Last year, I started re-reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon in preparation for the release of book 9, Go tell the bees that I’m gone. The first book in the series is one of my most-read books ever, bringing to life my memories of various visits to Scotland. I have read this story approximately eight times before moving on to the sequel as I was convinced it would not live up to the magic of the first book. By the time I reached An echo in the bone (7), I was in total awe of the ability of Herself to keep the tension of the story high over such a long stretch of time.
Re-reading surprised me in two ways. First of all, I didn’t make it through the first book. I knew, practically by heart, all the gruesome things that were going to happen and I was not up to it. I broke it off half-way through. I skipped Dragonfly in Amber for the simple reason that I didn’t enjoy the time in France and continued with Voyager. My second surprise is probably due to the fact that I am now an author myself and therefore look at the writing a bit more closely as to handicraft. And I noticed that what made these books so fascinating for me, apart from the atmosphere and the amazingly detailed characters, is the philosophical depth of the characters‘ thoughts and emotions. If Outlander is one thing, it is inclusive. Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Mohawk, Germans, Chinese, English, Scots, French, Africans – all these religions and nationalities get along somehow and mostly find a common basis, a point where they can meet and leave their differences behind without giving up their principles. There is a strong sense of equality running through the books and I really, really like that.
So, how did I like Go tell the bees that I’m gone? To be honest, I think it’s not as good as Written in my own hearts blood. In comparison to the previous books, it lacks the philosphical depth, focussing more on letting the reader know what is happening to all the various people we have come to care about. This leads to a lot of hopping from one setting to another, from one person to another, which in my humble opinion has worked better in the past. This time, I have felt as if there were stark islands of action jutting out of a rather dull murky sea, especially in the first half of the book. Every time I had settled into a perspective, felt rattled by what happened and wondered how the respective person was going to handle it, I was thrown into another perspective and the questions I had weren’t answered, or answered in an off-hand way from a different point of view. I was a bit miffed by that.
Later, the impression wasn’t as pronounced and there were longer stretches with a natural flow that kept me engaged, namely Ian’s (+) journey to the Mohawk.
Some things I was kind of tired of reading, like Claire’s favorite curse, other things I deeply enjoyed due to the beautiful writing, descriptions and atmosphere conveyed. I laughed, I cried and overall not for an instant regretted spending my time reading this story, but I didn’t tear through the pages as I did in the past and didn’t get as deeply involved, especially at the end. It was more of a ‚oh, are you really going to… no, of course not.‘ To be fair, that might be due to my personal situation and not the author’s skill. So now I wait again along with everyone else for probably 4-5 years for the next book to arrive, for naturally I want to know what happens next. I don’t like cliffhangers.