Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon is the fourth in the time travelling historical fiction series following our protagonists Claire and Jamie Fraser as they attempt to start a new life in the American Colonies.
Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, or 44 hrs and 54 mins of audiobook, this is a real behemoth of a book. It’s also the book on my shelf that’s taken me the longest to read. GoodReads tells me that I finished the previous book in the series, Voyager, back in April 2015, and I started Drums of Autumn around that time. This means that Drums of Autumn has taken me almost a year to finish.
I read it in chunks. I would read a large section – usually when the Outlander TV series piqued my interest again – and then struggle to continue and put it aside for other books. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; I simply struggled to maintain my interest to read 800+ pages over a short period.
What I liked
The characters. I love the characters in the book, particularly Claire and Jamie and their unconventional romance. Gabaldon has said that she wanted to show a mature relationship – one in which the partners have been together for many years – and she certainly achieves that with Claire and Jamie. Brianna and Roger also take centre stage in this book and that was wonderful to read.
The Jamie/Brianna relationship. For me, this was one of the highlights of the book. I adored the interactions between Jamie and his daughter. They are both stubborn Frasers, with differing views of morality due to their different upbringings in different centuries and both have red headed tempers. it was clear that things were never going to go smoothly for them. I loved that Claire was stuck in the middle and was uncertain if she should physically separate them or let them fight it out. What was particularly beautifully written was the way in which Jamie’s and Brianna’s past experiences created a real bond and connection between them.
What I didn’t like
Repetition. I must admit, earlier parts of the book are rather foggy in my memory having been read almost a year ago, but I seem to remember there was a distinct pattern of Jamie and/or Claire getting into some kind of situation in which they are in mortal danger and then they are rescued. Rinse and repeat. Given that this is the fourth in a (likely) ten book series, there was absolutely no dramatic tension at all. There was no way either of our two main protagonists was not going to survive. I imagine this was intended to provide colour to show how dangerous their environment was, and perhaps to develop their relationship, but I must admit I found it a little tedious after a while.
All in all I really enjoyed Drums of Autumn and gave it four stars out of five.