Now that my newest releases are available, and the short flash fiction for Halloween have been shared, it’s time for me to turn my attention back to my Historical Fiction Around the World series. If you recall, this is where I read historical fiction by non-American authors. It’s my way of expanding my own reading horizons and appreciating the breadth and depth of storytelling. I’ve selected a story from India entitled The Henna Artist by Akla Joshi as the next book in the series. It sounds interesting…
While I dip my toes into this intriguing tale, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Diana Gabaldon’s recent Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which I finally read. The book released in 2021 but not in paperback, so I waited nearly a year until the paperback became available. My thinking was that I have the first 8 books in paperback, and I wanted the 9th in paperback as well. Then I share the books with my daughter to read. So after reading the 888 pages of the story, I can say it was worth the wait. I enjoy Ms. Gabaldon’s stories. They are entertaining and informative even if at times I wish she’d had a better editor to help her with the writing. But, then again, once an author has reached the kind of status she has, editors tend to be far more permissive and forgiving. I guess they figure she’s built an audience writing in such a style…
Anyway, that’s my own personal preferences showing. Ms. Gabaldon’s writing is solid and she weaves an interesting story. While many things happen in this continuing saga of a time-traveling family, in this particular book not much at all happens from a big picture view. People fight, travel, defend themselves, build new homes, find new family, and navigate troubling war times during the American Revolution in the states. I found the day-to-day living aspects of the story fascinating if somewhat slow at times. Some scenes didn’t have any obvious significant purpose for this reader. But I always marvel at the depth of research she must have done to write these stories so specifically detailed. (I’d love to have a conversation with her about her research!)
Ultimately, I think of this book as a bridge to the next one, which Ms. Gabaldon teases “might be” the penultimate book in the series. It ends on a definite cliffhanger, which adds to my impression of its role in the series. Neither of those impressions are a denunciation of the story, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the evolving story of Claire and Jamie.
One interesting aspect of the points of view (POVs) used in this book is that all of the characters except Claire’s are written in third person close POV. Claire is heard in first person, bringing her inner thoughts onto the page in a more direct and personal way. This technique ensures the reader will know when we’re in Claire’s head without having to figure out who is talking/thinking. Given there are at least three other POVs employed in telling this tale, sometimes I had to pause to figure out in whose POV the scene was written.
Another thing I noticed is a reflection of Ms. Gabaldon’s scientific background. Her website bio states, “Dr. Diana J. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology.” Her writerly voice reflects this training in the use of passive language (not necessarily passive voice). She frequently begins her sentences with “There were/are/was” openings, for example. Using such constructs distance the reader from the character’s POV in one sense but also creates a “cushion” between the action of the story and the telling of it. Let me try to give an example. I just opened the novel to page 96 and found this sentence at the bottom of the page: “There was a long moment of silence.” As a comparison, what if she’d written: “A long moment of silence followed.” Or even, “A moment of silence stretched into an uncomfortable minute.” I read my examples as more active and energetic than the original. What do you think?
Yes, I do realize that most readers won’t even notice these kinds of aspects of the book. Readers, as opposed to writers reading, don’t look beyond the story. I, personally, having been trained as an editor and having studied as an English major emphasizing literature, am striving to not only tell an entertaining, informative story but to do so to the best of my ability. You’ll have to tell me how well I’ve succeeded, though, since a writer can’t really tell if they’re hitting the mark with their own writing.
If you haven’t read the series to date, you’re missing out on a lot of great historical fiction and I urge you to give it a try. If the size of the books proves too daunting—each is in the 800+ page range—then check out the Starz miniseries of Outlander. Ms. Gabaldon is the co-producer and advisor of the series and it stays true to the stories she wrote so you won’t miss out on the key elements of the series. Find out more here. Of course, if you’re like me and devour the tiniest details of life during a different time period, then you’d be better off reading the books.
Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy the Outlander series as much as I have!
And if you enjoy historical fiction set during the American Revolution, I hope you’ll take a peek at Emily’s Vow, the first book in my American Revolution series A More Perfect Union, set in Charleston, South Carolina during the British occupation of that beautiful city.
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!
Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.
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How could she love a man suspected of being a turncoat?
As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and Emily’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.
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