An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte Press, 4th printing, 2009
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Jacket copy: Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.
Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.
Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.
With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.
Book Report: Upon reading the last page of this latest installment in the Outlander series, the adventures of a WWII nurse in the eighteenth century, my first response was “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” For whatever reason–I have no idea why–I was convinced that this would be the seventh and FINAL installment.–and it isn’t. Bugger that for a lark.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine series, and when my friend Angela introduced me to it in the winter of 2008, I promptly tore through each book in a day or two. But then I was ready to be done. I just have too much to read to devote my energies to another endless series of massive books. At least Gabaldon actually, you know, PUBLISHES, unlike others I could mention whose initials are George RR Martin. She could, like certain someones–don’t give me that look, George–keep stringing people along with promises for years and years. And years.
AEitB moves the series along nicely, after a bit of a mid-series slump (thanks to the introduction of and too much time spent with Claire’s daughter Brianna, a most annoying and unsympathetic Mary Sue of a character–I really do not like her, and am strongly tempted to skim all of her POV chapters). Though some might quibble over the amount of time spent in girding up for war, it IS the eve of the American Revolution, and it would be out of character for Claire, Jamie, et alia to not be involved. It’s the War, however, that also allows Gabaldon to indulge in her main weaknesses: excessive coincidence and gratuitous cameos. Regarding the latter, writers take note: just because a significant personage was around when you’re writing, it doesn’t mean they need to be in the pages of your book. (Although, I appreciated the interest in Benedict Arnold, who seems to have been a much more complex man than the vagaries of history in the US would give him credit for, rather than the personification of EVIL and BETRAYAL. He reminds me of Burr, though Burr actually was kind of a jackass–but an amusing one.) Now, I know some of the former can be required to move a plot along, but Gabaldon relies too heavily on it. Two cousins, one of whom knows they’re cousins though the other is completely unaware of the fact, fall in love with the same inappropriate woman, and her brother just so happens to be the love of the unaware cousin’s other cousin, and so on. The whole saga is positively littered with that sort of thing.
But for all that, it’s still got a frenetic pace (once you get past a very dull opening) and more of the good humor that made the series so fun to get into in the first place. (And I don’t mean the “bawdy” bits. Anything referred to as “bawdy” makes my skin crawl; it’s too self-conscious. Give me some honest raunch, please.) If you are looking for a committed relationship with a series, this is one to consider. I held off for a long time because it sounded so ridiculous (and really, why IS everyone so obsessed with Scotland? Or why were they in the Eighties?), but it’s definitely a good time.
Read also: The entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which begins with the appropriately-titled Outlander. Burr by Gore Vidal, My Theodosia by Anya Seton, Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.
Cover: I, I just don’t know what that is. But it’s par for the series. It’s definitely better than some ludicrous painting.
He turned at his name, to find Harry Dobson and Colin Osborn, two second lieutenants from his regiment, evidently escaped from duty and eager to sample the fleshpots of Wilmington—such as they were.
“Who’s that?” Dobson looked after the departing group, interested.
“A Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie. Friends of my father’s.”
“Oh, married, is she?” Dobson sucked in his cheeks, still watching the woman. “Well, make it a bit harder, I suppose, but what’s life without a challenge?”
“Challenge?” William gave his diminutive friend a jaundiced look. “Her husband’s roughly three times your size, if you hadn’t noticed.”
Osborn laughed, going red in the face.
“She’s twice his size! She’d crush you, Dobby.”
“And what makes you think I mean to be on the bottom?” Dobson inquired with dignity. Osborn hooted.
“What’s this obsession of yours with giantesses?” William demanded. He glanced at the little family, now nearly out of sight at the end of the street. “That woman’s nearly as tall as I am!”
“Oh, rub it in, why don’t you?” Osborn, who was taller than Dobson’s five feet, but still a head shorter than William, aimed a mock kick at his knee. William dodged it and cuffed Osborn, who ducked and shoved him into Dobson.