An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday! I will be posting pics from my beautiful trip to East Tennessee very soon, but for now, here is my review of Echo (copied and pasted from Word, since I was forced to suffer the anguish of no internet or blog access during the height of my post-book delirium).

I just finished An Echo in the Bone and I’m here in the mountains without internet. *fists waving in the air* Oh, Diana Gabaldon! Diana, Diana, Diana. My mind has sufficiently been blown, yet again. I shall try verra hard to harness my bottled excitement and control my trembling fingertips enough to write a coherent review of my thoughts.

Remember my review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes in which I said that upon finishing any Outlander book, the only adjective that seems to come to mind is “amazing?” Well, expect a lot of that. And there will be spoilers, because I simply don’t see how I can talk about this book without them.

The book starts out as a slow read. Not slow as in there is no action or slow as in boring, but slow as in there is a lot of information being disseminated and lots of groundwork being laid. The first half of the book felt like I was reading a Lord John novel. Not only because several threads are told from Lord John’s perspective, but also because there is a lot of military talk and battle discussion that wasn’t prominent in the prior books. In the beginning, we are mainly getting to know William, who is headstrong and eager to fight, but who also has a softer side and quickly realizes that he has a lot to learn about the art of war. I was somewhat indifferent towards him in the beginning. I very much enjoyed his storyline, but wasn’t fully invested in him as a character. It didn’t take long, however, for it to dawn on me that William could very well be a looking glass into Jamie’s young adulthood. Since they are so similar in personality, temperament, and of course, physical appearance, is this what Jamie was like when he was coming of age and finding his footing as a natural leader? I like to think there is a lot of similitude there. I began to worry about his eagerness to fight and naiveté regarding who to trust in such tumultuous times; but, for all intents and purposes, he is Lord John Grey’s son, and he has Jamie Fraser’s genes, so he’s going to be a good man. How could he not? At that point I sort of stopping worrying about him and was ready to get to the meat of the story, a.k.a., Jamie and Claire.

There wasn’t nearly enough Jamie for me. The only solace I found was that what little bit we got, was really, really good. I think Diana G realized that she was depriving us in the Jamie department and thus resolved to give us quality over quantity. Is it just me, or was every single scene with Jamie nothing short of amazing? We got back to the introspective, sweet, heart-breakingly poetic Jamie of yore, and for that reason alone I can forgive Diana for giving us so little. After Saratoga when Claire has just rescued him from the battlefield, given him laudanum and is preparing to do surgery on his hand? That was perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the book because Jamie is so incredibly open and vulnerable. He is dazedly explaining his rationale for risking his life to save those of complete strangers and all walls are down and we see his complete trust in Claire to pick him up, fix him and see him through it. The scene was just overflowing with love and emotion and trust and sincerity and while I was grieving for him and the loss of his finger, I was drinking it all in.

Another favorite scene -a happy one this time- was when Jamie and Claire are stopped in Edinburgh en route to return Simon Fraser’s body for burial in Scotland. Finally we get to see Jamie and Claire relaxing and actually enjoying life without freezing, starving, or running for their lives. They have money and time to leisurely dine at expensive restaurants, shop for new clothes, and pick out spectacles. I envisioned them walking down the stone streets arm in arm, strutting confidently,( bespectacled) with the sun on their shoulders, enjoying the brief respite from worry or fear. It had been a long time coming and they totally deserved it.

One aspect of the book that took me by surprise was Ian. I felt like I was really seeing a different side of him than I’d ever seen. I finally saw the fierceness that had been mentioned so often before, but never really illustrated (to me) until this book. In addition to that, he opens up and we’re given so much more insight into the way his mind works and how he manages the balance between his Scottish roots and his newly acquired Mohawk beliefs. Poor Ian was truly raked through the coals in this one: his anguish over the accidental death of Mrs. Bug (and the subsequent terror of being pursued by Arch Bug), tying up loose ends and finding closure with regards to Emily and his lost child, his separation from Rollo (who had just been shot), the reunion with his parents after (how many?) years, the death of his father, and falling in love with a Quaker girl who found it hard to reconcile his warrior nature with her non-violent beliefs. I’ve always loved Ian, thinking of him mostly as an easy-going little brother, but he has now officially grown up in my eyes. I had so much respect for his unwillingness to be something he is not and for not faltering in his beliefs. He was clearly anxious and reticent about his return to Lallybroch, but confronted it head on, donning Mohawk finery and holding his head high as if to say “This is who I am now. I can’t go back and you must accept me for what I am, or not have me at all.” Such a dramatic change from the boy who sacrificed himself for Roger back in Drums of Autumn because he was groping for his calling in life and had no idea what he was supposed to be. Am I happy that Rachel Hunter accepted him in the end? I’m not sure yet…I admire her loyalty and her dedication, but I’m not completely convinced that she is an adequate partner, not yet at least.

Another aspect of the book that pretty much knocked my socks off was the marriage of Lord John and Claire. I already knew that they had sex under the pretense that Jamie was dead (as a result of listening to Diana G read an excerpt from book 8 during a Dragon Con panel ), and yet it still came as a huge surprise to me. It’s still scandalous to think about, but here’s the kicker: I liked Lord John and Claire together. Is that wrong? I ABSOLUTELY LOVED the scene with them lying in bed talking after their drunken rendezvous the night before. John’s openness and honesty was lovely and I felt like he had genuine respect and admiration for Claire. And his story about the white deer, oh my god, my heart melted when he stopped her in the doorway and told her to “…think of the deer. My dear.” In that moment, in my eyes, they were perfect for each other! (By the way, did anyone else catch the possible symbolism there? Claire is called the white woman/witch; John’s associating her with the mysterious white deer? Is it just me?) I have long wanted Lord John to find someone with whom he could have a meaningful relationship that consisted of more than just sex, and I felt like he found that with Claire, however untraditional and fleeting. It all happened rather quickly and I wasn’t sure if Ian, Fergus, Marsali, or anyone else really knew the extent of what was happening (if at all), but quite frankly, I loved every minute of their marriage. When Jamie finally did return to America and unexpectedly walked in on Lord John and Claire, casually dressing and getting ready for the day in John’s bedroom, he was clearly not of the proper mindset to grasp the significance of the scene.  I believe that he would have immediately realized the casual intimacy between them, behaving like a settled old married couple, had he not been fleeing from the British army and seeking refuge. And once he does realize?? The intensity of this cliffhanger reinforces my prior fear of my inability to cope with the 2 year void until book 8 is released.

And speaking of cliffhangers, what about Jem?! And more importantly, Roger?!? At least we know that Jem is still in the tunnel (for now), but Roger has just travelled through the stones! If he is concentrating on Jem (in the theory that it will help direct him through time), where will he end up?! And what about Percy and Fergus?! My nerves are shot, people.

I love this book so incredibly much. It’s absolutely amazing. How fitting it is that I bought Outlander in an after-Christmas sale in 2009 and now I have finished the series almost exactly a year later? I shall forever think of 2010 as the year of Outlander :) Without any new books to turn to in the coming year, I suppose I will have to resort to some meaningless one night stands with sexy vampires and civil war soldiers to tide me over until my reunion with Jamie and the gang, but I most definitely see some re-reads in my future…

18 thoughts on “An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Love your review! I couldn’t get enough of the end, the very last lines when Rachel called Ian his wolf. This book made me fall in love with Young Ian. Now I feel like I’m cheating on Jamie.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more! Your summary is wonderful and highlights the main storylines in Echo.
    There have been at least a dozen excerpts of Book 8 released by Diana Gabaldon, but they are just the icing on the cake and help establish the opening of the book. Re-reads, or re-kilts, as I like to call them are fine with me!

    • I know what you mean, I have read a few of the excerpts and they do absolutely nothing to satisfy my curiosity! Re-kilting sounds so much more exciting than re-reading, I’m totally going to say that from now on ;)

  3. I truly admire the way you review a book. I am so impressed by your intuitiveness and expressiveness. I felt exactly the way you did as I read and finished “Echo”. I felt the same things you felt, but you put those feelings into words as I never could! And yes, I am in the same sad position you are without any more books in the series; I read all of the Lord John Grey books and have developed a real respect and affection for him. Your insightful remarks about Lord John, William, and Ian are spot-on, too. I’ve also read all the short stories and excerpts. Oh, woe is us, that there is no more Jamie and Claire until Book 8 is released!

    It is absolutely astounding to me that Diana has wrapped so many of us readers into the folds of her vivid and prolific imagination! I read on one of the “Outlander” sites that I visit constantly (including yours) in need of an “Outlander fix” that she was amused one day to be amongst a group of ladies talking about Black Jack Randall and how awful he was. She realized that they hadn’t really put together that she is Black Jack………..and Jamie….and Ian…….and Claire! How funny is that? She has so drawn all of us into that world that we find it hard to leave in fiction. I read on the My Outlander Purgatory site that Carol (or Tracey) feels like when she carries on her real life that Jamie and Claire, et al, are there up on Fraser’s Ridge carrying on their lives until she returns to read some more. I feel that way, too, and wonder all the time what it is about her writing that makes us all feel that way. I am, I feel, obsessed with this story. What will happen when the saga ends??? What will we all do???
    Anyway, getting back to your review, it was WONDERFUL…..the white deer scene, the William in the swamp scene, the Ian and Rachel romance, oh!!!! and yes, re-reads are probably in your future! When I re-read them, I found so much that I’d missed the first time around—the links and clues to later stories and situations were myriad, and I’d totally missed them the first time. I’m on my second re-read (currently in ABOSAA), and I’ve found still more that I’d missed. What an author! What an imagination! Am I crazy???? I can’t get enough!
    So, thanks for your site. I’m 64 years old and you’re a “20-something” and I’m loving that I find much in common between the two of us in re reads, cooking, crafting, dogs, etc. What a pleasure it would be to meet you; alas, however, unlikely, as I’m in CT and you’re wherever you are! Keep up the good work on your blog; I especially enjoyed the whiskey drinking episode and the Pumpkin Challenge. Your book reviews are also interesting and maybe I’ll wean myself away from Diana for a bit because of some of them. Happy New Year, and do listen to them, too. Davina Porter makes all of the beloved characters come to LIFE—she’s amazing!

    • I just realized when I re-read YOUR REVIEW of ABOSAA, that it was YOU who said she felt the Frasers were up there on Fraser’s Ridge going about their business………..!!! Well, my bad! But do go read My Outlander Purgatory’s blog…..it is very entertaining and fun–like yours is! Sorry again about the goof. Thanks, again. Kathy

      • Thank you so much for all the kind words! It makes me very happy to hear that other people can relate to my Outlander obsession and get a kick out of my reviews :) I admire Mrs. Gabaldon immensely and I could sing her praises for days. I’ve read a lot in my time and I have never encountered another author that even comes close to rivaling her ability to develop characters. I don’t know how she does it either, but I hope she keeps it up for a long time!
        I read somewhere that she said she knows how the story between Jamie and Claire will end, but doesn’t know when it will end, but either way, we will need a huge box of Kleenex! I’ve decided that no matter how the series ends, be it with rainbows and happy endings for all, or death and destruction in all directions, I’ll be crying for the sheer fact that there will be no more Jamie Fraser. (I used to worry that I was crazy and that I had potential mental problems for being so obsessed with a fictional character…but then I started a blog and realized that I’m not alone ;)Yay!)
        I think I may listen to them via audiobook first, and then re-read them. I get so excited thinking about all the tiny hints and nuances that I missed the first go round!
        Maybe one day, all of us Jamie Fraser fanatics can get together, plan a Scotland tour or something…can you imagine!? Oh, we could have so much fangirl fun :)
        Again, thanks so much for your lovely comment and Happy New Year to you as well!
        Oh, and I adore Carol and Tracey, I’m checking in on their site all the time too :)

  4. Just finished reading.. i am speechless! I will try to gather my thoughts before work tomorrow though and talk to you about it then :)

  5. Last evening I read the short story that DG has in the book “Songs of Love and Death”. Have you had a chance to read this also? It deals with Roger MacKenzie’s parents and what happened to them during WW2. It is short but interesting. I have a question or two about it but I will not ask it for fear you may not have gotten to it yet.

  6. That was a lovely review. I’m glad I already read the book though. I religiously avoid reading ANY kind of reviews, teasers or even clips pre-released by the author when it comes to this series. I already KNOW I’m going to read the entire thing and I’m still a little traumatized from getting totally mixed up and starting the Fiery Cross when I hadn’t yet read drums of autumn. I ended up ditching it as soon as I realized my mistake but went through the entire book (fiery cross) puzzled and bewildered. One thing you didn’t mention in this review though…as a nurse, I really enjoyed the detail with which some of the medical stuff is delved into in this book. I love to see Claire growing and developing as a surgeon as she learns to function within the confines of the 17th century. I also enjoyed seeing claire (and Jamie, to a somewhat lesser extent, given that he is a few years younger) gracefully submitting to the golden years. Having know her since she was 28, I marvel at the ease with which DG has lead her through two (now 3!) marriages, motherhood, two different professions in two completely different time periods and along the way she has really evolved along with the timeline until I can almost detect a certain grandmotherly tone in her “voice” that was completely absent at the beginning. Ok, enough run-on sentences for now. And finally, I got goosebumps for some reason when Ian promises, at the very end, to lie down like a dog at Rachael’s feet. I felt an inklng of Jamie’s love for Claire in that one sentence. Can’t wait to see where that storyline leads.

    • Hi Amanda! It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for a long time now…I hope to get to it this year. I think my hesitation lies in the fact that I’ve heard many people say it’s almost too similar to Outlander, what do you think?

      • Well, I think it’s a little unfair to Outlander to say that TBR is similar ;) Ok, that’s a generalization. Yes, TBR has a strong feminist lead and lots of great dialog between the hero and heroine. And yes, the book it more about their ‘life ever after’ than about how they fall for each other. On the otherhand, it lacks Outlander’s sense of humor. I did like the sociological descriptions of the Indian culture.

        In summary, it’s no substitute but it was a great story to fall into whenever my MIL drove me crazy over the holidays ;) I liked it enough to buy the sequel for the long drive back to our house.

  7. I just finished Echo on CD after reading the book in the spring. God, I love Davina Porter’s telling. I too love Lord John and William and am trying to figure out how everything will turn out well for them. It’s time Lord John had some happiness and Ian as well. I think that Jamie and Claire will have a bit of a tough time reuniting but I remember a picture caption of a young woman who felt betrayed by her lover being told by him, “I have never given any woman that which belongs to you.” I think Jamie will know that Claire will never be able to “give” herself to any man after Jamie. Who could?

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