And the Beat Goes On,… DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon




Outlander #4
by Diana Gabaldon
Random House|Dell 1996
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Mass Market paperback: pages 896-1120
Audio: Published by Recorded Books  44 hrs and 54 mins, narrated by Davina Porter

Purchased, audio and Kindle copy.  Listened to and read! No remuneration exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own unless otherwise noted.

From Diana Gabaldon’s Website

DRUMS OF AUTUMN is the fourth book in the OUTLANDER series, following VOYAGER.  Here Claire and Jamie, with Jamie’s nephew Young Ian, seek to find a place for themselves in the colony of North Carolina, treading a dangerous line between Governor Tryon’s patronage and Claire’s knowledge of the brewing revolution in America, between the help of Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta, last of his MacKenzie kin (“MacKenzies are charming as larks in the field–but sly as foxes with it.”) and the unwanted obligations of her slave-run plantation.  As they find mountain land and begin to build their first cabin, their newfound life is bittersweet, with the thought Brianna–the daughter Claire has left behind, the daughter Jamie will never see–always near.
From Publisher’s Website Random House/Bantam Dell

In her long awaited new novel, Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon continues the remarkable story of Claire and Jamie Fraser that began with the classic Outlander, and its bestselling sequels, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager.

Cast ashore in the American colonies, the Frasers are faced with a bleak choice: return to a Scotland fallen into famine and poverty, or seize the risky chance of a new life in the New World—menaced by Claire’s certain knowledge of the coming Revolution.

Still, a highlander is born to risk—and so is a time-traveler. Their daughter, Brianna, is safe—they think—on the other side of a dangerous future; their lives are their own to venture as they will. With faith in themselves and in each other, they seek a new beginning among the exiled Scottish Highlanders of the Cape Fear, in the fertile river valleys of the Colony of North Carolina.

Even in the New World, though, the Frasers find their hope of peace threatened from without and within; by the British Crown and by Jamie’s aunt, Jocasta MacKenzie, last of the MacKenzies of Leoch.

A hunger for freedom drives Jamie to a Highlander’s only true refuge: the mountains. And here at last, with no challenge to their peace—save wild animals, Indians, and the threat of starvation—the Frasers establish a precarious foothold in the wilderness, secure in the knowledge that even war cannot invade their mountain sanctuary.

But history spares no one, and when Brianna follows her mother into the past, not even the mountains can shelter a Highlander. For Brianna too has an urgent quest: not only to find the mother she has lost and the father she has never met, but to save them both from a future that only she can see.


square "my take"

I listened to most of  this book but read the last few chapters because it was more convenient. I thought I could use Kindle’s Whispersync feature but have not figured out how to set it up.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed both formats. I absolutely adore Davina Porter’s narration of the series. I can barely keep all the characters straight in my head and she keeps them straight and voices them all consistently.

This is a “sweeping epic,” of the old movie variety.  At the time it was written, I think maybe Diana was struggling to regain the heat of the relationship between Jamie and Claire as a couple in their twenties by transferring it to Roger Wakefield/Mackenzie/Wakefield,… and Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna. Add to that, cousin/nephew Ian Murphy who sometimes feels like Jamie’s stunt double; he does the stuff forty-something Jamie “canna” do, gets into the trouble young Jaime did.

And sweeping it certainly is,  ending up, I dont know where it ended up, in a walk from North Carolina through the mountains to a Mohawk encampment and back. It took months and was kind of hard to imagine doing without the technical gear we’d have today. Actually it is impossible for me to imagine in any event.

The book gets a bit too rangy and ends up spreading the events too thinly both temporally and geographically.
Various political actions and historical events like the Regulators’ Uprising between 1765 and 1771 are brought into the plot and put Jamie and Claire into a situation and context that is not easily understood in all it’s implications.  The range of relationships between white settlers and the aboriginal peoples of the area as well as those between the various tribes of those aboriginal peoples, Tuscarora and  Mohawk, are also shallowly defined.

I liked the contrast between the civilized, almost British, and refined life at the Jamie’s canny Aunt Jocasta’s River Run plantation and the wild, frontier, primitive-is-putting-it-mildly, ridge where Jamie and Claire homestead, and then in the woods on their march to the Mohawk. In one location one is cosseted and cared for at a kinder-gentler slave plantation and on the other it is just a hand to mouth survival situation. Jamie, Claire and Brianna all come up against slave ownership in a way that presents it historically as both a terrible evil and an economic necessity.  Other historical tidbits are dropped in here and there, like someone bringing in silkworms to South Carolina. These additions are nice, lending personality to the historical context in which the characters are emerged.

There are a few things I do not like in this book, and in the series, regarding the relationship between Claire and Brianna as well as that between Brianna and Roger. But, it is important to remember that this couple comes out of the post-war 1950s  and sixties (before they are in the 18th century – time travel is so weird) when relationships between the sexes, and technology were as different  from now as they were in that time from the 18th century.  It’s interesting that the historical aspect of the story occurs in both the 18th and 20th centuries.

As far as Claire and Brianna go, I realized here, that I cannot believe Claire would ever have left even an adult Brianna to go back to Jamie.

I love the series, so this book, which I considered the weakest so far, is still a must read. I made not have read them with an avidity equal to the first three, but I still love them. Gabaldon presents her story with such intimacy that you can taste the “parritch.”

It will be a while before I listen to or read the next few as I have a lot of books to plow through before then.  Until then, I’ll be producing some other Outlander “trivia” and “places” posts. So, stay tuned! If you have any trivia ideas or history questions related to Outlander, please use the contact form in the menu bar to send them to me!


Relevant LinksYou can find easy links for purchase on a variety of retail outlets at either the author’s or the publisher’s site. There’s a longer blurb on Diana Gabaldon’s Website but it is spoiler-laden so I am just linking to it. That way you can look or not.