Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: An Echo in the Bone

UPDATED 10/14 (I added & edited a bit)

"An Echo in the Bone" is the seventh book in Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, which centers around Claire and Jamie Fraser. Set partly at the opening of the American Revolution and partly in Scotland in 1980, "Echo" is a sprawling tale. It has four major plot lines: Jamie and Claire (and Ian), Brianna and Roger, John, and William. All of the characters we've come to love over the years are accounted for (including Rollo the dog), and the book is overall very satisfying. It did leave me wanting more--as it's not the end of the series, there is quite obviously more story to be told. Frustratingly, I'll have to wait for several more years to read the next installment. Books this big do not get written in a month! My main quibble is that there are several loose ends at the end of the book, and it seemed almost like the first part of a book (despite its length) rather than a novel in its entirety. While Gabaldon expects to write additional books to wrap up the series (she has promised that "Echo" is not the last), leaving the story lines dangling made me feel like I hadn't finished. It seemed that there was no denouement to satisfy the reader's need for closure at the end of a story.

Despite my complaints, "Echo" has all the elements of Gabaldon that I've come to love--the historical facts interwoven in the fictional plotline, the fully-fleshed characters (who, frankly, seem very much like real people to me), the details of scenery, action, and day-to-day minutiae of life in the 1700s in the Colonies, and the cameos of real people (in "Echo," we get to meet Ben Franklin and Benedict Arnold, among interesting folks). I did occasionally get frustrated with the multiple stories as I was reading--I would have enjoyed being able to read each plot line straight through. However, by the end of the book, it was clear why so many complicated stories were told within the covers of one book. They really do meld; you just have to be patient and get to the end. And then be patient for the next few years while she writes the next book to tie up the ends she left loose. On reflecting, the lack of denouement emphasizes the story's themes and the characters' struggles; we leave them in the midst of a time of great turmoil in the world--how else could Gabaldon leave the reader other than in turmoil at the anticipation of what's to come next in the series? [I feel a little bit less frustrated now. But I still don't want to wait another three years for the next book!]

All in all, "An Echo in the Bone" was worth reading. I did have to push myself sometimes, and it did take me a couple of weeks to read, but by the time I finished, I was glad that I had. I will clearly have to go back and reread it in a few weeks; at 800 pages, it's not a book I can digest in one reading. For those who, like me, sometimes enjoy a book as meaty as this, "Echo" is a pleasure to read. For those who, like me, are used to waiting for the next book in an exciting series (Harry Potter, anyone? Eragon?), you'll understand my impatience on reaching the end of the book. And perhaps you'll join me.

1 comment:

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