Finally finished re-reading Dragonfly in Amber, the second of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I was correct in remembering that there’s some reasonably bleak stuff in this one, but I’d forgotten the framing device.
So. At the end of Outlander, Claire has saved Jamie from Jack Randall and they’ve escaped to France. They now have, as it were, dual obligations to the future: Claire is pregnant, and they know that Prince Charles’ attempt to take the throne is going to end at Culloden with the slaughter of the clans. Can history be changed? That, as they say, is the question—which they are going to try and answer.
I open up Dragonfly, and we’re in Inverness in 1968. Claire is visiting a young scholar, Roger Wakefield, with her daughter, Brianna, who is manifestly not related to Frank (Claire’s husband in the 20th century, now deceased) even though she thinks she is. Claire wants to know whether certain men survived Culloden.
I remember now the bewilderment I felt upon reading this for the first time. Claire decided to stay with Jamie in Outlander; what is she doing here with Jamie’s child, and what happened to him? A chapter and a half in, Claire tells Roger that Jamie Fraser died on Culloden, and oh did my heart sink.
So, having forgotten that the 20th-century story started up again here, I was initially surprised. As soon as I got past that, though, I remembered why the 20th-century story was there. We know, from just the first chapter, that Culloden happened. Which means a lot of heartache is ahead of us when we get back into the 18th-century part of the story, and a pretty high body count, most likely. But at least the beginning of the book lets us know that at least Claire and Brianna made it out safely. And the end of the book tells us that Jamie is Not Dead after all. The last page, actually—not quite a cliffhanger, but I’m glad I started these after the first three or four were out. (I hope this is not a big surprise to people, since I’ve said there are more of these.) So it’s necessary, though disorienting at first.
(As a side note: I persistently mis-type Jaime for Jamie. I have no idea why, but it’s a real pain to make sure I catch all the mis-typings, because it’s not an error that stands out well to my eyes. So if I missed one and you’re wondering who Jaime is, sorry.)