Review: Drums of Autumn (Outlander, #4) by Diana Gabaldon

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: June 07 to 24, 2013
Read count: 1

3-stars upon finishing, but now that I think about it, 4-stars because of how well crafted the book is.

There are a lot of things I liked about this book, but there are also a few things I didn’t like. Right now, the things I didn’t like stand out more than the things I did like.

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* * * * spoilers below * * * *

I agree with what many reviewers said about how a lot of problems in this book could have been resolved and/or prevented if only all the characters had an adult conversation, or at least, they could have been honest with each other, instead of going behind each others’ backs. But if everyone acted like adults, this book would have been a 10-page novella and the series could have easily ended here and everyone would have been satisfied once Brianna unites with her parents… and together they live happily ever after.

With that said, I really enjoyed the colonial and wilderness aspects of Jamie and Claire’s new life together in North Carolina. Even after they settle on the Ridge, every day life is still exciting. The one thing that’s kept me following this series for so long is Gabaldon’s use of descriptive language. She has a certain way of describing sensory details that’s unique, tactile, and unlike any author I’ve ever read. Her grasp on sensory details is so vivid that, at times, I’m sure I could smell, taste, feel, breathe in, etc. the surroundings or the food or the hard liquor or even the blood that she’s describing. She does especially well when she describes wilderness scenes and life in “wild, untamed” lands. The details are a joy to read.

All of this–the descriptive narration–takes up perhaps 75% of the book, which is great. The last 25%, however, is where I had trouble with the–lack of a better word–explosive plot. Introducing Brianna and Roger to the past is… sure, I buy it. Bree needs to somehow meet Jamie and resolve all those questions she’s had since Claire told her the truth about her parentage. And Roger bumbling around in the past makes sense because it’s in his character to go after Bree into the past. Also, it’s a plot point to push Bree and Roger’s relationship further, but it all seems so contrived, as though you could see what Gabaldon is trying to do to drag the series out.

But that’s not the least of it because then the rape happens which resulted in another child’s questionable parentage and more issues are piled on top of Bree and Roger’s strained relationship and makes Bree and Jamie’s relationship even more difficult. Although one good thing does come out of it, this difficulty provides a platform for Bree to talk to Jamie about his experiences in Wentworth Prison. This scene is written with a capable hand and deals with the emotional traumas of rape with honesty, and that’s rare in contemporary literature.

Gabaldon isn’t a stranger to writing difficult story lines and she certainly doesn’t stay away from them due to the readers’ discomfort. When it comes to rape, violence, and gore in the series, she stays as historically relevant as possible, and the research she’s put into each book shows on the page. She depicts the past as a lawless, dangerous place especially for women. She also touches on racial issues, sort of. Like the Frasers’ interactions with Black slaves and Native Americans. Both Claire and Brianna, being from the future, are uncomfortable with slavery and awkward when coming face to face with slaves because they’re aware of what they’re witnessing. However, they still retain their uneasiness and prejudices when it comes to Native peoples. Racial issues and tensions are brought up only when/if the Frasers encounter slaves or Native persons; otherwise, the issues don’t affect the Frasers’ lives directly, other than they don’t have slaves on the Ridge.

So as much as I enjoy this series, I have to admit that the books written after Voyager are somewhat gratuitous. Jamie and Claire’s story pretty much ends at the end of Voyager. You could stop there and be satisfied with how things turn out for them. But if you find yourself enjoying Gabaldon’s writing, then you’d probably enjoy the rest of her books.

Original review can be found here.

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