Book Reviews

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (1944), the Banned Bestseller

Forever Amber  by Kathleen Winsor (1944) tells the sprawling story of Amber St. Clair, a beauty who cunningly ascends the class structure of Restoration-era England. After a humble upbringing, sixteen-year-old Amber’s encounter with a troupe of traveling soldiers turns into her ticket out of the countryside – and her journey of social advancement begins.

Amber’s fictional narrative is interwoven with true historic facts of the English Restoration; she is born of circumstances resulting from the English Civil War, becomes a survivor of the plague, and witnesses the Great Fire of London.

Amber meets a vast array of characters from all the English classes, her adopted farmer parents, the mischievous highwayman Black Jack Mallard, her true love royalist Lord Bruce Carlton, and King Charles II. These encounters amount to a sweeping portrait of the English Restoration. Read More→

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Precious Bane by Mary Webb, the 1926 novel

Precious Bane, the 1926 novel by English author Mary Webb, is a coming–of–age novel set in the English countryside. Our heroine, Prue Sarn, is a sharply observant young woman of Shropshire during the Napoleonic Era who has been born with a disfigured lip.

Her harelip leads the others in her superstitious village to treat her as an outsider due to the association it shares with witchcraft. Despite the hardships of rural life, her disfiguration and its resulting perceptions Prue endearingly finds beauty and compassion for all around her. 

 The colorful cast of Precious Bane includes Prue’s brother Gideon, whose temperament is the of polar opposite of hers. Gideon, the inheritor of the family farm, cannot see anything in his environment outside of its potential to be exploited for personal monetary gain.

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Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall (1983)

Praisesong for the Widow is widely regarded as Paule Marshall’s most eloquent statement of the need for African Americans to understand and embrace their heritage even as they pursue equality and success.

Praisesong was initially published in 1983 and reissued in 2021 in a handsome edition by McSweeney’s as the second volume in its Diaspora series.

Praisesong is the first of Marshall’s novels to feature a middle-class Black American woman at its center, a woman who experiences what was also a defining moment in Paule Marshall’s own life: the Big Drum ceremony on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou. Read More→

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Elinor Glyn, a Biography by Anthony Glyn (1955)

Elinor Glyn (October 17, 1864 – September 23, 1943) was best known as the author of the scandalous 1907 novel Three Weeks and for coining the expression “It Girl.” The following is adapted from a review of Elinor Glyn, a biography by Anthony Glyn (her grandson).

Elinor Glyn: A Portrait of the Woman Who Gave IT a new meaning — and of the fabulous world in which she lived  originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, July 17, 1955:

Elinor Glyn is the writer who made the word IT synonymous with sex appeal. That was Sam Goldwyn’s idea, though Mrs. Glyn had a much more involved definition. Read More→

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Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India by Gita Mehta

Gita Mehta (1943 – 2023) started her career in journalism, writing articles for Indian, European and American publications. She also filmed documentaries for British and American television before publishing her work in book form. This review presents Snakes and Ladders, a compilation of essays released to celebrate fifty years of Indian Independence. 

Reading Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India (1997) with the country having recently completed seventy-five years of Independence offers great insights.

It could almost be termed a “Ready Reckoner” for what India was twenty-five years ago and quite often, while reading it, I found  myself wondering about what has changed. Read More→

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