Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon (audio)


At this point, it feels like listening to this series has become a career for me. At 33 discs, this second installment of the Outlander Series is by far the longest book I've listened to, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Time travel, romance (and lots of sex to go with it), bloody battles, political turmoil, men in kilts, fellowship of family, and revenge. It doesn't get any better than that, guys! The only downside I see is how the heck I boil down 33 discs, or over 900 pages, into a few short paragraphs that will do it justice.

Before I go further, I will throw out the warning about spoilers. I don't think I can avoid some of them in order to properly review this book. So read at your own peril! I will also assume you know the basic premise of the Outlander series. If not, please refer to my review of Outlander here.

At the end of Outlander, we leave Claire and Jamie in the year 1744, with the knowledge that Claire is pregnant. In the first pages of Dragonfly in Amber, we find ourselves with Claire and her twenty-year-old daughter Brianna in the year 1968. Huh? I thought I'd picked up the wrong book in the series, but all was revealed soon enough. In order to save her own life and the life of her unborn child, Jamie insists that Claire return to the year 1945, back to her first/original husband Frank. Side note: I would've liked to be a fly on the wall to hear how she explained that one! Once Frank dies, twenty years later, Claire decides that she must reveal to Brianna her true parentage. They travel back to Scotland, and with the help of historian Roger Wakefield, attempt to determine the fates of Jamie and his clansmen in the bloody Battle of Culloden, a battle fought soon after Claire left. Claire finds Jamie's grave, and begins to tell her story to Brianna and Roger.

At this point, we flash back to 1744 and spend the next 3o-ish discs reliving the events that led to the Battle of Culloden. Having decided to try to alter history to prevent the deaths of many, Jamie and Claire use their connections in France and Scotland to collect information about the growing political tension and alliances. They throw in a monkey wrench where they can, but worry that nothing they do will make a difference. Attempts are made on both of their lives, Claire gains the reputation of a witch, they have multiple confrontations with the evil Jack Randall, Claire sacrifices her virtue to the King of France to free Jamie from prison...never a dull moment in these people's lives. Through it all, the love between Claire and Jamie remains steadfast, but seriously intense. If they aren't trying to kill each other, they are in the bedroom swinging from the chandeliers. I feel like I've been in bed with them; Gabaldon does not spare us the details.

After Claire tells her story and we are back in 1968, Claire reveals a secret that has been nagging at me since the last book. I will not go into the details, but this time travel plot twist continues to haunt the reader at the end of this book, and I assume will continue to haunt us going forward. And of course, Gabaldon would not be doing her job unless she drops the final bomb on us in the last paragraph. I literally threw up my hands, and with them, my iPod, and screamed "Oh for Pete's sake!".

I am still as besotted with this series as I ever was. I will warn all impatient readers that there are oceans and oceans of detail. I can't fathom what Gabaldon must do to get in the frame of mind to create such a level of minutia. What this accomplishes for the reader, however, is the sensation that you've been there and lived it with them. You know what they eat, how they cook it, how they dress, their customs, and step-by-step details on how a hanged man is drawn and quartered (I'm not kidding). Jamie is as dude-ish as a guy in a kilt can be - fierce in battle but emotional and passionate. Claire continues to be strong-willed and headstrong, intelligent, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect her husband. I can't think of a more compelling love story.

I was quite blown away by the way the book started...how dare she? You are instantly filled with a million questions. Why did Claire have to leave Jamie and come back in the first place? How did Jamie die? Are we sure he died at Culloden? Why can't Claire go back in time again, right before Jamie died, and save him? How will Brianna react to the news of her hidden parentage? I NEED ANSWERS NOW!!!! I found myself nervously twitching throughout the entire flashback, wanting anxiously to get back to 1968. Of course, when I did get back to 1968, I didn't get all my questions answered then, either!

By the way, there are rumors swirling around that Gerard Butler may play Jamie in the upcoming movie. Does anyone out there have better information? I think it could work, although my vote is still for Viggo...but "Gerry" (as the swooning women are calling him) doesn't look half bad.
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13 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I have to admit that I haven't read beyond the first line of this review - I don't want to spoil it for me! Please could you just let me know in the comments whether you loved it?!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - yes absolutely I loved it. It has oceans of detail. Minutia to the tenth power. But it makes you feel you have lived these people's lives. There were a few key spoilers that I did hold back, and the things I put forward in the review are what you would most likely get if you read the inside cover...

Carrie K. said...

I think the whole Gerry Butler thing is mostly wishful thinking on the part of us Gerry fans. I like Viggo, but don't know that I can see him as a red-headed Scot. Diana Gabaldon mentioned on her blog once that she likes Gerard Butler, but since he's already 39, and Jamie's supposed to be 23 at the time of Outlander... well, you do the math.

I would willingly suspend my disbelief, though. :)

I'm on disc 22 - Jamie just threatened to ravish Claire in order to get the young English officer to talk. It's been so long since I've read this one, that I can't remember what the big surprise/twist is that you speak of - now I can't wait to finish!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Yay for you!!!! My audio of this one is on Ipod, so when you talk about the number of disks, it just astounds me. I'm actually listening to it and reading it at the same time (how's that for ridiculously stupid??). I just seem to retain better when I read things and I didn't want to miss any part of this novel.

Is this the longest audio of the series??

Beth F said...

Well of course Viggo would be my first choice for almost any part!!!

I love it so much when someone I like loves the Outlander books. It was announced this week that the new one will be in stores in September.

Michele: I often listen and read at the same time. That way I keep going on the book when I'm cooking and taking my walk but I get to enjoy the print aspects as well. So if you're stupid, so am I!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Carrie - I've always wondered how in the world they would get someone in their early 20's to fit the bill. From the pictures I've seen of Gerry, I think they could age him back enough to make it viable. And I just have a thing with Viggo...to me he is perfect for any role. He is just a bit too old though. Aging back from 51to 23 is a stretch!

Michele - What amazes me is that you listen AND read this monster of a book, and you read all those other books as well. You are wonder woman! (You and Beth.) And no, this is not the longest book. It just goes downhill from here. Voyager is 36 discs, Drums of Autumn is 39, Fiery Cross is 47, and Breath of Snow & Ashes is 48!!!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - I feel fortunate that I stumbled upon this challenge, having never heard of the series. What a journey! I'm not sure, maybe it was you that I discovered it through! You are stupid, you are just an amazingly multi-tasker!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Beth, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I listen to the audio because, I swear, these books are like my comfort thing. Like a blankey or a stuffed animal, LOL. (If you ever saw the movie Mr. Mom, you'll understand when I call these books "my woobie" LOL).

Sandy, 48 for BoSaA? Holy crap. I still don't have that one for the iPod because I refuse to get the abridged version. I think I'll end up buying the CDs and then transferring to iPod. (I say that as if I actually know how to do it...ha).

So I'm heading out to Phoenix next week to visit the inlaws and The Poison Pen bookstore is in Phoenix...and that is Outlander heaven since it's Diana's local bookstore. I'll be picking up goodies for everyone in the challenge while I'm there (yay!).

Now as to Jamie....I just don't know who could possibly fill that role. Someone is bound to be disappointed in the choice (can't please everyone, eh?). I do wish the magic of movies could shave 30 years off Viggo for the role, but I think Sandy's right and it just won't happen. And it's hard to find a *ahem* less-mature actor and give him the depth that Jamie has.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Michele - I know, the audio is my woobie too. I actually am overwhelmed with happiness in anticipating a good hour and a half walk while listening to it. I had looked into buying these audio tapes, when I got a bunch of iTunes gift cards for Xmas, but they were very expensive (like $40 and up for one). Luckily, my library carries all of them, so it is just a matter of getting them all loaded, which takes quite awhile.

My issue at the moment is my dead computer. Specifically, the dead computer with my iPod stuff on it. No computer = no iPod = no Voyager. My kids have little 2 gig iPods that run off my husband's laptop, and I'm thinking I will just load a few discs at a time. It may very well be another week without a fixed computer, so I have to do something!

Melody said...

Ah, I've heard so many good things about this series... but unfortunately, I'm so intimidated by thick books that I've to pass reading this series because I know I'll never catch up on them!

I'm glad you enjoyed them, Sandy!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I couldn't help but chime in, I think Gerry could be a very do-able Jamie! (in fact I've photoshopped him quite a bit to make him so!) I think they can do anything in Hollywood to make him look young and then age. I'm so glad to hear you love the books, they changed my life when I read them for the first time in 2004. It's my favorite series now!

Melissa said...

When I first picked up this book (ages ago) I thought I had missed a book too! It all come together so nicely, though, doesn't it?

I don't know that I would see an Outlander movie. There is no way they could include everything, and I will probably always like my version of Jamie the best. :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - intimidating doesn't quite describe how I felt when I joined this challenge. I think in audio, it is over 200 discs! It is a phenomenal ride though, if you can spare a half a year!

Julie - I am so glad you chimed in! I'm happy to have a new voice come a visit! I've seen montages on You Tube that certainly justify Gerry as Jamie. I can think of alot of people that would be a worse choice. This series is all-consuming. I can totally see how it would leave its mark on you long after you finished it.

Melissa - wow. There are so many of you that have already read this series! I'm always a little worried to see a movie after reading the book. My imagination is quite colorful, and I worry it won't live up!