Memorable Writing: Drums of Autumn (Part 1)

When I picked up Outlander, I expected an enjoyable romance, where I had the legit right to imagine hunk Sam Heughan as protagonist. I did not expect a writing lesson or public bursts of laughter that made me look like a crazy person; but I got both. And thank God! (or rather – thank you, Diana Gabaldon!)

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The fourth installment of the series, Drums of Autumn, takes longer to read than the preceding volumes, because it’s longer itself and because most of the problems our protagonists started out with are more or less resolved. We need a new entanglement and new stakes. So for the first couple hundred pages this is a slow read, but it is enjoyable nevertheless. We have a lot of Jamie and Claire for one, and we have a lot of Gabaldon’s surprising turns of phrase that caused the above-mentioned bursts. Here are just some of them:

On tax rates in the 18th century:
“Two percent!” Stanhope choked, pounding himself on the chest. “Iniquitous! Simply iniquitous!”
With vivid memories of the last IRS form I had signed, I agreed sympathetically that a two percent tax rate was a positive outrage, wondering to myself just what had become of the fiery spirit of American taxpayers over the intervening two hundred years.

When Claire has had enough of the Good Samaritan
“But it’s not only me,” he said. “It’s you, and it’s Ian and it’s Duncan and it’ Fergus and it’s Marsali – God help me, there’s even Laoghaire to think of!”
“Oh, let’s don’t,” I said.

When Jamie and Claire’s love conquers her mood swings
Within an hour, I had gone from anguish at the thought of losing him in Scotland, to a strong desire to bed him in the herbaceous borders, and from that to a pronounced urge to hit him on the head with an oar. Now I was back to tenderness.

When Jamie drags in dangerous goodies
He had risen well before dawn and spent the day with Brianna on the mountain, returning long after dark with a plaid full of smoke-stunned bees, who were likely to be more than irritated when they woke in the morning and discovered the trick perpetrated on them. I made a mental note to keep away from the end of the garden where the row of bees gums sat; newly moved bees were inclined to sting first and ask questions afterward.

Claire being Claire about her new pants
“Ye wore them outside?” he said, in tones of incredulity. “Where folk could see ye?” “I did,” I said crossly. “So did most other women. Why not?”
“Why not?” he said, scandalized. “I can see the whole shape of your buttocks, for God’s sake, and the cleft between!”
“I can see yours, too,” I pointed out, turning around to face him. “I’ve been looking at your backside in breeks every day for months, but only occasionally does the sight move me to make indecent advances on your person.”

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