I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Claire Randall discovers that Jamie Fraser survived the Battle of Culloden and must choose between returning to him or staying in the life she has made for herself in her own time.
Well thank goodness that Voyager is now in my rear-view mirror! Not that it’s a terrible book, just it’s not the right book for me, especially right now when I’m looking forward to diving into my fall reading list. But my hold was fulfilled at the public library sooner than I anticipated and then I found there were 25 people waiting patiently behind me in line for it, so there would be no renewal allowed. Le Sigh!
I’m interested in the basic plot of the story, but Gabaldon bludgeons the reader with detail. I persist in thinking that a more ruthless editor would improve these books by orders of magnitude. Apparently this is an argument that the author has heard before, as Jamie & Major John Grey have a discussion about the length of books when Jamie is in the prison which Grey is overseeing. They are discussing Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson which is another kitten-squisher of a book and they come to the conclusion that some books just need more details to capture a life. Obviously, I don’t agree, but it’s a valid argument in some cases.
And of course I can’t review Gabaldon without my ritual bird-rant. This time around, it’s about a pelican, caught by the Chinese character and used to bring in fish. This method of using a bird to do the fishing is a real thing, done in China, but with cormorants. I’m unaware if pelicans have ever been trained in this way, but I suppose it is possible. There are certainly lots of cormorant species at sea that could have been chosen for the book. I’m not sure which species of pelican is referred to here, but I assume it’s a Brown Pelican (and Gabaldon, with her poor bird track record, thankfully doesn’t specify species). I suspect that she chose the pelican over the cormorant because it is a larger bird, providing some protection for its new master.
Having just recently finished Dr. No, by Ian Fleming, also set in Jamaica, I was struck by the shared details between the two books. Descriptions of mangroves and of the guano industry, for instance. Fleming references the bird guano industry, Gabaldon specifies bat guano. I assume that there are insectivorous bats in the Caribbean and caves large enough to house them and collect guano? I definitely know that Fleming’s bird colonies are dead accurate. ***I just found a reference to Jamaica bat guano on Amazon, of all places. So Caribbean bat guano is a thing.***
One thing that I did appreciate in this volume was the lovely portrayal of middle-aged lovers. Jamie & Claire have still got it going on. I also thought that their hesitance when they are first reunited was right on the money—a 20 year gap is almost like starting over with a new person, after all.
I’m pleased to report that it looks like at least a year will pass before I will pick up the next book in this series. Hopefully, I’ll be feeling less time pressure at that point and can read at a more leisurely pace, which would dampen my resentment of all the unnecessary padding in these books.
Book number 293 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.
This was the cover of the version that I read, and I have to say that I love it! That lichen covered rock, reminiscent of something in a stone henge, with Claire and Jamie on either side of it.