Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coming up for air and a review of Echo in the Bone

I've been working too hard again.  A necessary evil.  This is the point where we (my coworkers) and I say to each other, "well, at least we have a job."  But the stress levels are intense and the work load is heavy.  Nevertheless, I take great pride in my work and continue to strive to be better, even after 23 years. That's the whiny part of my post.

I finished Diana Gabaldon's new book!  Yes, I borrowed it from the library, and it's on the "maybe I'll buy it" list.  I generally only purchase books that I know I will read again, and I do read them again.  I have all of Diana's previous works, and after the last one (which is, coincidentally authographed), I decided I would read this one first, buy it later (which I have now done, the read it first part).  I like Diana Gabaldon.  I enjoy her books (mostly).  This one (An Echo in the Bone) is long, like the other ones.  Outlander I never noticed the length.  A Dragonfly in Amber I never noticed the length.  Voyager got a little long and actually dragged through a couple of spots, although I still enjoyed it.  The Fiery Cross was the first of her books that I can't say I liked all that much.  I enjoyed Roger Mac, but I still don't like Brianna.  She was tolerable in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, although that book was VERY long and hard to slog through (at least for me).  In this latest book, I enjoyed it (but I still don't care much for Brianna and her whole story could have been left out), but having finished it just tonight on my train ride home, it ended rather abruptly.  Kind of like "I'm only allotted 800 pages, and this is it.  Guess I have to stop the story now."

An Echo in the Bone doesn't really have a beginning and a middle and an end.  For devoted readers who are in love with Jamie and Claire (raising my hand), it was a warm, endearing family chronical, much like we've come to expect.  I'd read reviews about how these aging characters are still too adventurous for their ages considering the times they lived in.  That may be true, but I was able to buy into it, and there are references to their aging (which were notably lacking in the last book).  I still love Jamie and Claire and it was like visiting old friends to read their story.  The whole Roger and Brianna portion of the book seemed superfluous to me.  Not necessary and could have cut out a whole bunch of pages.  The William subplot was integral, and I enjoyed that, and then there's the Ian thing.  Ian is integral also, and I enjoyed reading his story, but it ended with the Ian story, which was a minor subplot, not the major focus of the book, which brings me back to what was the major focus of this book?  It's a tender rendering of the life and times of Jamie and Claire, which remains an ongoing saga, but there's no real plot, per se.

For 800 pages, there is an awful lot of information that could have been cut - including the obligatory trip home to Scotland.  Not a necessary trip, in my estimation.  Don't get me wrong - after reading the first two in the series, I made a trip to Scotland to experience the wilderness first hand (I loved it, by the way).  In this book, it's an easy edit out without losing anything in the story.

One gets the sense that Diana is trying to wrap up all the loose ends from all the characters that you meet along the way, but there are so many scattered so many places that it just isn't necessary.  We've moved on.  Let's keep focus.

There will obviously be another installment in this series, and I will read it when it comes out - probably another three years by Diana's reckoning.  Hopefully she will be able to conclude the Revolutionary War by then.  As to Roger and Bri - I'm thinking she ought to just give them their own series, the way she has with Lord John (I haven't read any of the Lord John books).  Then those folks that care about those characters can have their fill (and I can skip over them).

One person's opinion.  Now, from a writer's perspective, Diana has broken so many writing rules.  Again, I enjoy reading Diana's books and if she wants to break the rules, she has gifts that counterbalance, so far be it for me to criticize the writing.  Her ability to bring her characters to life far outweights wondering which point of view you are reading because she hasn't identified the speaker in a chapter.  Her overuse of "ten dollar words" doesn't bother me, I have a ten dollar vocabulary.  I can only hope I write well enough for people to overlook the rules I break!  In the meantime, I'll have to try not to break the rules.



  1. I didn't want to read this until I finished the book, in fear of spoilers.

    I think the book is a history text that would have made me enjoy history (not that I'm saying Gabaldon's accountings are 100% accurate), but it does read more as adventures in the life and times of ... insert whichever plot/character thread you're most fond of.

    Having begun with (and still regard it as my favorite), Outlander, I do prefer reading this as Claire's story. After all, she's still the 1st person POV character.

    As for the $10 words -- I have a $5 vocabulary, but tended to skip over anything I didn't understand. Most were clear enough in context, and I figure if I didn't know what all the Scottish slang and expressions were, then a few fancy American words wouldn't bother me either.

    Since I've been reading this as I try to trim excess fat from my own manuscript, I also saw a lot of 'interesting stuff' that showed the depths of Gabaldon's research, but seemed to have no other reason to be included. Interesting enough. But many scenes weren't much more than glimpses of the life wherever (or whenever) we were in the story.

  2. yes - a lot of the information was "this is interesting, I have to include it" even though it wasn't relative to advancing the plot. She gets away with a lot - and I agree with you - Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber are my two most favorite books still!