Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: "An Echo in the Bone" by Diana Gabaldon

I started reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series years ago in p-book format. Because of all the things that were going on in my life, I had not purchased this latest installment when it was first published. I recently bought the Kindle version.

Outlander is a series of historical fiction books, with a time travel element. In the first story, Claire Randall, a physician from Boston, is accidentally transported back to the eighteenth century when she visits Stonehenge on a trip to England.  She ends up in Scotland, where she meets Jamie MacKenzie, perhaps one of the sexiest romantic heroes of all time. Jamie is married at the time they meet, but they fall in love and Claire ends up pregnant. Complications cause her to decide to go back to the twentieth century to birth her child. She subsequently returns because she loves Jamie too much to live without him.

In several books between Outlander and Echo in the Bone Jamie and Claire travel to France where they get caught up in the run-up to the French Revolution. They travel to the Caribbean and finally end up in North Carolina during the Colonial period. They raise a family and try to hide from the coming revolutionary storm.

In Echo in the Bone the revolutionary maelstrom overtakes them and they participate in the war as partisans: Claire as a medic and Jamie as an officer in the Continental Army.  While that is happening, their daughter and her husband, with their two children, travel back to twentieth century Scotland to seek medical treatment for the little girl. While Jamie and Claire are trying to stay alive in the middle of a war, Brianna and Roger are trying to cope with the complexities of life in the twenty-first century. It's an interesting contrast.

This is about the only series that I have stuck with through so many volumes (this is the eighth). That is because the characters are complex, "real" and I care about them, and because the historical period against which part of the story is set is dramatic and interesting. What is more the time-travel element adds a second dimension of things to wrap your brain and heart around. What would it be like to travel back in time? What would a person from the eighteenth century think of our world today?  How would people cope with such contrast?

Gabaldon is a good writer. The story is complex enough and described in sufficient detail that I am able to totally immerse myself in the story world in every one of her books. The stories are a little melodramatic, but it's historical romance, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. The secondary and even minor characters are so fascinating that Gabaldon has spun off entire novels and one other series about some of them. The Quaker doctor and his sister that appear in this novel could hold up to a novel of their own, I think. Also in this novel Jamie's nephew, Ian, matures into a man who I think (if Gabaldon lets him live) will clearly be the clan leader after Jamie.

If you're going to tackle the series, start at the beginning with Outlander. Here's the entire list of all of Gabaldon's books.

No comments:

Post a Comment