It’s hard to believe but, it’s been a year since our last Locklear Library installment. We really enjoy this segment and have wanted to do much more with it than we have; but therein lies the problem. Those Outlander books are big!
We read books together, which is to say that Jennifer reads them aloud while Morgan plays stick figure golf on his phone. Dragonfly In Amber, the second book in the Outlander series, is big enough to be mistaken for a family bible and we also had our hands full with the editing and publishing or our own novel. Needless to say, it was a long year that went by in a short time but during that time we have made a ton of Outlander (and OutMANder) friends.
To refresh your memory (and ours), this post will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.
Morgan will go first…
MORGAN: Before we began reading, you warned me that Dragonfly In Amber was written differently than Outlander. This is, of course, due to the fact that the story is bookended by narrative that takes place in two different times. How did you find this change in tone and tense served the novel?
JENNIFER: It was a bold, yet essential decision for the saga to include third person narrative in addition to the continuation of Claire’s first person perspective. The plot broadens so much in Dragonfly In Amber and goes far beyond Claire’s supernatural experiences and her love story with Jamie. Claire’s limited perspective couldn’t possibly cover all of the important plot points that occur in the second book. I also think the change in narrative style sets the perfect tone for Voyager, the third book in the series.
“Roger followed Brianna toward the front of the room, watching the curling tendrils that escaped from her braid to coil damply on her neck.
All that remained now at the front of the kirk was a plain wooden ledge above the hole where the altarstone had been removed. Still, Roger felt something of a quiver up his spine as he stood beside Brianna, facing the vanished altar.
The sheer intensity of his feelings seemed to echo in the empty space. He hoped she couldn’t hear them. They had known each other barely a week, after all, and had had scarcely any private conversation. She would be taken aback, surely, or frightened, if she knew what he felt. Or worse yet, she would laugh.”
As we progressed through Dragonfly In Amber, I noticed your attitude toward Roger (Mackenzie) Wakefield shift significantly throughout the story. You definitely had varying reactions to his character, so I’d like to hear your thoughts about him.
MORGAN: I was getting pretty bored with the first several chapters of Dragonfly In Amber. I wanted to get back to the story in the past, and Roger’s character didn’t exactly jump off the page at the beginning. However, when Claire told her tale to Roger and Brianna, and then revealed how his own past was wrapped up in the story, I was thrilled to see the future world of the story finally connect with the past. Roger is a dry fellow, and I wonder how much more we are going to see of him and his ancestors.
Speaking of ancestors, I was surprised to see how Geilie fit back into the story. Dragonfly In Amber ended well with her having a big moment that (for me) changed everything. What do you think of her? Does Claire finally get a BFF?
JENNIFER: Having read a bit further into the series than you, it’s possible I already know the answer to that question. And you know me; I don’t like to post spoilers. I would simply say that all the characters (Claire included) held a certain level of distrust for Geilie and that should probably be kept in mind going forward.
It was fun watching your reaction to Geilie’s re-appearance in Dragonfly In Amber. As someone who doesn’t know what happens after the end of Book Two, I’m curious to hear what your theories are about her?
MORGAN: Well, I am currently processing the fact that when Geilie went through the rocks in 1968 she arrived in the past BEFORE Claire got there, even though Claire went through in 1947. I predict that both Claire and Brianna will go back together and Roger might even accompany them, owing to the perceived bad parenting decision to take one’s daughter to Rapeville.
No matter what happens, I know I’ll be hooked because the author, Diana Gabaldon, has really found her voice and is crafting some of the most interesting historical fiction I’ve read since Ken Follet’s, Pillars of the Earth. Has Outlander become your new favorite series, outstripping even Twilight and Harry Potter?
JENNIFER: I have so much personal emotional investment in my Twilight reading experience that I think I just have to put that series aside completely in order to objectively answer your question.
I loved reading the Harry Potter books, but I could finish them and walk away not worrying too much about what else I might be missing out on. I do think Outlander will stand out as one of the best books series I’ll ever read simply because I was immediately willing to go back and re-read these books with you. And this is no slight commitment. It took us over a year to finish reading the first two books and we’re only a quarter of the way done with the series. So, I think it’s fair to say we’ll be investing a lot of quality time reading this saga together. That’s bound to be a far reaching memory for both of us.
During Dragonfly In Amber, we were introduced to more of Jamie Fraser’s family. I noticed that Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat) to be of great amusement to you. Do you want to comment on some of the ways in which humor was effectively used by Diana Gabaldon to craft a more compelling story?
MORGAN: Ah yes, Lord Lovat, the old false teeth wearing bastard that dared to blackmail Jamie with threats about his new wife’s continued virtue. Jamie burned him good with his reply, and it was only one of the many good belly laughs I had while reading this book with you. I always think that a bit of humor is valuable in a story, and the Outlander series is almost as funny as it is everything else. Most of the light moments come during Jamie and Claire’s disagreements, but there was some political humor in this book as well as some snarky observations of historical irony.
I raised my arms, reaching behind my head to gather my hair into a bun. Suddenly Jamie leaned forward and grasped my wrist, pulling my arm into the air.
“What are you doing?” I said, startled.
“What have you done, Sassenach?” he demanded. He was staring under my arm.
“Shaved,” I said proudly. “Or rather, waxed. Louise had her servante aux petits soins – you know, her personal groomer? – there this morning, and she did me, too.”
“Waxed?” Jamie looked rather wildly at the candlestick by the ewer, then back at me. “You put wax in your oxters?”
“Not that kind of wax,” I assured him. “Scented beeswax. The grooming lady heated it, then spread the warm wax on. Once it’s cooled, you just jerk it off,” I winced momentarily in recollection, “and Bob’s your uncle.”
“My uncle Bob wouldna countenance any such goings-on,” said Jamie severely. “What in hell would ye do that for?” He peered closely at the site, still holding my wrist up.
“Didn’t it hur … hurt … choof!” He dropped my hand and backed up rapidly.
“Didn’t it hurt?” he asked, handkerchief to nose once more.
“Well, a bit,” I admitted. “Worth it, though, don’t you think?” I asked, raising both arms like a ballerina and turning slightly to and fro. “First time I’ve felt entirely clean in months.”
“Worth it?” he said, sounding a little dazed. “What’s it to do wi’ clean, that you’ve pulled all of the hairs out from under your arms?”
A little belatedly, I realized that none of the Scottish women I had encountered employed any form of depilation. Furthermore, Jamie had almost certainly never been in sufficiently close contact with an upper-class Parisienne to know that many of them did. “Well,” I said, suddenly realizing the difficulty an anthropologist faces in trying to interpret the more singular customs of a primitive tribe. “It smells much less,” I offered.
“And what’s wrong wi’ the way ye smell?” he said heatedly. “At least ye smelt like a woman, not a damn flower garden. What d’ye think I am, a man or a bumblebee?”
What did you think of the relationship between Jack Randall and Claire, and how it changed from Book One to Book Two? I didn’t expect them to even want to be in the same room but they enter into a kind of uneasy agreement for peace. Do you think it will make a difference in the end?
JENNIFER: As a writer, I can answer that the truce in their relationship was absolutely elemental to serve the overall story. As a reader, it certainly created a new layer of drama and it allowed me to appreciate the complexity of both characters just that much more. No matter how we feel about Black Jack Randall, we know he must exist and do certain things to ensure the existence of Claire’s first husband, Frank.
Speaking of poor Frank, the TV adaptation of Outlander debuted while we were reading Dragonfly In Amber, and I was so pleased to see how Frank’s character evolved on the show for a couple of reasons. Unlike many readers, I didn’t find his early scenes with Claire in Outlander boring or off-putting. I always believed Frank loved Claire, but that due to the extraordinary circumstances their marriage was forced to endure, they simply didn’t know one another like they should have.
I liked that the television series shows us the agony that Frank goes through when Claire disappears through the stones at Craigh na Dun. I also think that when you compare Frank’s character to that of Black Jack Randall, it makes Jack’s treachery all the more evil in contrast. I think by shining a bigger spotlight on Frank in the TV show, it ultimately makes Jack Randall a more effective villain.
Were there any elements of the TV series that you felt enhanced the story as you know it?
MORGAN: Like you, I’m thrilled that Frank Randall has been better developed. Tobias Menzies certainly has landed himself a juicy dual role. It took me a while to get used to Jamie, but I really love the casting. It helped me keep some of the clansmen straight as well. I’ll also admit I was pleased that the TV show was just as sexual and exposed as the book was.
Didn’t you say Book Three has been your favorite so far? Care to give me a hint as to why?
JENNIFER: Well, since we read the first chapter of Voyager together last evening, I don’t think it won’t spoil anything to say that we get to know more about Jamie Fraser in Book 3.
We’ll experience Jamie from something other than Claire’s perspective, and as a result I think there will be some truly eye-opening moments. I really can’t wait to have that discussion with you. You’ve already experienced so much by reading the first two books, but you haven’t seen anything yet…
MORGAN: I remember a scene from Outlander where Jamie got his first real thrashing from his father and afterward he was told to go into the house to let his mother comfort him. When he protested, his father told him something like “It’s not for you Lad, it’s for her.” I liked the parts we read about Jamie’s life before Claire and if book three is going to dip us into that again I will no doubt like it as much as you.
As Jennifer mentioned, we have already begun Voyager, (7% complete according to the Kindle), and will write up our feelings in another edition of Locklear Library as soon as we’re done.
In the meantime, we will be posting another discussion on Sylvain Reynard’s novella, The Prince, in the next few weeks. We read it to cleanse the palate between Books Two and Three of the Outlander series.
If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Diana Gabaldon and her works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.
Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.
See you soon and thanks for reading!