18 June 2012

Books: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (1992)

So, I finished the second book in this series, and mostly, I have the same issues.

Its way over long -and the each novel in the current 7 book series gets longer- and there is a lot of downtime where nothing really happens. While there adventures in France were integral to the plot, it becomes clear towards the end that most of that time could have been edited down to a few pages, brief chapter’s or two.

But what we get is a very detailed day-in-life of Claire and Jamie that often borders on tedious. It’s like this: say it’s a three day journey between point A and point B. As far as Gabaldon is concerned, we need each of those days spelled out in the most infinite detail, from what they ate, to family stories that no one could remember in the detail she describes –and most with no bearing on the plot what so ever. 

Also, I guess I know why women read and write romance, because they can create the perfect man. Jamie and Claire love each other (to the point where you swear they had Alzheimer’s, ‘cause almost 20 pages don’t go by without them having sex or babbling their love for one another. It’s tedious) and Jamie –as noted before- is a super hero Terminator, able to be beat down again and again, and never ever complain. So the author forces us believe that somehow, this guy could survive while others die easily. 

This second book opens in 1968. We learn Claire returned through the stone circle three years after she vanished in 1945. We know that she was pregnant with Jamie’s baby, but Frank (her 20th Century husband) became Brianna’s father. Now Frank is dead and Claire has decided to tell her daughter the truth.  She’s returned to the area for the first time since her return and explains to her and Frank’s friend Roger, the story of what happened before she returned.

Part of the problem is the first person narrative Gabaldon foists on us. While I understand the underlying reason she chose to use this prose devise –the reader learns as Claire does- it becomes tedious as Claire vacillates between a smart, 20th Century woman, into a bubbling pot of gooey love when Jamie is around –and we get her 16 year-old school girl version of it. There were times I was not surprised to see her writing Mrs. Jamie Fraser again and again with little hearts above the i’s. 

And maybe this is why the author chose 1945 for the setting of Claire’s departure from the 20th Century. While she was educated in medicine, and knows how to heal people in 1745, her lack of knowledgeable history is appalling. And at times, Claire seems to have some idea about the past, other times she seems lackadaisical. And though she spends another 22 years in the 20th Century, does she spend it reading history books? Nope, because it would be too painful for her. Ugh. Seriously? 

In this book Gabaldon does address the timeline issue. In book one, her and Jamie thought that a descendant of Frank was killed in 1744, and not 1745 as history had shown. But since her wedding ring from Frank did not vanish (because of the Grandfather Effect) they were not sure how the flow of time proceeded. Then, she introduces a brother (of course) and you can eventually see where this is going. Plus, while Claire encountered a woman in the past from 1968, she waits until then to even investigate her. I applaud her for not mucking up the timeline -Duncan has to go back in time- but I don't buy for the minute why she waited 22 years to figure out the whole time-loop thingy.

The book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. For 22 years she’s believed Jamie to be dead, killed at battle that marked a turning point in history in the war between the English and the Scots. Now –because Claire changed history by telling Jamie of that battle, he appears to be alive.

So I’m guessing, she’ll return to the portal in the stone circle for book 3.

But I doubt she’ll bring a history book with her. And I doubt I'll take the time to read it.


Melissa said...

I know you wrote this in 2012, so you might not want to discuss Dragonfly anymore. I just finished book 2, and I have a few points I have to express. (You know, Starz is coming out with the Outlander Series. It caused me to finally pick up the books.)

1. Claire was distraught when she sees the inscription on the inside of her silver ring. In what world does a medical doctor, working in a world class hospital, does not take off her rings to work? Even a doctor who just sees patients would still have to do a residency. In her residency, she would necessarily need to take off her rings to wash up. This was ludicrous.

2. Claire leaps from agnostic/atheist to skeptical in the first book. I'm fine with this. After all, I am a minister, and I was grateful religion wasn't totally bashed. Yet, she goes from skeptical to fully believing in the paranormal in book two! When does an agnostic skeptic asks a seer to give her an honest reading? We never see this transition. Just one moment she doesn't believe, the next she does.

3. Everyone had goose flesh! It was apparently cold the entire year they were France, because everyone got goose flesh!

That being said, the Outlander series has quickly become my guilty pleasure. I want to know what happens to the characters. I'll over look these glaring issues.

David said...

Yeah, I never completed the series. I had been told many times that the book would appeal to men, but I ask too many questions. I think that all stories, be it movies, TV or books, must work on its own internal logic. When the author like Gabaldon sort of ignores these rules, I'm taken out of the narrative because I find the flaw with in the story.

But apparently the reader is supposed accept the flaws and enjoy the silly story. But I don't like my intelligence insulted, so I stopped reading it.

And despite being a huge Star Trek fan, and the Starz series is being run by Ronald D Moore of Trek and (rebooted) Battlestar Galactica fame, I will probably never see the series.

Thanks for stopping by, though!!