The past may seem the safest place to be . . . but it is the most dangerous time to be alive. . . .
Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising in 1746, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same.
It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser’s Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible.
Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell’s teakettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his tenants are split and it won’t be long until the war is on his doorstep.
Brianna and Roger have their own worry: that the dangers that provoked their escape from the twentieth century might catch up to them. Sometimes they question whether risking the perils of the 1700s—among them disease, starvation, and an impending war—was indeed the safer choice for their family.
Not so far away, young William Ransom is still coming to terms with the discovery of his true father’s identity—and thus his own—and Lord John Grey has reconciliations to make, and dangers to meet . . . on his son’s behalf, and his own.
Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War creeps ever closer to Fraser’s Ridge. And with the family finally together, Jamie and Claire have more at stake than ever before.
A little preface first. I recently submitted a review for another book that was posted here and, in my correspondence with Dabney about it, I mentioned I was reading Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, and she said she’d love a review of it when I’d finished. Wow! How lovely to be invited to submit a specific review and so, as I read the book, I was thinking about how I should write one. Well, here’s the news folks: I can’t. Not as we at AAR generally know them. And so I will try to explain why not. I am assuming that readers know that the books move back and forth between Scotland in the mid-1700s and the US (North Carolina) from the 1770s with lovers and other characters across the timeframe(s).
First of all, Bees is the ninth book in the Outlander series, long-awaited by those of us who love them and read slowly by me in order to savour every word. I know it will be a while before Diana Gabaldon gives us the tenth and final offering in what she calls “the big books”. Yes, she will give us a prequel about Jamie Fraser’s parents and there are always the wonderful Lord John Grey stories and books AND the wonderful TV series. So, as I finished Bees, I was once again standing on the cliff edge anxiously awaiting more. RIGHT NOW PLEASE! Result: It is very hard to write objectively about a personal addiction and object of adoration!!
Second, in no way can Bees be considered a standalone book. And here, I have a little story. About thirty years ago, a work colleague, knowing my love for historical fiction, handed me a copy of Dragonfly in Amber, the second in the series. She said: “You will ADORE this!”. Okay – I took it home, read about fifty pages and closed the book thinking, “WTF was she thinking of as this makes NO sense whatsoever” and gave the book back. The point is that not one of the nine books is a standalone. So, if you haven’t read the first eight, Bees will make no sense to you and you should not bother unless total and utter confusion is your cup of tea.
Third, this is a huge multi-generational saga (around 10,000 pages so far) that includes several families and hundreds of walk-on parts. If that isn’t particularly your catnip, chances are you won’t like it. If, however, you read a nine-book saga and can keep track and truly love the new generations (which I don’t always), then this will suit you but only if you really understand who everyone is and how they fit into the Outlander cosmos. There is, in my hardback copy of Bees, a wonderful family tree which helps those of us who need a little reminder. I did for the first 100 pages or so whilst the first eight books gradually coalesced back into place.
Fourth, if you don’t like time-slip fiction, the Outlander series may not be for you. Most certainly, that’s what I thought at first, because time-slip was for decades of my reading life something I had ignored and derided. I fell into the Outlander world after watching E1/S1 of the TV production and by E3/S1, I was half-way through the first book in the series, the next seven were on order and I was hopelessly addicted craving more and more. And MORE. It’s all so plausible, so fascinating, so endearing, so well done with exquisitely written characters you get to know intimately. I’ve read a few other authors who write in this genre but none come remotely near the Outlander series for excellence.
Fifth and finally, I am by education and inclination a history addict. I read a lot of non-fiction history. I am also a fusspot for accuracy in both facts and expression. It took me many hours to read each of the nine books because I spent so much time researching every time a new word, phrase, idea, reference or historical character popped up and I was off and looking into it. It also sent me looking into my own family history. I have 100% Highland Scottish blood on my father’s side. A bit of research revealed that my maiden name – in Scots Gaelic – was once upon a time MacGilleEathain. Or, in modern English, MacLean. It has been lots of fun looking into these things and one discovery was that my junior year at Virginia Tech meant that I was living no more than 140 miles from Frasers Ridge, NC. My husband and I have spent many holidays in the Highlands and I think we have visited Culloden around four times. If these locations are of interest, read on; if not, and you need yet another Scottish Duke, then look elsewhere as you won’t find one here.
So, this is not a review. Very sorry – it’s just my thoughts on Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. I have no doubt fellow addicts are loving the book and don’t need a review and the rest of you probably think I am an aboireannach mìorbhaileac. Maybe, just maybe, I am. Now where are those bloody stones?
~ Elaine S.
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