21/03/2005

Dragonfly in Amber

I finished 'Dragonfly in Amber' by Diana Gabaldon yesterday. It's taken me over two weeks - much longer than usual, even given that it was nearly 1000 pages.

I didn't enjoy it as much as 'Cross Stitch', the first in the series; if I hadn't read that first it would have been extremely confusing. However I wanted to know what happened to Jamie and Clare so I persevered! It's a bit of a strange book... mostly historical, during the Jacobite rebellion. Yet far more interesting than most army-type books - Gabaldon really is an excellent writer. Mostly she manages to describe the conditions without being boring, and the unpleasantness and violence without getting gruesome. Mostly... but not always. I couldn't read the description of hanging, drawing and quartering after the first paragraph. It was apparently an exercise in maximum excrutiating pain for the longest possible time, and only done by 'master' executioners. How can society have been so evil?

Anyway... it stops being a straight historical novel by the unlikely twist that Clare was born in the 20th century and went back 200 years in time to the midst of war-torn Scotland. At least, that's what happens in 'Cross Stitch'. In 'Dragonfly in Amber' she starts off back in the 20th century with a grown-up daughter who knows nothing of her mother's strange time-travelling past, and eventually tells her the story... which is the bulk of the novel, continuing where the previous one left off.

Confused? All I can say is: if it appeals, try 'Cross Stitch' first. That's excellent. But don't expect quite so much of this one. Still, there was enough of a draw at the end to make me rush over to play.com to order 'Voyager', the third in the series!

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