138 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After approx. 3600 pages of Gabaldon's books I am still yearning for more. Drums of Autumn is yet another fantastic addition to this series. This book is just as pleasing as the previous three, rich with imagery, historically interesting, along with the comfortable presence of Claire and Jamie that I have grown quite fond of throughout this series. Gabaldon continues to keep the story interesting by introducing new characters and saying good-bye to some, creating new drama, but also bringing back and reminding us of some characters from the previous books. This leaves you wanting more, knowing there is more to be told about all of these characters and how their lives will weave into the web of Jamie and Claire's.
The pace is a bit slower in this book (but by no means boring), this helped me slow down a bit, enjoy the language(s), revel in the imagery and prepare myself for the break I am now forced to take waiting for the next installment of Jamie and Claire, Brianna and Roger. I am left feeling "what will I read now?"
I highly recommend all of the books in this series to everyone. Gabaldon is a wonderful writer!
77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ostensibly, "Drums of Autumn" is about reunions with fathers. Gabaldon, however, seems to meander about quite a bit before she remembers her theme. Although I didn't do an exact count, I agree with the reviewer who commented that the first 500 pages are terrible. "Drums" begins with Jamie and Claire attending the execution of one of Jamie's fellow inmates. Jamie and Claire, plus entourage, are heading to a Scottish settlement in Wilmington, North Carolina, where his aunt owns a plantation. The first half of the book mostly involves the mishaps on their journey north, life at the aunt's plantation, Jamie's debate over whether to strike out on his own or accept his aunt's generous offer, an adventure-filled trip to the wilderness, and ultimately, getting settled in a home in the new world.
While I don't want to suggest that all these events are mundane--this is Jamie and Claire Fraser we're talking about, after all--the events are very episodic. Gabaldon lacks any kind of overriding theme to organize the plot. In "Outlander," we had Claire's ultimate decision about whether to return to her 20th century life. In "Dragonfly in Amber," we had their attempt to prevent Culloden. In "Voyager," we first had Claire's search for records of what happened to Jamie, and later the search and rescue of Jamie's nephew Ian.
Also missing in "Drums" is a good villain. With the deaths of Jack Randall and Geillis Duncan, Gabaldon has to create a new bad guy or two. She does introduce her villains fairly early on--only their true malevolence does not become apparent until much later. In other words, unlike the way the threat of Jack Randall loomed in "Outlander," the threat of these villains seems to disappear when they initially disappear from the plot.
About halfway through "Drums," the Frasers' daughter, Brianna, who remains in the 20th century, discovers something about her parents' fate and decides to travel to the past to warn them. Her boyfriend, Roger Wakefield, follows her. Once Brianna and Roger wind up in the past, the plot tends to liven up, and the direction of the book also begins to make sense. Without revealing certain plot twists, I will note that certain events should create a sense of urgency to get certain issues resolved--and yet Gabaldon does not really leave the reader that worried about the potential outcomes. Gabaldon does manage a few nice little plot twists at the end, so keep going. Suffice to say that Roger has an interesting encounter with an ancestor, and Frank's influence comes into play.
Despite my tepid praise for this book, as historical romances go, it's still quite good--just not as good as the first three. One aspect that I appreciate about Gabaldon's books is that she does not overly romanticize the hardships and harsh living conditions of the past. She also deftly avoids overly sentimentalizing certain situations or going for the cliche. For instance, when Brianna meets her real father, at long last, after traveling through time and across the ocean, she first seems him behind a pub, urinating--not in some idealized encounter.
I'm crossing my fingers that "The Fiery Cross" is better, but I'm not optimistic.
260 of 300 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is the fourth in a series of what has been, until now, exceptionally well written time travel, adventure/romance books by the author. There are four such books published to date in what is anticipated to be a series of six books. Those of us who are hopelessly addicted to this series are awaiting the publication and release of book five, "The Fiery Cross".
I urge the reader to start at the beginning and read each and every one in the order in which it was written. Be not afraid of the length of each book. Trust me when I say that you will end up wishing that they were each longer, so riveting is the story that the author unfolds. Ms. Gabaldon is a master storyteller without compare, employing the superlative use of actual historical events with authentic period detail to weave a three dimensional tapestry of timeless love and adventure. While the core of the story is about a love that transcends time, it is an adventure story that holds the reader in its thrall.
The love that spans time is that which twentieth century Englishwoman, Claire Randall, has for eighteenth century Scottish highlands warrior, James Fraser. Those readers who have read the first book in the series, "Outlander", know that in 1945, Claire, a combat nurse during World War II, is reunited with her husband, Frank, after the war. While on a second honeymoon in Scotland, she visits a strange, flat topped hill, where a forbidding stone circle draws her. Touching one of the stones, she is hurled through a vortex in time and finds herself in eighteenth century Scotland, where she meets the brave and brawny, red headed Scot, James Fraser, with whom she falls head over heels in love. Finding herself thrust into the midst of clan warfare and intrigue, she and her beloved 'Jamie' have enough adventures to last a lifetime.
The second book, "Dragonfly in Amber", is a continuation of that story, told from the perspective of the twentieth century where Claire, now a doctor, has lived for the past twenty years. Upon the death of her twentieth century husband, Frank, Claire returns to Scotland with her grown, red headed daughter, Brianna. There she discloses to Brianna the events of her secret past, as well as the truth as to who Brianna's biological father truly is and of the love that Claire bore him.
While in Scotland, however, Claire discovers something that will change her future, as well as her past. You see, for the past twenty years Claire has mistakenly believed that her beloved 'Jamie' died in the historic battle of Culloden. It was there that the Scottish highlanders bravely fought the English in a misguided attempt to restore Charles Stuart, their bonnie Prince Charlie, to the English throne, only to be decimated on the battlefield. Those few who survived were branded as Jacobite traitors and imprisoned, and their families disenfranchised. It was this very event that Claire and 'Jamie' had conspired to change, only to fail.
Their story transports the reader from the turmoil of the Scottish highlands to the intrigue of the French Court and regales the reader with the adventures of the two lovers, as they conspire to change the very course of history. It was this valiant attempt that ultimately brought Claire and 'Jamie' to the crossroad that would compel these star crossed lovers to part and have Brianna become a denizen of the twentieth century.
In "Voyager", Claire, now realizing that the love of her life and soulmate survived the battle of Culloden, makes the decision to go back in time and find James Fraser, as she has not stopped loving or wanting him every waking moment for the past twenty years. Leaving her daughter, Brianna, she once more hurls herself into the vortex of time to eighteenth century Scotland to begin her search for James Fraser, in hopes of being reunited with her 'Jamie'.
"Voyager" tells the story of what happened to Claire Randall and James Fraser in those intervening years. It tells of their ultimate reunion and rediscovery. Against a backdrop of historical events and period detail and with a cast of unforgettable characters, it regales the reader with their new adventures, as Claire returns to a still divided, turmoil ridden Scotland. Reunited with Jamie, none the worse for wear,they seek to make a life for themselves. As their love comes full circle, they take to the high seas, and their adventures continue, captivating the reader once more.
In "Drums of Autumn", the story takes somewhat of a detour, as it begins to focus more on Brianna. Back in the twentieth century, Brianna and her boyfriend, Roger, a Scot and college history professor, as well as descendant of one of James Fraser's cousins from clan MacKenzie, each independently make a discovery that stuns them. Roger keeps it to himself, while Brianna acts upon it. The discovery involves an old news clipping which tells of Claire's and James' premature deaths in a house fire in pre-revolutionary, frontier America. Brianna makes the decision to go to the stone circle to try and go back in time to change the course of history and save her parents. She does not, however, tell Roger of her plans. Roger, discovering Brianna's deception, follows on her heels and, on that strange, flat topped hill in Scotland he, too, enters the stone circle and is himself hurled into the vortex of time.
Brianna and Roger catch up with each other in the eighteenth century only to be parted for a time, each having their own adventures. Claire and James by now are established homesteaders in North Carolina and are enjoying, what is for them, a relatively staid life. By the time Brianna catches up with them, an event has occurred in her life which may have the impact of forcing her to stay mired in the past.
This fourth book in the series is a bit of a disappointment, as it could have used some serious editing due to the author's self indulgence. Moreover, the characters are not so well drawn, as they are in the first three books in the series. Unfortunately, a pivotal character, that of Brianna, is uncharismatic and comes across as somewhat vapid and stupid. Brianna definitely needs work, if she is to capture the readers' imagination as have Claire and 'Jamie'. At the stage of development in which she is, Brianna would be unable to sustain another book. The same goes for Roger, who comes across as somewhat one dimensional, though he does have potential, as he seems to have a latent smoldering and sensual quality to his personality.
Still, notwithstanding some of these issues, this remains a compelling time travel saga, and my thirst for a fifth volume remains undiminished. I only hope that the lengthy time span between the fourth and the fifth volumes means that the author is working out some of the kinks in this new and developing direction which the series seems to be taking.
97 of 113 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Drums Of Autumn" is the fourth book in Diana Gabaldon's extraordinary "Outlander" series. It amazes me that Ms. Gabaldon has been able to continue to delight readers with her consistently good writing, excellent plots, superb characters and meticulous historic research for thousands of pages and four novels. "Drums Of Autumn" most certainly will not disappoint fans of the series. If you have not read the three preceding novels, I strongly urge you to do so before beginning this book. "Drums of Autumn" may be able to stand as a novel in its own right, but I think it would be too confusing to enjoy it thoroughly without having read the historic and personal drama that Ms. Gabaldon details so well in her previous books. To label the "Outlander" series as merely historical romance fiction would be to do it a terrible injustice. This is an epic historical romance, yes...and so much more. The relationship between Claire and Jamie is one of the most caring and intimate I have ever encountered - in fiction or real life. This is a couple who are solidly committed to a life together for better or worse. Theirs is a love that truly transcends the boundaries of time.
More than twenty years before this novel begins, Claire Beauchamps Randall, vacationing in post WWII Scotland, stepped through the ancient stone circle known as Craigh na Dun - and was suddenly sucked back in time to 1743 and war-torn Scotland. It was here that she met and married her own true love, highlander James Fraser. Before the tragic battle of Culloden Moor she was forced to return to the 20th century to protect herself and her unborn daughter, abandoning Jamie in the process. Two decades later Claire made the journey back through the stones to reunite with James in the 18th century, leaving their grown daughter, Brianna, behind.
James and Claire both agreed that there was no possibility to build a life for themselves in Scotland. The clans had been forced to disband, the people were starving and living in abject poverty, most of the men were dead, crippled, imprisoned and or jobless as a result of the doomed Jacobite uprising. The Frasers along with a few friends and James' nephew, Ian, cross the Atlantic and make their way to North Carolina where Jamie's aunt has a plantation. At the same parallel time, 20th century Brianna and her beloved Scottish boyfriend Roger discover some terrifying information about Claire's and Jamie's fate. Brianna is determined to reach her parents somehow and warn them of coming events, hoping to change the future. The inevitability of these events and the frustration and inability to change the future continue to be strong themes.
This is a phenomenal novel! Ms. Gabaldon details frontier life in beautiful 18th century North Carolina so clearly and accurately that one literally feels swept back in time. Claire and James have grown tremendously as characters, as have the love and intimacy between them. I have never experienced a couple as unique as these two in modern fiction. New characters are introduced, as well as a marvelously vile villain, and in typical Gabaldon style, these new folks are portrayed with realism, complexity and humor as are many of the old favorites. This is also Brianna's story. She finally meets her father in "Drums Of Autumn" and becomes a woman with a woman's responsibilities.
The books in this series are among my favorites novels, not just because the plots are so fascinating that I am unable to stop reading once I begin...although this is true. The characters are so palpably real that the reader actually bonds with them, at least with Jamie and Claire, in a way that is most unusual and very moving. We follow their lives and observe them as they grow as human beings, experience joy, suffer, and just interact with each other on a day to day basis, as well as in the midst of high adventure. We watch as they make history and as history tears away at them. I cannot recommend this book and series highly enough.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2001
"Time travel, not my cup of tea " I thought when I first came across this book whilst researching novels set in 18th century North America.
I like my historical novels with a dose of realism, not fantasy. And , frankly, the rave reviews of this and the preceding volumes made me wonder."Drums of Autumn" is the fourth in a series in which a 20th century Englishwoman is transported to 18th century Scotland, falls in love with a dashing native called Jamie , marries him, and has lots of adventures. But , as I found, not having got into the whole "Jamie and Claire "thing was no bar to enjoyment of this novel at all.
The sterling quality of the writing drew me in and never let up. How can it be that a book of 800 pages whithout much of a plot still seems too short? Gabaldon is an excellent storyteller who brings her characters - and their surroundings - vividly to life. It is a mark of her skill that she manages to make an existing relationship sound new and exciting .(If you think that's nothing special, have you ever wondered why most novelists abandon their characters after courtship? As in life, so in fiction people find it much harder to sustain than to start new).
And the device of time travel succeeds extremely well in dealing with the dilemma of the historical novelist: the desire to go back in time and fix things, to apply modern thought to a historic situation. We feel with Claire's outrage at slavery, bodily punishment and everyday cruelty, thoughts that would be anachronistic in a character of the period. Because she is a modern creature, Claire can voice these thoughts, if not act on them.
For me, a particular gem was the deeply moving tale of another time traveller whose remains Claire stumbles across and who appears as a ghost to save her life. The story of his failed attempt to change the past and warn his people is revealed on the occasion of a visit to an Indian village, whose residents refused to believe his prophesies of doom.
Claire of course knows the future but also knows that she is powerless to change the past. If you could go back in time, who would you try to warn?
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The fourth in the Outlander series, Drums of Autumn begins in Charleston in 1767 where Claire, Jamie, Fergus and Ian begin a journey to find Jamie's Aunt Jocasta who owns a plantation in North Carolina. As with the previous three novels in this series, Diana Gabaldon weaves stories within stories creating a rich tale of adventure, suspense and love.
In Drums of Autumn Brianna, Jamie and Claire's daughter travels back in time to find her parents to warn them of disaster in their future. Brianna found a story in an old newspaper telling of the death of Jamie and Claire Fraser in a house fire. Roger Wakefield, Brianna's sometime boyfriend, also found the story. Roger decided not to tell Brianna for fear she would attempt to go back in time to warn her parents. When Roger learns that Brianna has done exactly that, he follows her through the stones back to 18th century Scotland. Brianna finds her way to Lollybrach and meets Jenny, Jamie's sister, and Ian and all the children. This is a wonderful part of the book where the reader can appreciate and feel the amazing connection between past and future, gave me the chills just reading it.
Roger eventually catches up with Brianna in the colonies after Roger's most arduous ocean crossing. I do agree with several of the other reviewers who feel that Brianna's character is a bit weak. I haven't caught on to, or much liked, Brianna at all since the first introduction of her character. Brianna does not have the depth or heart that Claire has and comes off as a self-centered child in many ways.
Brianna and Roger each have their own separate adventures and each is intertwined with Jamie and Claire's. Lord John Grey appears again to play an integral role in Brianna's life. The character of Lord Grey is one of my favorites as he is a man of honor.
In Drums of Autumn Jamie is not the ferocious warrior, nor the persecuted prisoner; he's a farmer and a builder. Although it was a relief of sorts not to endure any floggings or near-death misadventures, it seemed as though Jamie was out of his element having been removed from Scotland. Nonetheless, this book was everything the previous books were in it's own way. Diana Gabaldon has succeeded in continuing the `love that spans time' between Jamie and Claire and has added more depth to their relationship.
This series is one of the best I have read. I was overjoyed to discover the 5th in the series, The Fiery Cross, has already been released already so I won't have to wait to continue this engrossing saga.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2006
This book is the 4th installment in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. The stars of the series are Jamie and Claire Fraser, whose long, passionate love has transcended time and keeps readers coming back for more.
Jamie and Claire are living in 18th century America during this installment. Their daughter, Brianna, is a young woman in the 20th century. But when Brianna comes across historical references to her parents' untimely death, she rushes back into the past to warn them. However, her love affair with Roger Mackenzie Wakefield complicates this endeavor.
Had I not enjoyed the first three books of this series so thoroughly (especially Outlander, the first book) I would give Drums of Autumn at least 4 stars. I did really enjoy it, particularly after the first 300 pages or so - the story seemed to get much tighter and more exciting at that point. But this book simply doesn't live up to Gabaldon's previous work overall.
Why? Well, for starters, Brianna and Roger occupy a non-trivial amount of the book, and they are simply not as interesting as Jamie and Claire. Gabaldon tries very hard - in some ways their relationship follows the same trajectory as Jamie and Claire's (they fight a lot despite being attracted to each other, they're both stubborn). But the "spark" just isn't there. It does not help that Brianna, despite being an MIT graduate, seems to lack maturity and common sense. And Gabaldon cannot decide if she wants to make Roger a quiet, retreating historian or a loud Scot like Jamie.
The parts that feature Jamie and Claire are extensive, but they also disappoint sometimes. They are still wonderful and compelling characters, but they can be exasperating, too. Gabaldon never tires of reminding the reader of Claire's beauty and intelligence, and though I applaud her for featuring a "mature" female heroine, I am tired of hearing about how she looks half her age, and how every man all but falls madly in love with her on sight. Jamie, meanwhile, is still dashing and brave, but he veers into brutish violence a little too quickly and too often. In a way, this is understandable. Jamie has led a very harsh life. But in putting Jamie through so many years of hell, Gabaldon has sacraficed some of what made the young Jamie so appealing and different.
The matter of Claire's first husband, Frank Randall, also troubles this book. Gabaldon can't seem to decide how she feels about Frank. In the previous book, Voyager, he was portrayed as an insufferable racist and philanderer. But in this installment, Gabaldon seems determined to prove that Frank was a good husband to Claire, and several plot points revolve around her continuing devotion to his memory (even though she does, and always did, love Jamie more). I had hoped all talk of Frank would cease after he passed away, but, that's clearly not the case. Gabaldon has trouble letting characters go. Even those who are long gone reappear in dialogue and memory to a frustrating degree.
Having said all this, again, I enjoyed the book, and I will finish the rest of the series. Gabaldon's efforts are always engrossing, and no other love story I've ever read compares to that of Jamie and Claire.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2003
I am starting to get a little sad at the prospect of soon finishing these books! What will I do with my life? I do know that I will really miss these characters.
I agree with many of the previous reviewers about Brianna (even 30 years ago girls were being 'sent off' to have illegitimate babies)--I can't imagine what reactions would have been 200 years ago. Wouldn't Jocasta have kept her hidden? And why didn't she tell people that she was 'handfasted' when her pregnancy was discovered? It's also ironic that Claire is always saying that Brianna is stubborn just like Jamie. Claire is pretty stubborn herself! I did enjoy Roger and Brianna's story though.
I disagree with previous reviewers about DRUMS OF AUTUMN needing a villain. Bonnet is extremely dastardly, isn't he? Frankly I'm glad Black Jack is gone!
I loved this novel as much as the first three. The writing is exceptionally beautiful and as we have grown accustomed, the plot is compelling. As usual, something is happening on every page and I enjoyed the fact that Jamie and Claire have settled down (sort of!). The last few pages of this 'bonnie tale' are so poignant and touching that I was moved to many tears!
I have learned so much about Scottish and Colonial history; this is a historical novel with large doses of romance, adventure, and fantasy to boot. And best of all is the love story of Jamie and Claire: "Your face is my heart, Sassenach," he said softly, "and love of you is my soul." Or, "And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you." And, "You are my courage, as I am your conscience," he whispered. "You are my heart--and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?"
I recommend these books to anyone who loves to read; they will touch your heart as they have mine!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The fourth book in the Outlander series begins in 1769, as our favorite middle-aged couple, Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling bride Claire, begin a new life in the mountain wilderness of North Carolina. Having traveled across the Atlantic, with a brief stop in the Caribbean, the two are ready to settle down and make a home of their own. Meanwhile two hundred years back in the future, their daughter, Brianna, continues to frustrate her historian boyfriend, Roger, by refusing his marriage proposal. Both Roger and Brianna are troubled by a newspaper clipping that spells disaster for her parents, and each secretly chooses to handle the news in their own way.
This installment of the Outlander saga takes some of the focus off of Jamie and Claire, and focuses more on Brianna and Roger, who aren't all that interesting at first glance. We also meet some old friends and new enemies. Unfortunately, it took almost 400 pages before I really got into this book, unlike the earlier three. Of course, the good news is that I still had over 600 pages of excellent reading that I couldn't put down! The last few pages were the best. Now I am ready to dive into the fifth Outlander book, The Fiery Cross.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was originally prepared to be partially disappointed with this book as a few of the other reviews had left me with the mistaken impression that it didn't deliver. Much to my delight, I LOVED Drums of Autumn! It delivered all of the goods and more. I was also thoroughly taken with the preceeding 3 books in the series.
With Drums, I found enjoyment in Jamie and Claire being comfortably together, secure in their love for one another and settled in their new home. This book, like the other three, was filled with laughter, tears, romance and adversity. It dealt with each characters emotions perhaps even better than in the preceding novels because it took it's time - I for one enjoyed the slower pace (but never, never a boring one). I liked the addition of Brianna and Roger's story as well as John Grey's continued presence in the lives of our hero and heroine. I can't wait to see what happens next - the introduction of Stephen Bonnett as well as Will's reappearance should make for some interesting story plots in the next 2 books!
I have never been so taken with any characters as I have with Jamie and Claire. Diana Gabaldon is a phenomenal writer - she speaks directly to my heart and sense of adventure! I recommend this as well as every book in the Outlander series - 5 stars for all.