Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Fantasy
Dates Read: January 14-30, 2019
Synopsis: For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones …about a love that transcends the boundaries of time…and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his…
Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart …in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising…and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves…
I think I liked this one better than Outlander, possibly because I read it first before watching the second season. It really pulled me in; even though it took me over two weeks to read it, I’m glad I took my time with it. This is the kind of story you need to let sit in your head for a little while so you can live in its world a little longer.
I appreciated how Claire takes care of Jamie after his rape and torture in prison, and even more than that, I appreciated how Jamie takes his time and works toward healing. His concern for Claire during her pregnancy is also touching, and his eventual allowing her to work at the hospital goes right along with that. Gabaldon’s attention to Claire’s discouragement at her lack of something to do while she is pregnant is very accurate — or at least I imagine so. Even without being pregnant, Claire is always active, so to have her doing nothing for nine months would have been unrealistic and not in keeping with her character. That’s something that Gabaldon does really well: characterization. The people in this series are thought out so thoroughly that you feel as if you know them personally.
I loved how Jamie trusts Claire when she tells him they need to stop the Jacobite Rebellion. This is his culture, his country. He could easily say, “No, we’re going to fight, and we’re going to win,” and push her to the side, but he doesn’t. He listens. And he trusts. That’s what makes them a good couple — they communicate. They work through their differences, both those inherent in them as individuals and those impressed upon them by the times in which they were born.
Claire’s worried about changing history — a worthy concern. But wouldn’t whatever she does be something that had actually already happened? In Claire’s mind, if Jamie killed Jonathan Randall, Frank would never be born. She thinks her wedding ring will just suddenly disappear. I think differently, though, and the plot of the book backs me up. Even if Jamie killed Randall, Frank would still be born. Claire wouldn’t have married him or gone on the trip to Inverness and Craigh na Dun otherwise, meaning that she never would have gone back in time and met Jamie at all. It would be totally out of line with what has happened and will happen in the future. When Mary’s baby is actually Alex’s and not Jonathan’s, that means that Frank isn’t really in Jonathan’s direct lineage. He’s his distant uncle, no matter what the records say. When Claire is in the 1940s with Frank, what she did in the past with Jamie — even if it were technically in her future — was already in the past. That’s what was always going to happen, and it’s what has already happened. Essentially, no matter what she and Jamie do, what’s going to happen is going to happen. TL;DR: It’s a big ball of timey-wimey…stuff.
I appreciated how Gabaldon treats Mary’s rape much earlier in the book. She doesn’t use it solely as a plot device, and she emphasizes the impact the rape has on Mary’s life. She’s traumatized, for one, but it also prevents the possibility of her marrying anyone of a high rank should they find out. While she was essentially settling for the old widower before, she would definitely have to settle even more after being raped. Her entering a loveless marriage with Jonathan is honestly better than any other option she had. Even though he’s an asshole and a rapist, he loved his brother and would take care of Mary, even if that were the only reason.
Claire’s miscarriage is handled well, and the depression and anger she experiences after are also realistic. That’s another thing Gabaldon does well. Despite how fantastical her stories are, they are also heavily realistic — often excruciatingly so. Living during in the 18th century would not have been all sunshine and roses, and Gabaldon is not afraid to confront that in her writing.
I found her POV choices in the last part of the book interesting. She switches back and forth between Claire’s first person and everyone’s third. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it kept me guessing even while I was finishing the book as to why she would make that choice. And that cliffhanger! I knew it was coming (just like Jamie’s sending Claire back to the future, which really hit me hard), but it was still shocking to read somehow.
- She carried herself like a queen, not slumping as tall girls so often do. (28)
- “Oh, Claire, ye do break my heart wi’ loving you.” (97)
- “D’ye know, Sassenach. I never ’til tonight realized just how difficult it must ha’ been for my father to be beat me? I always thought it was me had the hardest part of that particular transaction.” He tilted his head back and drank again, then set down the bottle and stared owl-eyed into the fire. “Being a father might be a bit more complication than I’d thought. I’ll have to think about it.” (264)
- “You acted as ye thought ye must, and no one can do better than that.” He looked up, and the look in his eyes pierced my soul. “I’m honest enough to say that I dinna care what the right and wrong of it may be, so long as you are here wi’ me, Claire,” he said softly. “If it was a sin for you to choose me…then I would go to the Devil himself and bless him for tempting ye to it.” (401)
- “Odd, to hear men laughing over a jest, or asking for a pinch of salt or a turn at the wineskin — and know that in a few hours, ye may kill them — or them you. Ye can’t help wondering , ye ken; what does the face behind that voice look like? Will you know that fellow if ye meet him in the morning?” (661)
- “Let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there’s no so much I can be saying to ye while ye wake, but the same poor words, again and again. While ye sleep in my arms, I can say things to ye that would be daft and silly waking, and your dreams will know the truth of them. Go back to sleep, mo duinne.” (865)
- “I will find you,” he whispered in my ear. “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest.” His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me. “Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.” (889)