DRAGONFLY IN AMBER
by Diana Gabaldon
Narrated by: Davina Porter
Length: 39 hrs and 28 mins
Publisher: Recorded Books Release Date:10-26-06
Delacorte Press (original release: July 01, 1992)
Hardcover/Paperback/E-Books Pages: 752
Blogger Purchase. No Remuneration exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is the second novel in the main OUTLANDER series. The book carries on the story begun in OUTLANDER, but begins with a brief framing story set in 1968, in which Claire Randall visits a young Oxford don named Roger MacKenzie in Inverness, in search of answers for her daughter, Brianna. Her request is unusual; she has a list of names, Jacobite soldiers who fought with Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army, who took part in the disastrous battle at Culloden in 1746. What happened to these men, she asks, following the battle? Roger is surprised at her intensity, but intrigued at her question—and intrigued even more by her red-haired daughter. The answer to Roger’s search leads all three to an unexpected grave—and to a revelation that will turn all their lives inside-out.
Claire tells Roger and Brianna what happened during the year before the Stuart Rising: the political intrigues, the chain of spying, betrayal, and murder that led her and her husband James Fraser from the court of Louis XV to the windswept moors of the Scottish Highlands and the blood-soaked ground of Culloden. The horrifying trap of circumstance and honor that sent her back to the future—and the present set of circumstances that have led her to her quest, and to a still more shocking revelation.
In addition to carrying you from the the court of the Sun King and the palace of Versailles, to the rural home of Jamie’s ancestors in Scotland, to his grandfather’s estate, to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s sort-of-court in Edinborough, the second book in the Outlander series will also take you from laughter to desperate tears and open-mouthed wonder.
I had read this book years ago — either as soon as I finished OUTLANDER or as soon as it came out in paperback. But, so much happens in the first three books of this series that it has all run together in my mind. With the TV series being as well produced, designed and acted as it has been, and with the knowledge that they have already contracted this book for the next season of the series I decided to re-“read” via the audiobook.
Davina Porter does a great job – I assume her pronunciations of all the Gaelic, French and even English words I did not know, are correct. That’s one thing I really love about audio books: learning how to pronounce all those darn words.
It’s a little weird to have Catriona Balfe’s and Sam Heughan’s interpretations of the character in my head as well as Davina’s.
This book is much more emotional than OUTLANDER. Jamie and Claire are more invested in each other and Jamie develops much more as a leader than he was represented as in OUTLANDER. Claire becomes pretty comfortable in the 18th century.
But we also have a preamble of Claire with Briana, Jamie’s daughter and the adopted son of Reverend Wakefield, all grown up in 1968.
I continue to find Gabaldon’s decision to write this story into the forties and sixties very interesting.
If any characters have felt inconsistent to me, and granted this is with a lot less page time than any other characters, it is Roger and Briana. They get much more developed and seasoned in future books but also feel different.
Claire and Jamie, no big secret, end up in France and back in Scotland. In France, most of the time, Jamie is much more suave, and erudite; hanging out as he does in the court of the Sun King, at Versailles and in Paris working in his uncle’s wine merchant business. Sometimes I think Gabaldon gets a little lost in history, brings a historical scene in gratuitously and muddies up the story line, but, I am willing to forgive her because the story simply touches me in ways no other series has.
There’s more feeling of the paranormal in the story as well, in the person of a French herbalist who seems quite mystical. And we get to know the Duke of Sandringham a bit more. Unfortunately.
Of course, the original story was that the Jacobite movement was hurtling on its way to destroying the clan system of Scotland, and resulting in the deaths of most of the chiefs of the clans at the battle of Culloden. Having learned about this from her WWII era historian husband, Frank Randall, she knows the outcome of the attempt at restoring the Stuarts to the crown of Scotland, and England.
The questions are those faced by most time travelers:
Is their presence in the past part of history already?
Can they change history, or will attempting to change it simply cause whatever historical event you are attempting to alter to occur.
Is fate fixed?
As Claire and Briana travel to Scotland in the 1960s, for the first time Claire attempts to learn what happened to the people she knew who lived or died at Culloden.
Gabaldon does a great job tying up loose ends and weaving other stories into Claire’s and Jamie’s. In particular, the story of Mary Hawkins, Frank Randall’s five times removed great-grandmother is bittersweet in the telling.
At about 40 hours this book is a commitment. It is longer than Claire and Jamie spend together alone before they are married. It is also a recording from 2006 and seems to have strange pauses where, at times, I thought my iphone had turned itself off. It seems odd to say that an audio recording from 2006 was “old,” but it seems like audiobook technology has changed hugely in just the last few years.
But, even though it is a commitment, and I have other books I need to listen to first, I immediately downloaded the next book in the series, VOYAGER. When I get to books that I can access at my library, I might get them there, but Audible credits seem like so much Monopoly money.
For lovers of steamy historical fiction I think this is a must read.At Amazon At Audible Author’s Website At Random House