Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

I stayed up too late on Sunday night to finish An Echo in the Bone. After taking my time to read it and savor it, the last hundred pages or so were too intriguing to stop reading. As it took me a long time to read and think about this novel, I have a very long and detailed review to go with it!

Overall I thought An Echo in the Bone was another superb novel from my one of my all-time favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. For those of you not in the know, An Echo in the Bone is the seventh novel in the Outlander series of books that follows the life of Claire Beauchamp, a British WWII nurse that traveled back through time to 1740’s Scotland and met and married her soul mate, a Scottish clansman named Jamie Fraser. The series of books follows the tumultuously lives of our two (at times) star-crossed lovers, their friends, and family.

Gabaldon writes with wonderful detail. It is hard to classify these novels as they are historical fiction, science fiction (with the time travel element), romance, etc. They are many things, but they are also one thing – excellent.

I started reading back the Outlander series in 1994 or so. I was sorting books at the library for a used book sale with my best friend Jenn and came across Outlander. It looked interesting so I purchased it. I couldn't put it down when I read it and my passion for Outlander started at that moment. It has been brutal waiting for years to find out what will happen next!

My “brief” summary of the novel (includes plot elements)

An Echo in the Bone finds the Frasers in America at Fraser’s Ridge at the start of the Revolutionary War. The book follows quite a few storylines and view points this time, instead of sticking mostly with Claire. The main thread is Claire and Jamie. Jamie decides that in order to avoid meeting his illegitimate son William over the barrel of a gun in the war (Jamie is on the American side, William the British), he will avoid the war by returning to Scotland to retrieve his printing press. He would rather fight with words than with violence. As always, Claire and Jamie’s voyage does not go as planned and much adventure ensures.

Another thread follows Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna, her husband Roger, and their two children in Scotland in 1980. They have settled at Lallybroch (Jamie’s ancestral farm). I loved that they were back at Lallybroch. Roger struggles to find a place in the modern world, while Brianna takes a job as an inspector of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board. A mysterious visitor from the past causes a crisis in the family.

Yet another thread follows Lord John Grey, Jamie’s good friend. Lord John is bisexual and has a long standing infatuation for Jamie. Truthfully I am not a Lord John fan. I haven’t read any of the spin-off novels, but after being slightly confused on his sections in this book, I think I’m going to have to finally read them. Lord John is an okay character, just not one of my favorite characters. In this novel, he is trying to track down different spies, while keeping tabs on his step-son William (Jamie’s natural son) and other family members. As I read the novel, Lord John grew on me. I wasn’t too keen on his trying to figure out about spies’ chapters, but I did love the chapters about him and his family. He has a great love for his family and is an honorable man.

William in the fourth main character thread in this novel. He is an Earl, but also a lieutenant in his majesty’s army. He develops in the novel from a young inexperienced officer, to a man. I enjoyed reading about him. He runs into various characters from the other threads and also has some spying adventures throughout the novel where he runs into historical characters. I especially loved when he met Nathan Hale. It was also interesting to read about the Revolutionary War from the prospective of a British and not American officer.

A fifth thread in the book was about Jamie’s nephew Ian. Ian spent much of his time with Claire and Jamie, but he also had a lot going on by himself. After a terrible tragedy, a fellow highlander declares a vengeance on young Ian and those he loves the most. Ian’s back story with his life with the Indians is detailed and he falls in love with a young Quaker woman, Rachel Hunter. Truthfully it seemed to me like a great love triangle with Rachel, William, and Ian. I really enjoyed their portion of the novel and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Wow, there is a lot going on in this novel and a lot of characters you may be saying at this point. Actually I have only touched the tip of the iceberg . . . there are other characters such as Fergus, Marsali, Laoghaire, Jenny, Ian, etc. that have major plot points. There are pirates, revolutionary war battles, murder, adventure, etc. It is a must read!

SPOILER ALERT (If you haven’t read the novel, I wouldn’t read any further as I am going to discuss plot points in detail)

I am very pleased at Brianna’s being a woman engineer in 1980 and earlier. It is hard to find any mention of engineers in any sort of novel, let alone a woman engineer. As a woman engineer myself, I loved reading about her trials at work. I love Diana’s detail of science in the 18th century as well. I always love reading what experiments Claire is up too.

My favorite part of the novel was the love triangle as discussed above. I was frankly kind of surprised by the love between Rachel and Ian as I thought Rachel and William were going to become an item. William was still protecting her to the end and I have to wonder if this won’t develop into something more or if Rachel and Ian will indeed be together in the next novel. Did anyone else enjoy this love story as much as I did?

I enjoyed the entire novel, but what I liked least was the end. Ahhh!!! So many cliffhangers and we will have to wait years to find out what happens. I am most concerned about young Jem. He is in that dark tunnel heading down the tracks to the place that caused Brianna to pass out. What will happen? Will Roger and “Uncle Buck” discover Rob’s trick and make it back to the future? Will Brianna be able to stop Rob?

And of course there is the entire marriage between Claire and Lord John. Truthfully, the last section seemed to me like Claire was in a haze. She didn’t believe Jamie had died and seemed to be just going through the motions and not all there. They married to protect her and her family (Fergus etc.). I certainly wasn’t expecting them to have a night of passion, but it made sense to me. Both of these individuals loved Jamie so much, they would have to have something in common. And strangely they both seemed to be making love to Jamie while they made love. I’m not sure what is going to happen now that Jamie is back. It seemed like he was understanding of the situation in the end, but it will be strange!! It all happened so fast.

I was also concerned about the relationship between Jenny and Claire. I don’t like that they are enemies now. They were such friends in the past, and it really seems like Jenny has been treating Claire rather badly since she came back to find Jamie. I hope that now that she is in America, she and Claire will reconcile.

There were so many other mysteries besides the main cliffhangers. What happened to Roger’s father? When will Fergus learn his true identity and what will he do with it? Who was “the nameless girl” that Jamie thought about?

My favorite quotes:

Claire to Jamie (page 123):

“I took his face between my hands, and wished so much that I had his own gift, the ability to say what lay in my heart, in such a way that he would know. But I hadn’t.

‘Jamie,’ I said at last. ‘Oh, Jamie. You’re . . . everything. Always.’”

Don’t we all have problems expressing our feelings at times? I think Claire did a great job!

Fergus to Jamie (page 182):

“’Then I grew older still, and discovered that, after all, it was true. I am the son of a great man.’

The hook touched Jamie’s hand, hard and capable.

‘I wish for nothing more.’”

Jamie sure does inspire love in people. I love how Fergus tells him how much he means to him as a father figure.

Jamie thinking about the Revolutionary war (page 529):

“A man’s life had to have more purpose than only to feed himself each day. And this was a grand purpose – grander, maybe, than anyone else fighting for it knew. And if it took his own life in the doing . . . he wouldn’t enjoy it, but he’d be comforted in the dying, knowing he’d helped. “

Claire at General Simon Fraser’s Funeral (page 657):

“I wondered what sort of man – or woman, perhaps? – had lain here, leaving no more than an echo of their bones, so much more fragile than the enduring rocks that sheltered them.”

Overall, this was an excellent novel and has left me wanting to read the next one RIGHT NOW. This is not a book to rush through, but one to savor and really enjoy. If you have not yet read the Outlander series, I highly recommend that you do!

Book Source: Personal Copy Pre-ordered from


  1. As I have not yet read Outlander, I skipped the spoiler parts of your review. How wonderful to enjoy a series so much! It does sounds as if this is a very layered book and series. I'd need to keep track of all the characters and various time periods! :)

  2. Loved your review.

    I absolutly love ECHO. Actually, I have yet to read a book by DG that has even in the slightest left me dissappointed. I seriously can not say enough about how supberb DG's writing is!!

    I really liked your quotes. They stood out to me as well.
    I also agree with you, the ending read very quickly for me as so much was going on. I have so many questions as well. I did not mind the ending so much because DG has given me soooo much to think about before her next book. Besides, I can re-read the series. *smile*

    Okay...the "nameless girl" is probably one of the things I am wondering about the most. Who is she???? Well...actually, I am most assurdly wondering about Jamie's reaction the most in re: to LJ and Claire.

    Gosh...soooo much to think about. I just love how absorbed I become in this books. I start to feel as if Jamie, Claire and the grouping of characters are real. LOL.

  3. I loved reading your review. I have yet to read book 1, Outlander, but I do have it, so that is a start. I've been thrilled to read so many great reviews about this series.

  4. Great review - and I loved the love triangle part, and I also thought (and hoped) William would get Rachel. I was hoping he would not wind up with his cousin! Still, I thought it very farfetched that she loved the doctor/Quaker?!

    I loved your quotes, especially the ones in regard to Fergus. I do wonder... if it's true, could his father be the Compte St. Germaine? Isn't that what we're led to believe - the one and the same from DiA? Also, interesting since legend is that he lived forever and never actually died (I think I got that from Foucualt's Pendulum, not sure though). I also really liked reading from William's POV of the war. I agree with you about Claire being in a daze, you are a lot more forgiving than I was about her night of passion with LJ. I'd rather forget about it, wish it didn't happen and move on. I expect Jamie may think that way too ;)

    And yes, I hate to wait all this time to find out what happens to Jem - and Roger who went back in time for nothing! Waaah!

  5. Agh, I've got to read this series! Why am I not reading it! What is wrong with me. This should be my winter goal. I love good satisfying melt in your mouth books.

  6. I was caught off guard by Dottie's love for Denny Hunter as well, but I was glad that was the case instead of Dottie and William ending up together.

    I really do wonder about Fergus' father. It seems too good to be true that an orphan boy raised in a brothel could be the legitimate son of the Compte St. Germain. Is it all a political scam to get more money to the rebels cause? I think so right now . . .but I could be convinced otherwise!

    How is Roger going to get back? He needs some more gemstones! Is he going to wander around forever back in time looking for Jem? I'm concerned!!!!

    The nameless girl . . . who is she? I always thought Claire was Jamie's one and true love. It's interesting to think that may not be the case.

    So much to think about . . . and so much time to do it in until there is another novel!!

  7. Great review. I enjoyed the book but couldn't believe it ended with Jem trapped in that tunnel and Roger about to disappear through the stones! I can't wait to find out what happens to them.

    I love your blog, by the way! I'm a new book blogger and An Echo in the Bone is the first book I've reviewed for my own blog. It's always good to meet other Diana Gabaldon fans. :)

  8. Helen - I love your site! I tried to leave you a comment a few times, but am experiencing technical diffulty. Do you have comments set up? I thought I'd post a comment back here just in case you check . . .

  9. Thanks Laura - I'm glad you like it. The comments seem to be working now; maybe it was just a temporary problem?

  10. I don't understand the whole thing about how Willie and Dottie plotted to get Dottie to America so she could...see Denny? But Willie didn't know him until he came under his medical care! Can someone straighten this out for me?

  11. I discovered the Outlander series in December 2010, and read or devoured the seven books. I now wait like the rest for the next book. Even reading the books in succession, it is daunting to remember all the lesser characters. When finishing Echo in the Bone, I wandered at the part about "the nameless girl" if I had forgotten something. However, when talking to the extended group that I now have addicted to the books, while there are different opinions, no one is certain who she is. That is what brought me to your site.

  12. need pointers on how to write a literature review

  13. I just discovered these books last fall and am reading this one right now. So glad to soak up the Outlander love here. :D

  14. It is interesting as I read these comments that many left this last book in the series feeling Jenny hated Claire. True she yelled and cursed her at Lallybrook when her husband was dying and yet there was a section after this where Claire gives that some thought and all but excuses Jenny's venom at that point. Then when Jenny and Jamie are on the boat to America (on a very briefly written and thankfully uneventful journey to America) Jenny discusses this with Jamie and feels badly for the things she has said to Claire. I think there will be some sort of resolution between the two in the next book. I think Diana has definitely set the scene there for that reconciliation.

    Overall I enjoyed this book but like with many of these books there are some sections where there is so much detail that I find it hard to focus and other times where I want more explanation. The last 100-200 pages of Echo really were action packed and eventful in comparison to the first 600. I really struggled with much of LJ's and William's sections until the end of the book. Perhaps it's simply that I prefer the Claire and Jamie storyline and point of view? :)

  15. "nameless girl"?? where does Jamie mention this? Hmm I don't remember that part!

  16. Echo is VERY full of historical letters and info dumps to insert the fictional characters into the real events. When you get past that, Jamie and Claire's story, their whereabouts and how they get from point A to B gets confusing at times. The fast paced action and dangers got annoying to me early on.

  17. I absolutely love the Outlander series, but I felt a bit let down by this latest one. It seemed like Gabaldon was starting up too many threads instead of tying them off as I expected in what was to be the last book, and is now, I suppose, the penultimate in the series.

    I did like that Bree and Roger and kids went back to the future, though I must admit that I hated how the book ended. All of the others wrapped up nicely, this was simply a cliffhanger and a far-fetched one at that. I love the time travel element of these stories, but that was too weird for me. We'll see, maybe the next book will make a believer out of me.

    I agree about being sad that Claire and Jenny are enemies. Not a good twist.

    And the Lord John/Claire relationship? I'm not buying that either.

    Maybe I should reread the whole series so that I can really judge how I feel!

  18. Jane - I listened to the entire series on audiobook right before this book came out so that helped! I need to start doing that again soon before the next book comes out.

  19. My review of Written in My Own Heart's Blood is up and posted at: