a film deal had been done, the Hays Office, the self- appointed morality board for the film industry, condemned the book. The film version went ahead, with Linda Darnell as Amber and Cornell Wilde as her true love, and was a big hit on its release in 1947. (A relative of Winsor said that the writer, "the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen," was the natural choice to play Amber.) The novel outsold every other US novel of the 1940s and Winsor, dubbed America's most notorious novelist, made more money from this single book than any other writer of the time.

Kathleen Winsor was born in 1919, in Olivia, Minnesota. It may have been hype for the novel, but she claimed English ancestors who moved to America as early as 1630. She grew up in comfortable circumstances in Berkeley, California and graduated from university there.

She married while still a student. She had been asked by a California paper to write American football stories from a woman's point of view. The story goes that her husband, a fellow student, Robert John Herwig, was working on a paper on Charles II; Winsor read one of his research books and became fascinated by the Restoration instead.

Herwig went off to war in the Pacific and during his five-year absence Winsor studied the period, reading 365 books on the subject, making watercolour sketches of houses, furniture and costumes, and writing some five drafts of the novel. She reckoned she spent 4,967 hours on it. Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year was a major source and her account of the Great Plague was much praised for its apparent verisimilitude. Other sources included Defoe's Moll Flanders and Roxana and Gay's Beggar's Opera.

"I can't say I was surprised when it was accepted," she said many years later. "It seemed only justice after five years of effort." However, the book she delivered was more than two and half million words long - the publishers reduced it to a fifth of its length, and set aside a $20,000 promotional budget: a small fortune in those days.

Winsor was the first to point out that, while sex helped sell the novel, her writing was by no means explicit.

I wrote only two sexy passages, and my publishers took both of them out. They put ellipses instead. In those days, you could solve everything with an ellipse.

She divorced her husband in 1946. Her success combined with her striking good looks ensured she became part of the celebrity circuit. She was described as "one of the great ornaments of New York" - she lived in New York most of her life - although she also received hate mail branding her "a sexy tramp". She next married the bandleader Artie Shaw. Ironically, two years earlier he had condemned his then wife, Ava Gardner, for reading a "trashy novel" - Forever Amber. Winsor's second marriage didn't last either but she quickly met her third husband, Arnold Krakower - he was the lawyer handling her divorce from Shaw in 1948. Her fourth husband, Paul A Porter, was also a lawyer.

Winsor wrote a number of other contemporary and historical romances, including The Lovers (1952), Robert and Arabella (1986), Calais (1980) and Star Money (1950). She always intended to write a sequel to Forever Amber to be called "Amber in America" but it never appeared. She found it hard to repeat the success of Forever Amber, even though she recognised that readers "like to read about the past because it has no threats for them".

Peter Guttridge
Independent News and Media Limited

Date Posted: 12/2/2009 7:28 PM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
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From what I remember, I vaguely recall the ending being her shipping off to follow "him" to America.  It gave me the feeling she was just going to continue following or "stalking" him forever.  It was such a long time ago that I read it.  I should do a re-read.

Date Posted: 12/2/2009 8:18 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2008
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Holy cow I didn't realize that book was almost 1000 pages. 

Date Posted: 12/3/2009 8:06 AM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2009
Posts: 296
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Yes Anne - she is a monster of a book and its on its way to you right now!  ;)   Yeah that's how it ends where she is going to follow him to America thinking his wife has died during the passage when she is really still alive.  I really, really wish she had written the second book because it is soo set up for a sequel.  That's a shame.  As you read it you are kind of torn between wanting her to finally get her man or wanting her to finally get some karma back (i.e. end up not beautiful, not rich, not in every man's desire).  It's a very interesting book because you end up not liking her but you like the book. 

Has anyone read any of her other novels?  Are they similar to Amber?  Might have to add those to my list.