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Customer Review

970 of 1,021 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but boring, October 11, 2009
This review is from: An Echo in the Bone (Outlander) (Hardcover)
I never in a million years thought I'd give DG less than five stars. She's one of three authors on my release-date auto-buy, and I've been eagerly awaiting this book for years. But having spent the last couple of weeks reading it, I really don't even know what to say (I know I should take that back - I ALWAYS have something to say and I'm about to say it).

Problem one: It took me several weeks to read. I'm a compulsive reader. I can't sleep with a story unfinished, and yet Echo never grabbed me. I went several days without evening picking it up because I didn't feel like it. I never felt emotionally engaged. A good lot of the time, I just didn't care what was happening. And even worse, I felt bored by the story.

Problem two: The book is so physically big that it hurt to read. And I mean that literally. I had shoulder and elbow pain from holding it up. It really, really needed to be cut. There was a point where I wished DG had cut out the last 150 pages and replaced them with "Six months later." There was just too much of mundane life and while beautifully written, it had no presence, no force, no suspense. The book overall needed more focus on story and less on how to fix a collapsed lung using nothing but tar and a bird feather. Many of the elements got lots of story didn't end up leading anywhere (such as Ian & the two orphan girls. I expected them to show up again.)

Problem three: Timing. The book is really three different stories. Jamie & Claire in 1777 America (mostly), William (Wee Willie) Ramsome in about the same time period, and Bree & Roger in 1980's Scotland. But the timelines didn't happen evenly and so I was often rather confused. For example: William is leaving to go find Dr. Hunter in the rebel camp. Then we switch to Jamie/Claire and cover 7-8-9 months time in a hundred or more pages. Then we go back to William who has found the doctor a day or so later. This went on throughout the book, and made me crazy. Since one of the main foreshadows of the book is that Jamie & William would meet again, I could never tell if they were even in the same time / same place.

Problem four: Pacing. The book has more of an episodic plot rather than linear. It unfolds around smaller incidents that contribute to a greater whole. Many of the smaller incidents involve the William, Lord Grey, and the battles of the American Revolution, Jamie & Claire trying to make it to Scotland, Roger and Bree making a life in more modern Lallybroch. Things move slowly, but beautifully. I have learned to expect that from DG, and she is so good at it that I enjoy the details and the history and the true-to-life characters (knowing that she is as historically accurate as possible). But in this book it was way TOO slow.

And the last couple hundred pages (the ending?) were just strange. First things slow down so much that pages and pages are devoted to reminiscing and revisiting the past and death and... (well I can't tell you everything!) Then it switches so that the story & people move so fast I can't keep up. And the turn-about surprises are SO surprising that I have a hard time believing them. I'm left with a feeling of `where did that come from?' and `why did that happen?' and `you've got to be kidding me!' The end was hugely dissatisfying, and yet that was (to me) where the real story was. The good stuff was glossed over.

So while DG is still one of the masters of the written word and I will probably fork out another $30 for her next book, I overall am rather disappointed. I feel like she is more interested in showing all the neat historical details she has learned than in telling a story. She has lost the story. And that makes me so sad because I have spent something like 16 or 17 years following these characters and being invested in their final outcome (we all know it comes back to that ghost watching Claire brush her hair). Please DG, go back to telling us their story rather than showing us what it was like to live in the eighteenth century.
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Showing 1-10 of 162 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 12, 2009, 1:00:25 PM PDT
Misfit says:
I couldn't agree more. I never thought it would be possible to put a DG novel down and walk away.

Posted on Oct 18, 2009, 11:04:06 PM PDT
N. Clark says:
I know. I want to know when Jamie went thru the stones to see Claire brushing her hair. When she gets over the feeling of being Herself maybe she will return to the roots of the story. Thank you.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009, 1:29:51 PM PDT
Deana Morss says:
I really agree with what you said about showing us historical details rather than continuing the story. She really seems to have gotten wrapped up in showing off writing style and research than telling us the story. It reads a bit like a series of essays written just to show how different technical aspects of writing work.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009, 8:40:09 AM PDT
N. Clark says:
Diana needs to get off Herself and she also needs a capable editor! I hope she finishes the next book soon and closes the story. I am tired of being dragged along and left hanging.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009, 11:12:41 AM PDT
Some times I had trouble keeping up with how much time had passed. Like some parts of the story are covered in huge grinding detail. Like 20 pages could cover one day or one little event. And then it buzzes forward to several months later. I could not figure out how long Jamie & Claire were camped out at the fort. It seemed like months went by at times but I was not completely sure. And I was totally not sure of how much time went by with Roger & Bree. That was never at all clear. The only time line was the daughter left as a baby & then was a toddler.

The book is unwieldly large. I thought it would be helpful, but more expensive to publish it as a two volume set. It's a bit like trying to read an annotated complete works of Shakespeare.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2009, 8:00:41 PM PDT
V. Bratcher says:
Ummm...Jamie doesn't go through the stones. It's his ghost that sees her.

Posted on Oct 26, 2009, 8:03:15 PM PDT
V. Bratcher says:
"Problem two: The book is so physically big that it hurt to read. And I mean that literally. I had shoulder and elbow pain from holding it up." -- I had the same problem!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2009, 4:24:53 PM PDT
N. Clark says:
How is she going to explain that though?

Posted on Nov 8, 2009, 12:04:27 PM PST
Rock Jock says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2009, 8:48:52 PM PST
But that's the point. I love large books. Dorothy Dunnett & JK Rowling are two of my favorite writers. I've never in my life had problems reading a huge book. Until this one.

"If you can't hold a large book, then wait for the paperback!"
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