Skip to content

Diana Gabaldon – Dragonfly in Amber

April 5, 2008

42. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
Outlander, Book 2

Length: 743 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction; Romance

Started: 30 March 2008
Finished: 5 April 2008

Summary: It’s 1968, and Claire has returned to the Scottish Highlands with her now 19-year-old daughter Brianna. She enlists the help of a young scholar to help her find out what happened to the men of Lallybroch at the infamous battle of Culloden during the Scottish uprising of 1745. Her interest is more than academic, of course, for Jamie and her, in France following their flight from Scotland, traveled to the court of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Paris, determined to thwart the uprising and so save the lives of thousands of Scottish highlanders. But if they succeed in changing history, what happens to the future – and to Claire’s past?

Review: The problem with writing books about time-travel is that more often than not, a lot of the suspense is leached away by what you’ve already written – we know that Claire survives, with her baby, the adventures that make up the bulk of the book, and goes back through the stones at the end, because she’s alive in 1968. That’s also the problem with reading these books after the rest of the series has already been written – no one is going to believe that Jamie’s in any actual danger, because, well, there are four more fat books to come.

This books is easily as good as Outlander, although it veers more towards historical fiction with some romance novel mixed in, vs. romance novel with some historical fiction thrown in. The focus is more on the politics surrounding the Jacobite uprising and Jamie and Claire’s adventures, and less on their relationship – although of course the latter isn’t forgotten entirely. However, unless you’re a giggling thirteen-year-old only reading these books for the sex scenes (and seriously, why didn’t I know about these books when I was a giggling thirteen-year-old?), then the shift in focus isn’t a detriment to the engrossing readability of the novel. Because, at this point, readers are already well enough in love with Jamie (and Claire) that every scene between them is as good as any from the first book, and even though I knew that everything was going to eventually work out fine (see: four more books), I still cried like a little girl at the ending. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Compulsively, work-skippingly, addictively readable. High literature? No. Worth the read if you liked the first one? Oh yes.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: Roger Wakefield stood in the center of the room, feeling surrounded.

Vocab:

  • p. 75: “The hands slid beneath my hips and raised me, and I relaxed into deliquescence as the tiny shudder grew and spread, rising in seconds to a fulfillment that left me limp and gaspin, Jamie’s head resting on my thigh.” – Melting away.
    .
  • p. 105: “She was a small, fat girl, with an oddly flattened face and popeyes that made her look like a turbot, but she was friendly and eager to please.” – a European flatfish, Psetta maxima, having a diamond-shaped body: valued as a food fish.
    .
  • p. 129: ““Ask not for whom the tumbril calls,” I remarked, turning to Raymond.” – one of the carts used during the French Revolution to convey victims to the guillotine. (See also tumbrel.)
    .
  • p. 130: “Handling the train a bit gingerly, I stepped down into the room, swaying gently as the seamstress had instructed, to show off the filmy gussets of silk plissé let into the overskirt.” – a textile finish characterized by a puckered or blistered effect, produced by chemical treatment.
    .
  • p. 139: “A stroll among the parterres and fountains of the palace gardens did a good bit to restore my equanimity.” – An ornamental flower garden having the beds and paths arranged to form a pattern.
    .
  • p. 142: ““I wonder if Frenchmen call theirs ‘Pierre,'” I said, glancing at a passing dandy in green velvet-faced moiré.” – fabric, such as silk or rayon, finished so as to have a wavy or rippled surface pattern.
    .
  • p. 150: “An English gold-mounted scent bottle, a gilt-bronze inkstand with a gadrooned lid, a cracked horn spoon, and a small marble clock topped with two swans drinking.” – a decorative series of curved, inverted flutings, or of convex and concave flutings, as on silversmith’s work.
    .
  • p. 160: “His tone was mildly dreamy, watching the sleek, dark head bob away through the crowd, surrounded wherever it went by white clusters of wigs and powdered hair, with here and there a fashionably pink-tinged peruke for variety.” – a wig, especially one worn by men in the 1600s and 1700s; a periwig.
    .
  • p. 160: “He guided me down one of the garden paths, lit by lantern-bearing servants, who stood like bollards at five-yard intervals from the terrace to the fountain at the bottom of the path.” – A thick post on a ship or wharf, used for securing ropes and hawsers; one of a series of posts preventing vehicles from entering an area.
    .
  • p. 176: “Three of the ladies made it through the first ward, with its cases of scrofula, scabies, eczema, defluxions, and stinking pyemia, before deciding that their charitable inclinations could be entirely satisfied by a donation to L’Hôpital, and fleeing back to the dispensary to shed the rough hopsacking gowns with which we had been furnished.” – septicemia caused by pyogenic microorganisms in the blood, often resulting in the formation of multiple abscesses.
    .
  • p. 185: “The child Fergus, after a brief, incurious glance at us, had resumed his trials with the bilboquet.” – The toy called cup and ball.
    .
  • p. 187: “Promptly obeying the dictates of his cervical vertebrae, he turned left instead of right at the next corner, ducked around a whilk-seller’s stall, cut between a barrow filled with steamed puddings and another of fresh vegetable marrows, and into a small charcuterie.” – a store where pork products, as hams, sausages, and pâtés are sold.
    .
  • p. 255: “A pair of breeches, buckled at the knee, and what amazingly appeared to be silk hose and leather shoes, not the bare feet or sabots I had expected.” – a shoe made of a single block of wood hollowed out, worn esp. by farmers and workers in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, etc.
    .
  • p. 269: “In fact, he was two tired either to talk or to fidget in his usual manner, and his sleepy presence on the hassock was comforting, like that of a cat or a dog.” – a thick, firm cushion used as a footstool or for kneeling.
    .
  • p. 279: “He glanced out the window, craning his neck to see the huge horloge that hung from the wall of the building near the corner.” – French for clock.
    .
  • p. 285: “Havers, woman,” said Fergus in his best Scots accent. ” – nonsense; poppycock.
    .
  • p. 291: ““No. I didn’t t-tell anyone. I took a public fiacre.”” – a small horse-drawn carriage.
    .
  • p. 298: “But on that day, the mantle of chief would descend on his shoulders, and the men of clan MacKenzie would follow where he led – after the saltire of Scotland, and the banner of King James, in the vanguard of Bonnie Prince Charlie.” – Heraldry: An ordinary in the shape of a Saint Andrew’s cross, formed by the crossing of a bend and a bend sinister; also the name for the Scottish flag.
    .
  • p. 298: “While his principal motive had been the possession of Jamie’s estate of Lallybrock – which would belong to me upon Jamie’s death – he hadn’t been at all averse to the thought of the minor emoluments of marriage, such as the regular enjoyment of my body.” – Payment for an office or employment; compensation.
    .
  • p. 308: “My legs trembling, I subsided into a fauteuil near the end of the passage.” – an upholstered armchair, esp. one with open sides.
    .
  • p. 314: “He declined absolutely to wear a wig, and the bold, clean shape of his polled head had occasioned no little excitement at Court.” – having the hair cut off.
    .
  • p. 322: “The mare curvetted and squealed in alarm, but then he was on her, and his teeth closed on the sturdy arch of her neck, forcing her head down into submission.” – a leap of a horse from a rearing position, in which it springs up with the hind legs outstretched as the forelegs descend.
    .
  • p. 323: “She held up a cornichon between two fingers and delicately licked the tiny pale-green pickle, the pink tip of her tongue pointed and dainty.” – a cucumber pickle; gherkin.
    .
  • p. 367: “I lay awake at night, gazing at the white-gesso ceiling with its furbishes of fruit and flowers.” – a preparation of plaster of Paris and glue used as a base for low relief or as a surface for painting.
    .
  • p. 376: “The yellow gown was one of my best, a loose, graceful thing made in the modish sacque style, with a wide rolled collar, full sleeves, and a beaded closure down the front.” – A loosely hanging garment for women, worn like a cloak about the shoulders, and serving as a decorative appendage to the gown.
    .
  • p. 397: “I hadn’t realized that the arch led into a tiny vine-covered folly.” – a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found esp. in England in the 18th century. In this case, it seems more to mean a dead-end.
    .
  • p. 446: ““Lord, when I think of the trouble pour Jamie had, from being caurry-fisted!”” – Scottish term for left-handed, more frequently as “kerry-fisted” or “corry-fisted”.
    .
  • p. 456: “He reached into his sporran and pulled out several copper doits, two or three small rocks, a short stick wrapped with fishline, a crumpled letter, and a tangle of hair ribbons.” – a small piece of money.
    .
  • p. 459: “Among the Highland farms, I was sure, the women of Lallybroch waulked their wool not only to the old traditional chants but also to the rhythms of Molière and Piron.” – the technique of finishing the newly-woven tweed by soaking it and thumping it rhythmically to shrink and soften it.
    .
  • p. 483: ““I recognized you at once; you’re a rebel and an unprincipled voluptuary!” the boy burst out hotly, face stained a deeper red even than the firelight.” – a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure.
    .
  • p. 485: “With a rending of linen and fustian, he bared me to the waist, pinning my arms at my sides.” – a stout fabric of cotton and flax.
    .
  • p. 496: “He gestured at my necklace with pride. “cotter pins from the cannon carriages.”” – a pin or wedge passing through a hole to fix parts tightly together.
    .
  • p. 497: ““How does it go, sir?” said Jamie respectfully, also affecting not to notice the ribboned tail of the periwig which hung out of Lord George’s pocket, wagging like the tail of a small dog as His Lordship gestured violently.” – a man’s wig of the 17th and 18th centuries, usually powdered and gathered at the back of the neck with a ribbon
    .
  • p. 498: “Jamie made a move as thought to join His Lordship in his random peregrinations about the cottage, but was restrained by my grip on his collar.” – travel from one place to another, esp. on foot.
    .
  • p. 508: “If I couldn’t convince the sisters and physicians of L’Hôpital des Anges of the existence of germs, I was unlikely to succeed with a mixed bag of Scottish housewives and army surgeons who doubled as farriers.” – one who shoes horses.
    .
  • p. 512: “Come to visit the wounded, he was dressed for the occasion in plum velvet breeches with stockings to match, immaculate linen, and – to show solidarity with the troops, no doubt – a coat and waistcoat in Cameron tartan, with a subsidiary plaid looped over one shoulder through a cairngorm brooch.” – a transparent or semitransparent brown or gray to nearly black variety of quartz, used as a gemstone; also called smoky quartz.
    .
  • p. 542: “With a clash and a beat, a parry and a lunge in tierce, Jamie came within an inch of Dougal’s hip, swung adroitly aside with a flare of green kilt.” – in fencing, the third of eight defensive positions.
    .
  • p. 558: “Water ran day and night in the streets, and if the cobbles were temporarily clean of sewage, the relief from stench was more than made up for by the spatter of expectorations that slimed every close and wynd, and the choking cloud of fireplace smoke that filled every room from waist-height to ceiling.” – a narrow street or alley.
    .
  • p. 586: “I pulled my arisaid, a warm tartan shawl, tighter around my own shoulders, in response to the rising breeze.” – the female tartan cloak; a full length wool, fleece or silk cloak that goes from the neck to the heels
    .
  • p. 588: ““He doesna look much on a horse, but he’s a braw rider, is Murtaugh.”” – fine or fine-looking; excellent.
    .
  • p. 598: “The fire burned high and bright on the hearth; Frances had smoored the fire in the main hall, covering it with peats, but this one had been rekindled at Lovat’s order, and with wood, not peat.” – to suffocate or smother.

    .

  • p. 602: “There was a small chapel in Beaufort Castle, to serve the devotional uses of the Earl and his family, but Beauly Priory, ruined as it was, remained the burying place of the Lovats, and the floor of the open-roofed chancel was paved thick with the flat tombstones of those who who lay under them.” – area around the altar of a church for the clergy and choir; often enclosed by a lattice or railing.
    .
  • p. 606: ““Are we to come meachin’ along at the finish, to find ourselves beggars, and taking second place to Clanranald and Glengarry?”” – Hiding; skulking.
    .
  • p. 612: ““Pity we’ve come such a way; it’s too far to go back and proddle the auld mumper.”” – to prod cattle with either a hot metal object or a sharp object
    .
  • p. 612: ““The wretched auld nettercap wants my land back – he has, ever since he was forced to give it up when my parents wed.”” – spider
    .
  • p. 626: “The high, whining notes of the pibroch called down the shadows from the moor, and when the piper was done, the night had come.” – a piece of music for the bagpipe, consisting of a series of variations on a basic theme, usually martial in character, but sometimes used as a dirge.
    .
  • p. 630: “It had to be Rupert; I could hear him breathing, a stertorous sound with a faint gurgle behind it.” – characterized by stertor or heavy snoring.
    .
  • p. 631: “All around me was a collective exhalation, and the clank of falling swords and targes.” – a light shield or buckler.
    .
  • p. 635: “Jamie drew the snaphance pistol from his belt and checked the loading of it, casually, as though there were all the time in the world.” – a spring lock for discharging a firearm; also, the firearm to which it is attached.
    .
  • p. 643: “It sounded a trifle more impressive than my current surroundings, which featured several soldiers playing at chuck-a-luck on the floor, a flea-ridden mongrel asleep by the fire, and a strong smell of hops.” – a game played with three dice at which the players bet that a certain number will come up on one die, that the three dice will total a certain number, or that the total will be an odd number, even number, a high number, or a low number.
    .
  • p. 646: “A close-napped carpet that a recognized as a very good Kermanshah covered most of the floor and a spinet crouched in one corner; what little space was left bare was occupied by marquetried furniture and th odd bit of statuary.” – inlaid work of variously colored woods or other materials, esp. in furniture.
    .
  • p. 649: ““Captain Randall said you were a most diverting woman. Quite an encomium from the Captain, you know.”” – a formal expression of high praise.
    .
  • p. 653: “The canopied bed stood on a small dais, with baldachins of ostrich feathers sprouting from the corners of its damask drapes, and a pair of matching brocaded chairs squatted comfortably before a huge fireplace.” – a canopy of fabric carried in church processions or placed over an altar, throne, or dais.
    .
  • p. 656: “The candlestick was clotted with wax from the burned-out candle; I tipped a small puddle of melted wax onto the tabletop and set the fresh candle in it, heedless of damage to the Duke’s intaglio.” – incised carving, as opposed to carving in relief.
    .
  • p. 668: “At the bottom was a small corrie, with six houses – though “house” was an overdignified word for the rude structures crouched beneath the larch trees there.” – a circular hollow in the side of a hill or mountain.
    .
  • p. 680: “Equipment and weapons had been abandoned along the way; here a wagon lay overturned, its sacks of flour split and ruined in the wet, there a brace of small culverin stood beneath a tree, twin barrels gleaming darkly in the shadows.” – medieval form of musket.
    .
  • p. 681: “He said nothing; only took me by the elbow and led me from the wood, leaving the dead man behind, clothed in the saprophytic hues of war and sacrifice.” – any organism that lives on dead organic matter, as certain fungi and bacteria
    .
  • p. 685: “Loose and missing teeth, soft, bleeding gums, the pus-filled, itching follicles of “the yeuk” that so lavishly decorated Hish Highness’s white skin.” – an itching sensation.
    .
  • p. 687: “And yet – the clansmen of the Highlands shivered already on the open moor, shifting in their serried ranks as the plan of battle was adjusted, rearranged, reordered, as more men drifted to join them.” – pressed together or compacted, as soldiers in rows.
    .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: