It has been a couple of weeks since I finished Diana Gabaldon's last mammoth installment of the Jamie and Claire saga, and I am only writing about it now because I was so disappointed with it I needed time to recover.
As many of you may know I am one of THOSE fans of Gabaldon's work. I mean I LOVE her. LOVE the series beyond all reason, and wait like a rabid Twilight fan waiting for the next fix of vampire glamour, for the next book to come out. I re-read the series in anticipation of its release, which only fanned the flames of my love for The Books.
I am going to review this book without revealing any spoilers, but I will warn you, it will not be glowing!
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? The beginning of the book starts confusing, and it doesn't really get much better througout. We start with Brianne and Roger in the past, and for those of you who read the last installment know how that one ends. Immediately I was completely at a loss as to why the book started that way, and it was never really explained. Then the most annoying thing happened....
LARGE HUNKS of the book were about Lord John Grey and his son William. I mean HUGE chunks. And it wasn't like they were interacting with Claire or Jamie, it was massive amounts of the book dedicated to their storylines which were then jammed together with J and C later. I cannot TELL you HOW IRATE I became with each passing page of these two. And it wasn't even scenes with them together most of the time, much of the book is dedicated to their perspective, but there is a central theme lacking in the book to tie all of the storylines together. Everytime I got to yet another section of William or Lord John, I would almost throw my book accross the room and scream, "WHERE THE HELL ARE JAMIE AND CLAIRE?" Echo is not a book about Jamie and Claire, I will warn you. And not only that, it is the sloppiest of Gabaldon's work by far, and I am not the only one who feels this way. (You can also check out Good Reads and read dozens of fans who have similar feelings) Now, granted, there are many people who loved this one, and that's fine. I'm just not one of them.
Here are some facts as we know them:
- DG does not write in a straight line (writing styles vary among authors, and this is not unusual), she writes in bits and then kinds of pastes them all together. Normally the pieces are all seamlessly sewn together to make a cohesive unit. Never has this style of writing been more apparent. Most chunks of the book are just that, and many times it feels like they were literally just cut and pasted on the editor's software.
- And let's talk about editing. DG has said that she delivered the pieces of the final manuscript, along with a few extra bits, to the editor only 5 WEEKS before it was released. Echo clocks in at a staggering 814 pages! How does an editor successfully edit a huge manuscript such as this in only 5 weeks? Many fans, including myself, actually think this book could have been made much better with more editing. A LOT more.
- Some people feel, and again I am ranked among them, that DG whether consciously or unconsciously has made some of us feel bullied into reading the Lord John series of books. Everytime I got to yet another huge section of William or LJ I felt like she was ramming the characters down my throat. I wanted a book about Jamie and Claire, who are, in reality, minor characters in this one.
- And now to another more delicate matter. One of the things I have always loved about the Outlander series is her handling of the "ripping bodice" scenes, to put it politely. They were always done with just the right amount of tact and yet enough description to make you melt just a little. In Echo, these scenes between J and C are WAY over the top, I mean to the point where I was like, "YUCK! I just didn't need to read that! And why is she writing it like that!" In fact, there is a scene with young Ian in bed by the fire outdoors watching Jamie and Claire and, well, taking things into his own hands, so to speak. And we are hearing his thoughts as he is saying, "Uncle Jamie likes that" sort of thing. OH MY GOD, Diana, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!
I am so glad to get that off my chest.
To be honest, I have not been able to even look at the books on my shelves since then. I am not even sure when I will be able to read them again, my feelings are so strong. I know this may seem overdramatic, and that's fine, but when you invest your time and life reading a series over YEARS, and each book that comes out takes 3 or 4 YEARS to be released, it is not hard to feel cheated. Now we have to wait ANOTHER 4 years to find out what happens, and since there were so many cliffhangers at the end, many fans feel very frustrated. And if the New York Times bestsellers list is any indication, her book opened at number 2 on the list (second only to The Lost Symbol which was released only a week prior) and then slipped to number 8, I believe it was, and then it quickly dropped out of the top ten entirely, and I believe it is for good reason.
And to those that loved it? YOU ARE SO LUCKY! I WANTED to love it. I wanted to be over-the-moon about it.
PS you can comments on Diana's blog where some fans have questioned her about some of the issues discussed above, her answers are pretty interesting.