Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon
WHY I CHOSE THIS BOOK:
My first book to review is Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon. Full disclaimer...this book is 928 pages and I read it from November 23rd to January 2nd so technically I finished it in 2022 but started it in 2021. It is so long that I'm going to just pat myself on the back and count it as my first book.
I started the Outlander series in 2003. It took me several years to become hooked and to really appreciate the detailed, intricate way in which Gabaldon writes. I stopped reading the series several times because I didn't really understand that it is a masterpiece you have to savor and read with purpose. Once I was hooked though, that was it. I have read all the "big books" twice and the Lord John Grey and all spin off books once. I'd love to read them again someday.
Bees was wonderful and, as usual, Gabaldon never disappoints. It filled in all the gaps about both major and minor characters and maintained the suspense, drama, and historical feel we've all come to expect as Outlander fans. It is important to understand that this book is going to be a hard sell for those who have not read any of the other books. I'd be so confused and to her credit she does a marvelous job of trying to explain any needed back story but it is nearly impossible to do so adequately. This series is now nearly 9,000 pages long and it is hard to pick up in the middle of Book 9 and not be bewildered about what is happening. When you throw in time travel, the Revolutionary War, and a huge cast of characters it is a lot to process even for those of us who've read all the books.
What stood out most to me was the relationship between Jamie and Claire evolving from passionate and turbulent to familiar and settled. It really feels like they are an "old married couple" now but of course wild events are always happening around and to them so there is still the drama and excitement we've come to expect. What is missing is the frequency and urgency of their romantic encounters and I personally like this change. After all they are now in their sixties and it is just not realistic to think after 30 years together (and sometimes not!) they are going to behave like they did when they first met. I think the author does a good job of keeping their romance alive without treating them like twenty somethings in the constant throes of romantic interludes.
Their children and grandchildren have most of the prominent roles and events in this book. I felt like Jamie and Claire were more in the background and that their daughter Brianna, nephew Ian, and Jamie's son William carried the narrative more. Those looking for the feel of books 1-6 will be disappointed in this but I liked it and again think it is more realistic and natural to evolve stories that contain younger characters who can live on in future books.
If you are looking for a book that heavily centers around historical facts and events and are using it to learn about said events this book is not the best for that. Yes, there is definitely time period and history and she is always meticulous in presenting them accurately. However, the book is ultimately about the characters and how the events are affecting them. If you are looking for learning about the war or specific leaders this is not the book to do that with. You will not be disappointed though in how she manages to convey the atmosphere and feel of the time period and will feel transported to the 1700's. The book settings jump around from Charleston to New York to Savannah and you will meet some major historical figures from Benjamin Cleveland to Frances Marion. I love how at the end of the book the author has a section where she explains about the real people presented in the book.
RECOMMEND? OR NOT?
Bees was excellent and I'd recommend it to any Outlander fan. If you have not read the books in order I'd highly encourage you to start with the original book 1 and go from there chronologically. You will better appreciate the depth of this story and will be amazed by the way the events all come together in book 9. I am sad to know that book 10 will be the end of the series. Jamie will likely die and although we know it has to end sometime it is going to be hard to say goodbye to these characters I've spent nearly 20 years getting to know. If you start at the beginning and stick with it you will be not be disappointed. Happy reading all!