06/06/2005

Drums of Autumn

This book is the fourth in the 'Through the Stones'/Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon which starts with 'Cross Stitch'. What an incredible series this is, with the most amazing amount of research. The overall plot sounds like something out of science fiction: Clare Randall accidentally walks through a split stone in Scotland in the 1940s and finds herself in the midst of the Jacobite rebellion of the 1740s. For her own safety she has to marry a Scotsman called Jamie, and the marriage of convenience turns into a passionate romance in the midst of the violence and brutality of the times.

Subsequent books reveal how Clare returns to her own time, gives birth, and then - discovering that Jamie did not, after all, die at the battle of Culloden - returns to find him. Yet this brief overview barely touches at the novels, each of which is around 1000 pages long and full of subplots, realistic portrayals of the life and times, and such excellent characterisation that I found myself compelled to keep reading.

In 'Drums of Autumn' Clare and Jamie are America in the 1760s with Jamie's nephew Ian, where they begin to build themselves a home. The novel switches between their day-to-day life and that of Clare's grown-up daughter Brianna, who lives in the late 1960s. Brianna is in love with a historican called Roger who has discovered a tragic news cutting about Jamie and Clare's demise; when Brianna discovers this, she decides to go through the stones herself and attempt to change history. Roger follows her... so much of the book is taken up with their adventures as they try - separately and together - to find Jamie and Clare.

There are Red Indians (not a politically incorrect term in the 18th century), valuable gems, serious illnesses, and hundreds of other fine details which are so well interwoven into the book that I felt I knew more about this time in history than any other. It doesn't have the gruesomeness of one or two of the previous books, but that's a benefit in my view!

Highly recommended to anyone who's read the previous three books, but not as a stand-alond novel. The plot is confusing enough and would be almost impossible to understand for someone who hadn't read the others.

As I finished a couple of days ago, I put in an order from play.com for the next in the series, 'The Fiery Cross'.

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