Title: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Narrator: Davina Porter
Audiobook Length: 44 hours, 59 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 10 June 2014
Bottom Line: Um…no.
“It is 1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife; his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is; and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces.
The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in 20th-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy – never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself.”
Thoughts: WARNING: What follows are my opinions and my opinions only in which I freely discuss plot points from the previous seven books. If you are a huge fan of the series, what I have to say may not be something you will want to read. Continue at your own risk.
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is not the end of the Outlander series. You cannot imagine how much this fact angers and saddens me. Claire and Jamie are not old but they are old enough to be put to rest. They’ve had their tumultuous life, and it is time to let them grow old together in peace. This would be the best thing Ms. Gabaldon could do for these beloved characters.
The rest of the cast can go do their own thing too; I just do not want to hear about it anymore. William is a spoiled brat. Bree and Roger do not improve over time. Lord John’s purpose remains nebulous, as it appears as if he is a convenient character to use when someone in the Fraser family needs something. While Rachel and Ian make a tremendously cute couple, I don’t need to see every intimate moment of their lives.
This shift to other characters beyond Claire and Jamie is a true indication that this series has run its course. The series has always been about Claire and Jamie, and if they no longer have enough of a story to fill a novel without all of the extraneous character subplots, then their story is done. It is a shame that Ms. Gabaldon does not feel the same way because she does the entire series, and her characters, a disservice.
As for Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, it remains the clunky chunkster for which Ms. Gabaldon is famous. The entire story is essentially a repeat of previous plot lines, with the added benefit of plot holes the size of supermassive black holes. Claire faces a life-threatening injury. Jamie expresses his undying love. Jamie gets seasick. Claire saves lives with radical (for the time) surgical procedures. They face several military battles together. They try to get away from politics and war but keep getting involved with important historical figures. There are marriages, births, scandals, fires, and fleeing. Yes, it sounds like the plot to every previous book in the series.
There is also more time travel through stones. At this point in time, the stones and the ability to move through time has become nothing but a plot contrivance. Don’t know what to do with certain characters? Send them through the stones! This time, Roger is the one to go through the stones, and what follows is so ridiculous it is embarrassing. There is nothing gained by his presence in the 18th century again other than it is the only way to explain his inclusion in the novel. Of course, this means Bree must go to Roger’s rescue…again…even as she faces her own dangers – which is the only reason she enters the novel. Thankfully, there is not a huge swath of the novel devoted to their inexplicable storyline, but there is just enough to make you hate reading the book.
I’ve stated before and I will continue to repeat that Ms. Gabaldon is not a good writer. Her descriptive paragraphs are awkward and disruptive. She spends too much time lingering over descriptions of things that do not deserve the attention, almost as if she prides herself on her openness by discussing in detail such matters as rectal and vaginal surgery. This time around, there is an unhealthy attention to anal sex, with characters mentioning it in some context in almost every scene, whether it pertains to the scene or not. Then, there are her awful comparisons of female anatomy to seafood. Seriously, female body parts should never be compared to oysters, fresh-caught trout or anything like it. It is an appalling comparative in my opinion, and one that removes any sexiness from any scene.
As much as I struggled listening to the story, as much as I cannot stand Bree and Roger or any of the other subplots, I continue to read the series and find pleasure in Claire and Jamie, at least when I do not have to read about their bedroom antics. They have mellowed into a great example of a strong marriage. Their relationship is built on trust, love, mutual respect, and, above all, friendship. The scenes where they discuss the day’s activities or make plans for their family remain my favorite scenes of the book because they are so normal and realistic – unlike pretty much every other scene in the novel. It is a pleasure to watch them interact as thoroughly as a long happily-married couple does with the little crises that make up an ordinary daily life. They don’t need the constant drama and involvement in major historical events to be interesting or lovable. They just need each other.
Davina Porter, as always, saves this story from utter wretchedness. Her performance is as steady and reliable as always. It is a true pleasure to listen to her narrate the story, even if the words she must speak are horribly repetitive and clunky. She is the only reason I can get through the major holes in the series and the eye-rolling events in the individual stories. I may not like the books, but I do like her performances and will continue to stick with the audiobook format as long as the series continues.
I am thoroughly disappointed that Ms. Gabaldon is extending the series by yet one more book. There is little to no original stories anymore, and long-time readers will find no surprises in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. It is actually an entertaining little game to predict in advance how the story will unfold and confirm whether you are right. There was so much ridiculousness within Roger and Bree’s subplot that readers will feel disgust that they are actually reading that drivel. The first two novels in the series are so good that it is almost disgraceful to see what Jamie and Claire and the rest of the Fraser clan are doing in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. It is time to end the series once and for all. Let them all live in peace. Besides, we now have the TV series to keep our interest and remind us how and why we fell in love with the series in the first place.