It took me quite a while to make up my mind and read on through Diana Gabaldon's Outlander saga. It took me time since I had decided to stop at the end of book 1 when I first read it (my review). I was quite sure that Jamie and Claire happy in France, sharing their passion in that cave under the Abbey, were an ideal finale to their story.

Then the TV series came and I reread Outlander. Once Jamie was Sam Heughan in the flesh, Claire had Caitriona Balfe spirited look and Frank/Jack Randall were both embodied by charming Tobias Menzies , I had at least 3 good reasons to enjoy this saga (more than enjoy!)

Like many other fans, I was quite sad hearing that the series would take a very long hiatus after the first 8 episodes and that we would have to wait until April 4th 2015 for the release of the second half of season 1. That's when I decided I had to go on reading.

That's why I've been reading Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager in the last weeks, (aka book 2 and book 3, aka 976 + 1,104 pages, packed with Jamie and Claire's adventures) and why I have just started Drums of Autumn.

I'm going to discuss book 2 in this post, so if you haven't read it yet, beware of inevitable spoilers ahead!

Dragonfly in Amber (Book 2)

Book Blurb

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland's majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones ...about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ...and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his ....

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire's spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart ...in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ...and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves....

My review (4 stars out of 5)

I like the frame story which plunges the reader back into modernity, with Claire now a doctor, back in Scotland after living in the US for twenty years, with a red-haired grown-up daughter, and mourning for the sudden departure of her dear husband, Frank Randall. 

After leaving Jamie and Claire together in a  happily - ever - after final scene at the end of book one, these opening pages really catch the readers unprepared and,  at the same time,  urge them to go on in order to discover what, when, where, how, why. 
Yes, lots of questions to be answered, lots of secrets to be shared. So, little by little, when Claire decides to confess her rather improbable story to her daughter, Brianna, and to Roger Wakefield,  a handsome young historian who is helping her research on the aftermaths of Culloden, I started savouring the whirlpool of emotions expecting me ahead in advance.  I longed to know what had happened to Jamie Fraser. I needed to discover more and I had no intention to stop reading. 
I found the idea of shifting the narration back to the twentieth century a brilliant device and the gap in the narration of the events an awesome way to stir curiosity and prompt the reader ahead toward the almost- one-thousand-pages-long ride.

I undertook it with enthusiasm and great motivation,  but felt unexpectedly bewildered and displaced when the setting   became  1744 France  and  the French court for quite a while. It was as if I had ended up reading one of Georgette Heyer's romps just when I was convinced I was  reading one of Diana Gabaldon's sequels. Strange impression indeed. 

After a first phase of excitement,   I began to lose interest in the lifestyle the Frasers were leading in Paris or in the characters who were part of their circle: Mary Hawkins and her love for Jack Randall's brother; Prince Charles Stuart, his spoilt behaviour, his love affairs and his plead for his French cousin's (King Louise XV) support to his cause, Jamie's desperate attempt to stop and boycot Prince Charles's plans, Claire's misadventures while working in a hospital for poor people...  I couldn't avoid feeling stuck in a book I didn't want to read and hoping the scene could move back to Scotland as soon as possible,  bringing me the answers I was looking for, even if it meant to face up to tragedy. The little I truly enjoyed in the French section was connected to young Fergus and when the Frasers sailed bound to Scotland, I realized I was right: the Scottish section was really worth the wait. 

Fast paced and action packed, intense and gripping,  the Scottish part was the worthy sequel to Outlander in my opinion. The historical context of the 1745 Rising, which would inevitably led to Culloden as well as to Jamie and Claire's separation, made the narration of all the events truly poignant. 
Back to 1968, we are once again surprised by Diana Gabaldon's skill to create twists, turns and reversals of fortunes you don't always foresee.  Roger Wakefield discovers that Jamie didn't die at Culloden as Claire had always been convinced and, of course, now she has a new goal in life: to go back to him. 

“You dinna need to understand me, Sassenach," he said quietly. "So long as you love me.” 


Anonymous said...

AWWWW! SO glad you didn't stop, MG :)
I agree, the Paris storyline is the weakest section of these first books, but what came after was worth it, wasn't it? :-D
xx K/V

Maria Grazia said...

Well, I started thanks to your warm recommendation, after all, K/V. Then, I was not so sure I wanted to go on and I stopped. Now I'm quite happy to be on book 4 :-)

JaneGS said...

Interestingly, I had exactly the same reaction to this book the first time I read it. I loved hearing about Claire's life in America and her daughter and Roger, and so I felt disjointed going back to young Jamie and Claire in France.

However, I read it, and continued with the series, which I love. When I reread the entire series a few years ago, I found that I enjoyed Dragonfly in Amber so much more on a second read-through, and could settle back and enjoy the romp instead of being pressed for plot and confused.

Can't wait for April and a resumption of the wonderful TV series.

Maria Grazia said...

Hello Jane,
I hope you are enjoying your Christmas holidays.
I know you - like my friend K/V - are an old fan of the series and have read the books (all of them) more than once So, I appreciate your opinion on this saga.
Well, I'm also glad I'm not the only one to be puzzled by the French storyline.
Thanks for visiting and commenting!