Thursday, August 28, 2014

#42 [2014/CBR6] "Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon

I couldn't wait very long before my curiosity got the better of me and I went hunting for Dragonfly in Amber (1993) by Diana Gabaldon--the second in the Outlander series. This is the continuing story of Claire, the WWII nurse, dragged through time to the 1740's and her adventures with Jamie Fraser, her sexy Highlander husband. This book follows the events leading up to the Jacobite rebellion in 1745, ending with the battle at Culloden. Jamie and Claire travel first to Paris before heading home to Lollybrach, then following "Bonnie Prince Charlie" to battle.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to review this book, especially with so many more to follow (because I will read all of these tomes, no matter how long it takes). With the inevitability of spoilers, I figured I'd try a "real time review" of my thoughts as I remember them. That way, I don't have to figure out a way to organize everything I have to say. So, the rest of this review will only make sense to those who've already read the book. Also, it's going to be full of spoilers, so you wouldn't want to read this, if you haven't already read the book. Finally, just to be clear, I really did enjoy reading this book. I got sucked right into it and it took over my life for the few days it took to read it. That's why I'm waiting a bit before I read the third book.

-Wait a minute, did I get the wrong book? How did I lose 20 years?

-Okay, Gabaldon just described Claire along the lines of "still beautiful and not showing her age." I'll take that as a sign that Claire's romance is not yet finished. I know she says Jamie is dead, but without more details, I don't believe that for a second.

-Although...on second thought, it would be pretty gutsy for Gabaldon to kill off her hunky love interest in the second of eight books. I'd almost admire her for it, but then I'd feel bad for Sam Heughan because he's doing so well and doesn't deserve to lose his job.

-I'm having a little trouble believing this love of Brianna and Roger Wakefield. I guess Gabaldon didn't have much time with them, but it seems their attraction is based on...having looked at each other?

PART II [full disclosure: I had to return the book, so I'm just guessing how the book was broken up]
-Finally, we're back in the 18th Century! But we're back at the beginning! I want to find out what happened to Jamie at Culloden!

-I like this Paris stuff with Jamie and Claire, and it's nice to have them together again. But politics has never really been my thing. Running around the Highland countryside was more exciting.

-Claire's work at the hospital is probably my favorite part of this section of the book--both good for her character and interesting to read.

-Hmmm...apparently Paris, France is the place to be right now: Captain Jack, his yet-unknown-to-him future wife, and his alarmingly-similar-looking brother all happen to be here. Very convenient for the story.

-I guess I don't do too well with the fantasy elements. I'm glad the toad guy fixed Claire, but I don't get it and it takes me out of the story.

-There is an alarming amount of child rape going on in this book.

-I know Claire was stressed out, hurt, and angry, but why would she wait so long to ask about Jamie??? It doesn't fit her character at all, it's not like she wasn't thinking about him.

-Wow. Well, if you're going to have sex with someone besides Gorgeous McRedhead*, it may as well be the King of France. Her compliance was forced through her need to free Jamie, but I like Gabaldon going against romance tropes here. I don't think I've ever seen a romance heroine sleep with another guy once she finds her man.

-Back to Lallybroch and blissful peace for...a very short while.

-Another potentially controversial scene: Jamie using Claire as a pawn to get the poor, young English lad to give up his intel. It was better than reading about torture, but maybe if he could have made his point without ripping her clothes off in front of all his men. Oh well, I forgive you, Jamie.

-Oh, look, a completely gratuitous picture of Jamie. I'm keeping it classy by choosing a head shot. A clothed head shot. 

-A couple of interesting themes have come through: 1) the differences between history as we look back at it compared to the experiences of those living it 2) also, the hard choices leaders have to make, sacrificing some to save others and/or doing something dishonorable in the hope that the ends justify the means.

-Seriously? Captain Jack Black sneaks up to Claire's room (why would he even go there in the first place?) He's tried to rape Claire twice and did crazy, sadistic shit to her husband and she just walks off with him???

-I get the impression that in Gabaldon's world, everything is pretty much fated. No matter what the characters know and do, they are unable to change what has happened.

-Okay, I'm satisfied with Claire's choice to go back. That whole last scene of Claire and Jamie in the 18th Century worked for me.

-Arrrggghhh!!! After 5,000 pages of feverish reading, trying to find out what happens to Jamie, I learn that Claire's just been assuming for twenty years that the love of her life--the man who broke into the middle of an English fort, unarmed, to save her; the man who successfully faced down an hysterical, bloodthirsty crowd, wanting to burn her for a witch--must have died because that was the plan and there was 50 percent mortality at Culloden. Maybe there is more explanation for this in later books, but Claire is not stupid and she is not a coward. Why would she give up hope that easily, without even trying to find out? This doesn't fit her character in any way and only served in adding tension to the story and perhaps keeping Claire from having to choose between leaving her daughter (when she's very young) and not going back to her husband.

* © Mrs. Julien, Pajiba comment.

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