August 14, 2014

Less than 1000 pages this time

Gabaldon, Diana. Written in My Own Heart's Blood. New York: Delacorte Press, 2014.

It was just luck that I finished this book right before the sneak preview of the new Outlander series on Starz came out, so I was totally psyched about Jamie and Claire before watching it. (It didn't disappoint--I can't wait for this week's episode.)

The book also didn't disappoint. I went back to see what I said about the last Outlander book, almost five years ago, and I wasn't that excited. This time was different. I think one of the main reasons was the recap at the beginning, in which the housekeeper gets filled in on the details that all of us forgot. That saved me from having to spend the first hundred pages either confused or Googling what on earth went on last time. (I enjoyed highlighting the observation about the housekeeper that she had been trying "to keep the cast of characters in some sort of order to this point, but now gave it up with a shake of her head that made the pink ribbons on her cap wave like antennae"--I've felt that way too!) Then, I could just get into the story.

It's still the Revolutionary War, and Benedict Arnold is still there, just like last time, but this book feels much more character-driven--definitely Gabaldon's strength. We get plenty of Jaime-Claire interplay, but also see what other characters like their daughter Brianna, Jamie's son William, and our old friend Lord John are up to. Also, I had forgotten--or never noticed--just how much you can learn from one of these books, thanks to the author's extensive research and curious mind. And some things are just fun.

For example:
  • I highlighted more than a handful of words (like stertorously and hordeolum) to get new or refreshed definitions. The origins of being "ridden out of the city on a rail" and "Hobson's choice" also given. It's rare for a book to feature so much challenge.
  • Claire observes that you can tell a man from a woman a long way away because "a woman's width of pelvic basin compels a slightly knock-kneed stance." Who knew.
  • Again, maybe others knew that "thee/thou" were originally the familiar form of the singular "you"... not I.
  • All should observe the line that "a redheaded person with an empty stomach was like a walking time bomb."
  • Plus, there's what I think is a reference to the Patrick O'Brian novels, mentioning the "lesser of two weevils, as he'd heard a sailor friend of his father's put it." Certainly, this line was in Master and Commander. I thought this was genius, as long as it was intentional. (I think those novels occur a little later, though, so maybe it's not, or maybe it's artistic timeline license.)
There's more, but that's enough to justify the rating, especially since I was so happy plowing through the 800+ pages. I'm eagerly anticipating both episode two in a few days and book nine (hopefully not in five more years).

Rating: ****

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