Final Thoughts on Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber (by Jill)

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I finally finished it! And it was glorious. I skipped multiple opportunities to exercise over the past few days in favor of working through Dragonfly in Amber, and though I have a twinge of guilt about the hours of 2:30 to 5:50 on Thursday, as well as the hours of 9:00 to 10:20, which is the time I spent reading (I also read for about forty five minutes while I was sitting under the dryer at my hair appointment. And bless you, Tania, for letting me read for a while longer today. It’s awesome to have a hair stylist who’s a book person too.), rather than walking the dog or doing a Jillian Michaels workout DVD. At this point, poor Bailey thinks she’s never going to get to go for a walk again, and is wandering around the house picking up a variety of her toys in an attempt to let out some of her pent-up energy. But where was I? Oh, yes, that’s right. I need to tell you about the last four-hundred pages of Dragonfly in Amber.

At the end of my last post, Jamie and Ian were choosing Lallybroch men to go to war on behalf of Prince Charles. The rest of the novel is devoted to said war. This war is, of course, what the first five-hundred pages of this book, and all of Outlander, have been leading up to, so it makes sense to spend a good chunk of time there. There is one major battle, at Prestonpans, at the start of the conflict, which is described in detail. The Jacobites win this conflict, though it is not without casualties on both sides. Claire puts herself in charge of the hospital, and Jamie distinguishes himself on the field of battle. Afterwards, the couple find themselves in Edinburgh attending Prince Charles. A bit of the Paris intrigue and gossip returns to Claire and Jamie’s lives during this interlude, but somehow under the backdrop of a war of rebellion it’s less tedious.

While in Edinburgh, Collum and Dougal MacKenzie, Jamie’s uncles, show up. Collum’s presence is twofold: to ask Jamie’s advice in choosing sides in the conflict, and to procure poison from Claire for himself. His condition has made him continuously painful, and he is ready to end his suffering. He wants to declare his clan for one side or the other, and then take his own life. Jamie tells Collum to not side with Prince Charlie. Unfortunately, Collum dies on his own before having a chance to use the vial of cyanide Claire gave him, leaving Dougal in charge of Clan MacKenzie, and coming down strongly on the side of the Jacobites.   Jamie is sent to request troops from his grandfather, Simon Fraser, who he has never actually met. You see, Jamie’s father, Brian Fraser, was an illegitimate son of Simon Fraser, and as such had minimal contact with his father. Claire goes along, of course, and there’s a very amusing interaction involving Simon’s false teeth and a fireplace. Then there is the battle of Falkirk, during which Claire and Jamie get holed up in a church with Dougal and some of his men. In the morning a group of British troops captures them and mistakes Claire for an English prisoner of war. They “rescue” her and take her to quite a few places, eventually ending up in the Duke of Sandringham’s country estate. The Duke remembers Claire from their time in Paris, and proceeds to interrogate her for a while. Then Jamie rescues her, and they get back to Edinburgh, only to find out that all of the Lallybroch men have been arrested for desertion because Jamie told them to get the heck out of Edinburgh when he and Claire left town to visit Simon Fraser. Jamie manages to orchestrate their release just in time for everyone to head off to the fateful battle of Culloden.

All is not well at the front lines—everyone is starving and tensions would be high if anyone could muster up the energy to be tense. The English have been chasing the Scots army north for several months and no one is doing well. Claire suggests to Jamie that maybe they should consider using the vial of cyanide to murder Prince Charles, as that might stop the impending battle at Culloden. Jamie decides not to do that, and Claire is glad of it. Unfortunately, Dougal MacKenzie overhears their conversation and in the heat of the battle that ensues, Jamie kills Dougal, and one of Dougal’s men walks in on the melee. Jamie begs his kinsman for an hour to get Claire safely away before he returns to face his punishment. And he takes Claire to Craigh Na Dun. He says that she’s pregnant, he knows it, and lists the reasons why he knows it. Claire hadn’t even realized these changes were happening to her body but she knows that he is right. He begs her to go back to the twentieth century, to Frank, as he is going to die one way or another—either in answering for the killing of Dougal, or in the battle of Culloden in the next few days. He needs to know that she and their child are safe. And so she goes, and as she does Jamie is facing down a group of British soldiers.

The last forty or so pages take place back in the twentieth century, with Claire trying to convince daughter Brianna of the truth of her story. Bree throws a poker through a window and generally acts like a crazed Highland warrior; I really hope that scene is included in the next season of Outlander on Starz because it would be quite entertaining. Claire’s goal is to try to track down Geillis Duncan in 1968 because this is the potential year she travels back to the seventeen hundreds in order to advance her Jacobite cause. Claire knows her daughter well enough to know that she needs proof of Claire’s story with her own eyes, and the best thing Claire can think to do is to have Brianna watch Geillis go through the stones and disappear. So that’s what they do. Geillis’s real name is Gillian Edgars, and she is possibly insane based on the research notebook of hers that Claire finds and reads. She gets it in her head that she will need a sacrifice to open the portal in the stones, so she kills her alcoholic husband and sets him on fire out at Craigh Na Dun. And then the biggest bombshell of them all: Roger Wakefield thinks he has found proof in one of his history books that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden—there is a brief blurb in one of them that says that a group of officers survived the battle and holed up in a house nearby only to be shot and later buried at the edge of the battle field. One of the officers was a Fraser of Lovat’s regiment (that’s what Simon Fraser, Jamie’s grandfather’s, title was), and he escaped this slaughter. Which explains why they found Jamie’s tombstone far away from Culloden. And that’s where the book ends.

I must confess that had a very hard time not running and starting Voyager, the next book in the series, today. I did get it off the shelf, and looked to see where it starts and how quickly it will answer my questions, which are many. It looks like that book will jump back and forth from Jamie in the eighteenth century to Claire in the twentieth century for a while, as well as back to when Claire first returns home to Frank. I know Bethany doesn’t love when Gabaldon keeps the major characters separated over space and/or time, so much as I want to continue on in Claire and Jamie’s world, I’m also somewhat concerned that I won’t enjoy the next book as much as I’ve enjoyed the first two. I am looking forward to seeing how things go with Frank and Claire after she returns home. Some allusions are made to their relationship being fairly rocky in Dragonfly in Amber, for example Brianna yells that Frank never loved Claire when she is having her tantrum that ends in the fire poker going through the window.  But for now, I’m taking a break from Gabaldon’s world. I had what some people call a “book hangover” on Thursday after finishing this book, and I need to spend time with some different fictional characters for a while, I think.  But never fear; I’ll be back with Jamie and Claire sooner rather than later.

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This entry was posted in Diana Gabaldon, Fiction - general, Fiction - Historical, Reviews by Jill, TIME TRAVEL. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Final Thoughts on Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber (by Jill)

  1. bedstrom says:

    But Voyager is soooo good! It’s the best one in the series – which is a reason to read it right away and also a reason to put it off so you have it to look forward to. It’s funny how much this series parallels The Song of Ice and Fire, and also how our timing in reading these series is so perfect. I want to wait before I really throw myself into A Storm of Swords… but everyone keeps telling me how good it is.

    • badkitty1016 says:

      Shit! Voyager is your favorite? I thought you didn’t like it. Or is it The Fiery Cross that you didn’t like?

  2. bedstrom says:

    Yes, Voyager is my favorite. I made a handy chart of my rankings of the books – I think it’s in my final thoughts on Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.

    • badkitty1016 says:

      I remember that you did that. But I also remember you saying that you didn’t much like the books where Gabaldon keeps her main characters separate, so I assumed that Voyager wasn’t one of your favorites because I know that happens in it.

      • bedstrom says:

        Voyager doesn’t really do that, though. Voyager is about reunions. At the beginning, Claire is preparing to go back to the 18th century, and then she goes and finds Jamie, and the rest of the book is about them making up for lost time in their relationship. There are chapters where they just talk and talk, and their lives during the 20 years they were apart are just so interesting (especially Jamie’s, since he was in hiding from the English for most of them). Then they reunite with everyone at Lallybroch and go to the Caribbean to find one of Jenny and Ian’s kids, who was kidnapped, and then they start the process of rebuilding their lives in North America. There is a stereotypical “Chinaman” in it, who is ridiculous, but other than that it’s really good.

      • badkitty1016 says:

        Oh, okay! I just flipped through the first 50 or so pages yesterday and saw that it’s a lot of Claire in the 20th century and Jamie in the 18th century and nothing with them together. I’m glad to hear they are together more than they aren’t. 🙂

      • bedstrom says:

        I think that’s just at the beginning. They’re together for most of the book. Also, another drawback/unintentionally funny element of Voyager is that Diana Gabaldon forgets sometimes that Claire is 20 years older than she was in the last book and that she spent those 20 years studying and practicing medicine and was not especially athletic. The one detail that comes to mind is Claire shimmying up the mast of a ship that is sinking/being attacked by pirates. There are other such moments too. Gabaldon gets used to the idea that Claire is a bit older in the later books.

  3. badkitty1016 says:

    Some medical professionals are actually quite athletic, you know. Perhaps Claire did kickboxing in her free time, as well as pole dancing? I took a pole dancing class recently and those ladies are pretty impressive with their pole shimmying. That being said, I don’t know that the local YWCA’s offered pole dancing classes back in the 1960’s.

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