By the time our plane finally left for Orlando, a week ago, I'd already finished the copy of Rhett Butler's People that I'd brought along. As it was 500 pages long, I hadn't thought to bring another novel with me... meaning I was looking at another five days of vacation with nothing else to read. So, at 5:45pm on Christmas Eve, I made a last-minute rush through an Orlando Borders, since the store was closing in 15 minutes and I needed to find something. I ended up with Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber, figuring it was thick enough to keep me occupied until I got home, at least. I knew it was a classic, but I'd never read it before, and I was amused at the thought of reading three 950-page books in the same year (Gone with the Wind and Pillars of the Earth being the other two).
Unfortunately, while GWTW proved fascinating and compelling - one of my favorite reads for the year, actually - and POTE kept my attention throughout (despite inaccuracies, modern attitudes, and some other annoyances), Forever Amber was an extreme disappointment. I made it to p.200 before setting aside my bookmark. I found the characters flat and unsympathetic; I've read that Amber St. Clare was based on Scarlett O'Hara, but although she's as self-centered and upwardly mobile as Mitchell's heroine, Amber had no depth and was uninteresting to read about. The novel does contain, as promised, vivid descriptions of Restoration-era clothing, food, living conditions, and vice (and lots of the latter), but for me, this wasn't enough to carry the story. I found myself wanting to see more of Barbara Palmer and Charles II, who are viewpoint characters in several scenes, rather than the protagonist.
I understand Forever Amber does an excellent job making readers feel like they're there during the Great Plague and the Fire of London, but alas, I never got that far. If you've read it all the way through, does it get better? Does Amber become less of a TSTL heroine, and did you care what happened to her? It's a shame I couldn't finish it, since I spent close to $20 for the book. It does have a pretty cover, though.