Book Review: An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) by Diana Gabaldon
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
“You—you—oaf! How dare you do that to me? You think I haven’t got anything better to do with my life than trot round after you, sticking pieces back on?”
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon is the seventh Outlander “big book”.
Possible spoilers here for the other books in the series if you haven’t read them yet.
Jamie and Claire Fraser continue to live at Fraser’s Ridge. Meanwhile, the American War for Independence has started, and Claire knows who will win. But, even if Jamie chooses to be on the winning side, there’s no guarantee he’ll survive. But he’d rather die than face his son—William who is a lieutenant in the British Army—on the battlefield. The Fraser’s decide to travel back to Scotland for Jamie’s printing press, but like most things that should be straightforward, it’s not. Claire’s daughter, Brianna and her family have gone back to the future and are adjusting to life in the twentieth century. They watch the history of Jamie and Claire unfolding through letters that have managed to survive.
“A man’s life had to have more purpose than only to feed himself each day.”
I love how Diana Gabaldon’s writing is so descriptive and unhurried. The books are long with so many events, but somehow perfectly paced. I also like how she turns everyday intentions or activities into events which completely change the lives of the characters, usually in a detrimental way.
This book had many POV’s all with their own nuances: Claire, Jamie, Ian, Lord John and William. Plus Roger and Brianna. William isn’t a new character, but the book opens with him and includes much of his story as his character had a significant role. So far, he has only been mentioned as a child (other than brief mentions at the end of the last book). Now he is an adult and gives an insight into life in the British Army during the war with America. I like how this connects Jamie, Lord John and William, even though they have parted ways in the past.
Having so many characters, many of their stories overlap. And as always, all have moments of growth. There are many characters who I enjoyed watching meet each other (although I won’t mention them to avoid spoilers) and new unique and interesting characters. Some stories are short-lived while others continue throughout the whole book, such as the mysterious man looking for Fergus.
Lord John features a lot more which is great. I’ve been looking forward to reading his series and find out his history with a few of the characters mentioned in this book.
“Aye, well. I’ve known battles fought for worse reasons. And since this time yesterday, I’ve committed piracy, mutiny, and murder. I may as well add treason and make a day of it.”
It is a tough, but necessary decision for Jamie and Claire to leave Fraser’s Ridge to travel to Scotland with Ian. It will be the first time Ian has visited his parents since he left for America. This, plus the events of Claire and Jenny’s falling out, makes them uncertain of how they will be received.
The saddest and most unexpected thing which happened near the beginning of the novel was when Claire had to say goodbye to her cat Adso. They had to leave him at the Ridge (being looked after of course). It was a sudden moment of growth for Claire as she realised that there were so many things she hadn’t cried over, yet she let the parting from an animal reduce her to sobbing. It’s one of my favourite scenes in the series so far. I also love the little clues that Claire and Bree miss each other. I couldn’t imagine being separated from my daughter in this way.
“But places held tight to the things that had happened in them, and to come again to a place you had once lived was to be brought face-to-face with what you had done there and who you had been.”
Obviously, the characters are ageing with mentions of cracking joints, needing eyeglasses and younger characters thinking of marriage and children. Claire continues to be the MacGyver of medicine, performing medical interventions as best she can in the circumstances. I feel this book had less gore and shocking aspects than some of the other books. Not that I don’t enjoy them, but it was a bit of a relief.
“He had a most unusual voice—soft, warm, and somehow smoky, like oolong tea with a lot of sugar.”
I enjoy the inclusion of relatable things such as keeping food from seagulls, not sleeping on a full moon, finding your eyes are not what they used to be and a man’s great love for machines (namely a printing press).
There is so much humour in this book and many bizarre moments such as Lord John walking in on a nude sunbathing doctor and that a frying pan is as good as a lot of other things to help you survive in a swamp.
“There’s a reason why the hero never dies, you know…When the worst happens, someone still has to decide what to do.”
I liked the inclusion of letters as a device for communication over time and space. It was lovely for Brianna and Roger to read letters from both Jamie and Claire, but I’m wondering what will happen when they get to the last one? There were also other letters included from various army personnel/leaders and Lord John’s correspondences.
Gabaldon included plenty of Scottish folklore and history with the inclusion of the Nucklelavee and Rodger’s knowledge of the Gàildhlig.
“Do women hold back the evolution of such things as freedom and other social ideals, out of fear for themselves or their children? Or do they in fact inspire such things—and the risks required to reach them—by providing the things worth fighting for? Not merely fighting to defend, either, but to propel forward, for a man wanted more for his children than he would ever have.”
The plot of this book seems to sail along with slight ups and downs until the last fifty pages. Since my copy of this book is 1065 pages long, I was starting to get suspicious that things were still flowing too smoothly, but then I came to chapter 93 which was called “A Series of Short, Sharp, Shocks.” This definitely suited! There were also at least three cliffhangers, so when you read it, you might want to make sure you have access to the next book unless you don’t mind waiting.
I’m so glad this series is still going. Hopefully, by the time I’m done with the next book, the ninth one will be published soon after. Fingers crossed!
“…He turned my hand palm up, his big thumb tracing the hills and valleys, joints and calluses, lifeline and heartline, and the smooth fleshy swell of the mount of Venus, where the faint scar of the letter “J” was still barely visible. I’d held him in my hand for the best part of my life.”
Book Published: 2009