Saturday, October 10, 2009

Discovering the Writing of Diana Gabaldon- Mini-Review of "Outlander"

I love it when I discover a new writer whose grasp of language allows her to tell a compelling story with artistry and panache. Such a writer is Diana Gabaldon. I discovered her writing in a marvelous way. A few weeks ago, in one of the common areas of Cambridge Innovation Center where I maintain office space for White Rhino Partners, I noticed a small pile of book with a sign that said: "Take one for free." The books were a paperback version of Gabaldon's acclaimed novel, "Outlander," and included a few pages of a sneak peek at her about-to-be-published sequel work, "An Echo in the Bone."

The novel, "Outlander," proved to be a page turner in the best sense of that phrase. I could not put the book down and plowed through the 800+ pages in short order. The tag lines on the front cover promised a book about: "history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul . . you know, the usual stuff of literature."

The wonderful thing that I am pleased to report to you is that this tongue-in-cheek preview of the novel understated the breadth of Gabaldon's reach as a story teller. I love the verbal palette with which she paints. Allow me to share a brief excerpt to let you taste just how delicious is her use of visual imagery and her rich vocabulary:

"It was dark in the cottage and there was a bear in the corner of the room. In panic, I recoiled against my escort, wanting nothing more to do with wild breasts. He shoved me strongly forward into the cottage. As I staggered toward the fire, the hulking shape turned toward me, and I realized belatedly that it was merely a large man in a bearskin.

A bearskin cloak, to be exact, fastened at the neck with a silver gilt brooch as large as the palm of my hand. It was made in the shape of two leaping stags, backs arched and heads meeting to form a circle. The locking pin was a short, tapered fan, the head of it shaped like the tail of a fleeing deer.

I noticed the brooch in detail because it was directly in front of my nose. Looking up, I briefly considered the possibility that I had been wrong, perhaps it really
was a bear.

Still, bears presumably did not wear brooches or have eyes like blueberries; small, round, and dark, shiny blue. They were sunk in heavy cheeks whose lower slopes were forested with silver-shot black hair. Similar hair cascaded over think set shoulders to mingle with the hair of the cloak, which, in spite of its new use, was still pungently redolent of its former owner." (Page 731)

I love that kind of vivid writing. I have plans to order the sequel, which has just been published: "An Echo in the Bone."

To the person who left that pile of free books on the 14th floor at CIC, I say: "The you for hooking me on the drug of Gabaldon's writing!"


colliecat said...

Wonderful review--I completely agree with your estimation of Diana Gabaldon's wriiting prowess. I'm not sure you are aware though, that following Outlander are SIX more books; the last, (so far), is An Echo in the Bone, which you mentioned. The others are, in order, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes. She has also done a series with a minor character from the Outlander series--The Lord John Grey series. All of the books are delicious! Cheryl

Sandy in Illinois said...

I saw your post on Diana Gabaldon's blog and came here to read your review. I agree with the above post. You should try to read the other books in the series before getting Diana's most recent book. You will enjoy the story so much more.