Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander#2) (review)

20 years after vanishing through a circle of stones in Scotland and reappearing again, Claire is back. But she’s not alone. She brought her daughter along. A beautiful 20 years old red-headed girl. A girl, who doesn’t resemble Claire’s late husband Frank Randall the least. Claire is back in Scotland to find out what happened after she left the past and left James Fraser. She brings with her a list of names, men she knew and who she want to know what happened to. Did they die in the devastating battle at Culloden or what happened? But what she really want is to tell her daughter Brianna who her father is. She does – and it doesn’t go over well, initially.

Claire starts talking about her history. We’re back in 1743 and Claire and Jamie are in France. With Claire’s knowledge of the future and Jamie’s trust in her, they are in France on a mission. What they want to do, is to stop Charles Edward Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie/The Young Pretender) from attempting the Jacobite uprising of 1745 since Claire knows that it will end in a devastating loss at the Battle of Culloden. Only thing is that since Jamie is Scottish, he is betraying the wish of a lot of his people if he doesn’t help Charles Edward Stuart – and if he does help him, he is a traitor to the English king. So he has to step a thin line while attempting to stop this while at the same time navigating the French society, attending royal balls at Versailles – as well as a brief visit to the Bastille …

Claire meanwhile finds meaningful work to do at a hospital where she can spend her time being useful instead of just sitting around the house, gossiping. Of course, Claire attracts trouble wherever she is and this is no exception. She also has some serious and morally loaded decisions to make in this novel and she does so while staying true to who she is. Even when an old villain turns up, Jack Randall, she tries to make sure that his reappearance does not send Jamie off to an unhealthy mental place while at the same time making sure that Frank Randall, her husband in the 1900s, will be born. Another thin line to navigate.

The Fraser’s have to leave for Scotland since Jamie got himself into a duel and therefore, he stopped being welcome in France. In Scotland, they of course head to Lallybroch and visit with Jamie’s sister and her husband. Everything is peaceful for a while but things are happening in the big world that interrupts that peaceful existence.

So this novel is divided into several section. One is the frame which takes place in 1968 where Claire is back with her daughter to tell her about her past. Then there’s the flashback to 1744 in France where the Fraser couple attempt to stop Charles Edward Stuart and finally, we’re in Scotland, visiting Lallybroch, Jamie’s home, among other things.

Overall, I so enjoyed this book. Claire and Jamie are excellent characters and I thoroughly enjoy their banter. Claire is pregnant for parts of this novel and Jamie’s attempt to take care of her and protect her even though he really can’t, are both touching and hilarious. Their way of interacting as a couple is amazing and although it is a cliché, their love is staying true across centuries.

The book has it’s flaws though. It changes narrators at various points and sometimes these changes are so jarring that they knock you right out of your reading mode. It mostly changes from third person to Claire’s point of view but we also get Jamie’s point of view. I don’t believe a book has to have the same narrator all the way through but in this book, it doesn’t quite work. Also, the real story in this novel is in 1744 with Claire and Jamie’s time in Paris trying to stop the Bonny Prince Charlie from trying to become king of Scotland as well as their time in Scotland together – up to the time of the battle of Culloden. But as a frame around that, we have the story of Claire in Scotland in 1968. But the time in 1968 is 130 pages and the time in 1744 takes up the 830 remaining pages so when we’re back with Claire in 1968 after spending all those pages in 1744, I had forgotten what it was she wanted to find out about Jamie’s men in the first place.

You really forget that this is a time traveling novel. Claire actually travelled in time. She did it in a beautiful low-key way by walking through a Scottish stone circle but still, she travelled in time. And the main focus in this novel is to change history, to create alternative history. They want to stop Charles’ invasion to change history and to prevent a lot of good Scottish men from being annihilated on the battle field. But is that even possible? Can you change history? Well, that’s what Jamie and Charles set out to find out and Diana Gabaldon really handles the question of how the past influence the future so well both in the large picture with Charles and his invasion of Scotland as well as in the smaller picture with Frank’s ancestry.

I think, history is a science that’s not  always exact. When historians tell us about the past, they choose a certain point of view to see it from. History is often told from the point of view of the victors. Or, as Diana Gabaldon has Claire say: ‘No, the fault lies with the artists /…/. The writers, the singers, the tellers of tales. It’s them that take the past and re-create it to their liking. Them that could take a fool and give you back a hero, take a sot and make him king.’ (p. 923) That’s also what Diana Gabaldon does – she re-creates the past, she takes fictional characters like Jamie and Claire and make them interact with real historic characters like the Bonny Prince Charlie, the king of France and more. But the thing is that in a novel like this, they’re all equal. How they react to each other, what they do and how they feel, are all fiction, it’s all created by Diana Gabaldon and so it will always be when authors – and historians – try to show us how people felt 200 years ago. It may be fiction, but it’s really good fiction and with the amount of research Gabaldon does before writing these things, this is probably as close as we’ll ever get to knowing how people felt in 1744 – and 1968.

The Outlander Series have been around for several years now and if you google it, you’ll see a lot of people (women) writing about their crush on Jamie. It’s been 2 years since I read the first one, Outlander. I gave it 4 stars and liked it well enough. In fact, when I read my review of it, I seem to have liked it a lot more than I remember I did and to have enjoyed reading it and picked up on the qualities of Diana Gabaldon’s writing. But still, it has taken me 2 years to get around to reading the next one – why is that, when I apparently really liked the first one? I guess it’s just a matter of not having the second volume instantly available to me at that point. I’ll definitely make sure to get the third volume soon!

  • Title: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2)
  • Author: Diana Gabaldon
  • Publisher: arrow books
  • Year: 2004 (1992)
  • Pages: 963 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

6 thoughts on “Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander#2) (review)

  1. I am absolutely in love with this book series! I run an Outlander Reading Challenge over on my blog (2nd year in a row) and it’s so great to meet others who love this series as much as I do. I liked DIA well enough but nothing compares to the first book. Have you started Voyager yet? Have you read the series all the way through yet? I swoon for Jamie 🙂

    • I haven’t started Voyager yet – or read the series. This is my first go at it. I really like it and I really want to read the next ones. I did see your Reading Challenge but I already have so much on my list for this year that I couldn’t join.

      • Voyager is good, I really liked Drums of Autumn also. No problem, thanks for stopping by to check out the blog, I greatly appreciate it! Enjoy DIA 🙂

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