Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Echo in the Bone review

Where’s the rest? It can’t be over, I found myself thinking at the end of An Echo in the Bone. I’ve been cheated, I thought. Someone’s ripped out the last 100 pages and left me with no answers.


Diana Gabaldon’s latest book hit the shelves on September 22 last year, a date much anticipated by Gabaldon fans all over the world, especially New Zealanders, who per capita are the highest readers of her books.

Standing at the counter at Whitcoulls at 9am on September 22, book in hand, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next.

But after flipping over to the last page a few weeks later, I set the book down with a sigh, frustrated at the number of loose ends I had been left with.

The seventh instalment of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander series continues the love story of Scottish highlander Jamie Fraser and his time-travelling English wife, Claire.

Although it is not the best in the series, and despite a baffling ending, An Echo in the Bone was not a complete disappointment, with all of Diana’s usual tricks, twists, and beautiful writing.

An Echo in the Bone picks up Jamie and Claire’s story in the endless woods of 18th Century America, where they live in blissful domesticity .

Now, after several thousand pages of build-up, the Revolutionary War is here - and with it the excitement of the early Outlander novels returns. After going through the Rising of 1745 in Scotland in the first two books, An Echo in the Bone is a welcome return to the complexities of war and peace.

Although the books in between the wars were a brilliant read, in this one we see Jamie and Claire at their best: back in the arms of war.

As opposed to the previous novels, this story evolves through five different storylines: Jamie and Claire, their daughter Brianna and her husband Roger, their nephew Ian, their long-time friend Lord John Grey, and Jamie’s illegitimate son William Ransom.

With Brianna and Roger safe in the 21st Century, reading letters written to them 200 years earlier by Jamie and Claire, a whole new depth is added to the story, and Diana has managed – as she does in all the books – to span the story out over two centuries.

William Ransom returned as I had hoped and quietly expected, knowing through Diana’s other books that she cannot let a storyline as intriguing as an illegitimate son rest. With so much still unknown about William, there is still a wonderful mystery in at least one of the characters that leaves room for endless possibilities in books to come.

Lord John Grey, a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character, featured a lot in the book, sometimes appearing much too often for my liking.

For those not familiar, Lord John is a homosexual English soldier who is desperately in love with Jamie Fraser. Although this may sound fascinating, his storyline in An Echo in the Bone was average and at times felt unnecessary, only really peaking at the end.

As the four stories weaved together in a series of heart-stopping events, I was left gasping for more. Not just because the storylines were captivating and I found myself not able to put the book down near the end, but also because the last few pages left me with nothing but questions, which will not be answered for another three years.

So I am yet again wondering: what happens next?

But, after meeting the author herself last year as she toured the world promoting the book, I now have the impression that she is the kind of woman who does everything for a reason, and I live in the hope that the methods in Diana’s slight madness in An Echo in the Bone will be explained in the eighth instalment of the Outlander series.

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