I’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.
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…
- Diana Gabaldon – The Exile (fyreflybooks.wordpress.com)
- #293 ~ The Exile (A Graphic Review) (literatehousewife.com)
- 2010 ~ The Year Audiobooks Saved Me (literatehousewife.com)
- December 2010 Wrap-Up: Books and Reviews (fyreflybooks.wordpress.com)
- The Winner of the Songs of Love and Death Giveaway! (smartbitchestrashybooks.com)