Posts Tagged ‘An Echo in the Bone’

Giving In

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011I’m not sure I ever mentioned it, but I hadn’t been going to read this seventh book in the Outlander series. Don’t get me wrong – I think Gabaldon is a great novelist, who writes absolutely engaging stories that are well put together, and historical fiction that shows the extensive research behind it in the best possible way. The things that happen to her characters aren’t always what one would call plausible (time-travel is at the core of them, after all), but they fit together, given the premise don’t stray too far off recorded history, and the protagonists do stay in character. The things they do may still surprise, but there will be a reasonable explanation (even if it’s for someone behaving irrationally). Basically I like Gabaldon’s books a whole lot.

So what’s the problem? Well, given the times, places and events her characters live in and through, there’s a whole lot of violence of all kinds (including emotional and psychological abuse) that happens to them, and since she doesn’t shy away from showing their personal and sexual relationships, there’s a fair amount of sexual violence through the series as well. (Including the Lord John Grey books and stories here, too.) While I completely respect Gabaldon’s reasoning for including such harrowing events and scenes, I had got to the point of deciding I just didn’t need to be reading that any more. So I gave away my copies of all the previous books, this one not having come out yet.

So what changed my mind? Temptation, pure and simple. We made the mistake of going into a bookshop while celebrating DH getting a new (and hopefully better) job, and I saw the paperback. I dithered quite awhile, but gave in to wanting to know what happened to the characters.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

4. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

So, the book. Well, it’s generally up to Gabaldon’s normal high standard. My main quibble would be that she’s brought in quite a few people from way back in the series, requiring a fairly high level of coincidence to bring them together. In at least one such case, the connection is so far only for the reader, since the people who meet Randall-Isaacs didn’t know Black Jack Randall, let alone his various connections to people they do know. Thankfully, considering my issues above, no-one we know actually gets raped in this volume, but there are a fair few violent incidents of greater and lesser emotional intensity, and, rightly, characters are still getting over previous attacks. There’s a large cast of point-of-view and otherwise significant characters (including some new ones of apparent ongoing importance).

This spread of focus since the first book (told in first person from Claire’s perspective) shows us a few battles in a year or two of the US War of Independence/American Revolution from both sides, as well as a variety of lives taking place around that war. As in the other books we get a sense of just how hands on medicine and all aspects of care were in the 18th Century, as well as a reminder of how things have changed even in the past thirty years. It’s intriguing starting to see Gabaldon’s writings get to a time I can remember.

While apparently some people thought book six (A Breath of Snow and Ashes) was the last in the series, there’s little risk of anyone getting that impression here, since there are several rather large questions left open at the end of the book (there is a reasonable amount of resolution within the tale, however). In fact the latest extract of book eight put up on DG’s blog continues directly on from the events in this book.

And now, of course, having sated curiosity for the time being, I have to decide do I keep the book (pretty sure it’d go in a flash on Bookmooch). Stay tuned. You’ll see do I give in further…

Stories overlapping and intertwining

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I’ve just started reading Trinity: a novel of Ireland by Leon Uris, as I finished The Professor and the Madman this morning, and this was one my DH expressed an interest in my opinion of. I’ve seen novels by Uris before, but not read any of them. At the moment this is sharing the opening set-piece of Dubliners: the wake of an old man, respected in the community (if not by all), as viewed by a young boy connected to his family. I haven’t got far enough in it to say more than that as yet. Already, though, it’s got my DH and I discussing Irish history again, which is never a bad thing.

Still, if I’m to get to even having read a quarter of last year’s total books (320), I do need to get a move on, as I’m at precisely a fifth (64) today. Not that anyone besides me does or should care about that…

37. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

I believe I was given one copy of this and offered two or three more. Not sure if this says more about me or the book (I was being offered once read copies, where the purchaser thought it unlikely they’d reread the book). It is perhaps more of a book of children’s fairy tales than might be expected from Hermione’s fascination with it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but for those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series in its totality it’s certainly worth reading once, and for more than the sake of completeness.

38. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

After 2008’s reading of the original American version, this was me going back through the series as I knew it originally. As I pointed out then, they are only fractionally different. I still love the story and the writing in this series, but on this reread I was getting disturbed by the huge amount of violence (sexual and non) within the books, so it may be awhile till I go back to them, presuming I do. I haven’t even got hold of or read An Echo in the Bone (the newest book, which came out this September just gone) because of this.

39. What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I listened to this back to back with Mr Hogarth’s Will, as described two days ago, and since they have some overlapping themes I thought I was going to get them thoroughly mixed up, but I think I have them more distinct now than I did at the time!

Unlike Mr Hogarth’s nieces, who are educated to provide for themselves, and then turfed out to do so, Diantha has to do a lot of persuading of her family that she be allowed to try so to do (so far so like Agnes Grey), especially since she has a young man desperate to marry and look after her (so not like any book I’ve come across before the current generation). This is a clever, practical, principled young woman with her own plan of action, to benefit many women young and old, who will not be deterred from her path, especially by those she loves.

40. Posing for Portrait Photography: a head-to-toe guide by Jeff Smith

One of those random books I read for work, but I like to think it has and will help in my snapping, even though it’s decidedly written for those in or going into professional portrait photography. (I did some ‘proper photography’ courses in school, after learning a lot from my father, but these day I use an automatic digital camera mostly to record my crochet here and on Ravelry, and otherwise to snap pics of friends, family, and touristy stuff.)

Oh, and while I’m discussing improving photography skills, I just came across a really interesting photography blog. It is aimed towards proper photography, but those of us trying to get beyond ‘just snaps’ (again) can learn and be inspired too.