Review: Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

I am cruising along through this series!

I just finished the fourth book in the Outlander Series: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.

When I started the Outlander Series Reading Challenge I had no idea I would be flying through these books like no other…..well I suspected but was not entirely convinced. I guess thats what being a book-a-holic is all about though and I should just go with it.

As I have mentioned before in my other posts, if you have not read the books up until this point, read ahead at your own risk….this review might contain spoilers.

Let’s get right in to the good stuff and talk about this amazing book!

So like the others in the series, Drums of Autumn (DOA) picks up right where the previous book Voyager left off with Claire and Jamie reuniting and making a safe landing in the Colonies after escaping the West Indies.

Both Jamie and Claire begin to settle down and fall right into a more or less a ‘domestic routine’. Jamie and Ian are working to build a house, farm, and on-site clinic for Claire. Claire is busy delivering babies and making house calls on those to sick to travel and of course there is lots of ‘mmmphmm’ happening all over the Carolina backwoods territory between Claire and Jamie.

There is also a new set of lovers in the series though….Roger and Brianna are now a ‘thing’ which adds a fun layer to the epic novel. Brianna and Roger are kind of on again/off again but basically love each other and are soul mates until Roger does the unthinkable–he doesn’t tell Bree about a newspaper notice he sees about Jamie and Claire’s death by fire! He is worried that Bree will try to go through the stones and find her mother and father and likely be lost to him forever so he decides to lie and not tell her but all the time he knows it’s not if but rather when he will be found out by Bree….and he is!

Brianna finds the clipping and decides go back and find her mother and then–SURPRISE–Roger can time travel too so he follows her. So after some making up, lots more ‘mmmphmmm’, and a hand-fast marriage–Brianna and Roger are ‘married-ish’ and in love when all of a sudden they Roger tells her he saw the death notice! After fighting and various hurt feelings they are separated, then….all of a sudden Bree realizes she’s pregnant…..but maybe not by Roger…..mmmmphm??? And the story develops from there…..

For a more detailed and slightly more serious summary check out what Shelfari has to say about DOA:

Drums of Autumn is the fourth book in the Outlander series, written by Diana Gabaldon. The stories center around a time-travelling 20th century doctor (Claire Randall Fraser) and her 18th century Scottish husband (Jamie Fraser), and are located in Scotland, France, and America.

The heroine of the bestselling Outlander, Claire, returns in Drums of Autumn, reunited with her husband Jamie Fraser and facing a new life in the American colonies. As the preceding novel, Voyager, concluded with Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire shipwrecked on the Georgia coastline—and happy to be out of Scotland—Drums of Autumn picks up right where Voyager left off. Except for a new set of lovers introduced subtly in Drums of Autumn and Voyager, Brianna Ellen Randall and her suitor historian Roger Wakefield, safely ensconced in the 20th century. Now orphaned by her mother’s departure to the past, Brianna struggles to accept her loss and satisfy her curiosity about a father she has never met, only to discover a tragic piece of "history" that threatens her parents’ happiness in the past. This discovery sends Brianna back through time on a mission to save her parents and sends Roger after her.

Drums of Autumn is an intricate tale of the now famous lovers, Jamie and Claire, and their daughter who risked her life and future to save them. As the fourth in what is now a seven-book series (with a promised 8th book) of Claire Randall Fraser and her Highlander husband Jamie, the story is an integral step in a bestselling and surprisingly rich tale spanning the time from the Scottish Rising of 1745, to the American Revolution.

So lots of things going on in this book….lots of sad things of course but two words were wildly flying around in my head the entire time I am reading this book…..SOAP OPERA! Seriously there was so much drama in this book…..I felt like my head was spinning!  There was baby mama drama, fighting, betrayal, love, sex, lust, homosexual longing, random cultural fusions, murder, bribery, deceit, and most of all–lots of whisky! This book has all the juice and then some! It’s no wonder poor the poor characters don’t  just ride off and never return throwing their hands up as they go! The story is great and wildly entertaining but really…..but the drama was a little exhausting!

Over all, I thought this book moved a little faster than some of the other ones and recaptured some of the initial magic of Outlander Book I, which was a relief. From the beginning there was action and there wasn’t a lot of going back trying to ‘recap’ previous books and previous story lines! Also I liked how Gabaldon switched between character perspectives so the reader got the whole understanding of the scene. I liked having an additional love interest besides just Jamie and Claire….I thought it helped relieve tensions and helped Jamie and Claire not to become a ‘boring’ couple now that they are older and more settled….now we have a variety of romantic drama 🙂

One thing that I thought this book lacked over the others though was some of the same reflective, colloquial language. It had a lot of romantic language but for some reason it didn’t seem to compare to the other books. One of my favorite things about this series is the questions it raises which are brought up for us as individual readers to question within our selves and our lives–meaning, some of the scenes or characters make me question how I would react in a certain situation. Sometimes it’s a quote or a thought that one of the characters has which provoke some interesting self reflection. I found that Gabaldon seems to raise these questions or scenarios by using provocative language/questions/thoughts/ and situations–however, I thought she did a better job in the earlier books in that perspective.

For example, one of my favorite parts in the book was at the very beginning in the prologue. I liked the use of mysterious/romantic language and how she uses the topic of ghosts as kind of a foreshadowing to the book, because of this section I had high hopes for the rest of the book:

Of course it isn’t these homely and accustomed ghosts that trouble sleep and curdle wakefulness. Look back, hold a torch to light the recesses of the dark. Listen to the footsteps that echo behind, when you walk alone. All the time the ghosts fit past and through us hiding in the future. We look in the mirror and see the shades of other faces looking back through the years; we see the shape of memory, standing solid in an empty doorway. By blood and by choice we make our ghosts; we haunt ourselves

To me, this is a very thought provoking statement….do we really haunt ourselves? How? In what ways do my ghosts haunt me? How do they haunt the characters? Do the choices we make haunt us through memories? Yes I think they do by the way :).

How do the choices the characters make in previous books effect them now in this book or how WILL they effect the characters? How will their ghosts haunt them? I love how this quote immediately asks the reader to question their own memories and past, creating a mysterious, mysticism before the story begins. So in my mind, I’m expecting a great deal of changes and reflection in the characters which we see in the soap opera but at the same time, I don’t know that we see everything come completely full circle at the end as they did in some of the other books–but then again I guess that’s why there are seven books in the series :).

One thing that I think about as I am reading the books is Frank and Claire….and how their relationship effects the relationship between Claire and Jamie. Frank always seems to be just ‘right there’ in the back of Claire’s mind haunting her and Jamie. Even when he was alive and Claire just went through the stones, she was always ‘with’ him and vise versa. In my first review of the series, I noted that Claire is different from traditional female heroines in that she is older than Jamie, sexually more experienced, and previously married. I often wondered how this knowledge would effect Jamie.

He seems to act like he doesn’t care about Frank and that he knows Claire loved him and he’s ok with that but in this book it seems like he finally admits he hates Frank, well maybe doesn’t hate him but he admits he’s jealous. In one part of the story Claire talks about her wedding band given to her by Frank and how important it was to her as a symbol of her first love and what Frank meant to her–or marriage at least:

I had worn that gold ring for nearly thirty years; tokens of vows taken, forsake, renewed, and at last absolved. A token of marriage, of family, of a large part of my life. And the last trace of Frank-whom in spite of everything, I had loved.

This lead me to wonder….how many kinds of love are there? Can someone ever truly love another in the way Jamie, Claire, and Frank love each other? It’s hard to say but personally I don’t know that I buy Claire’s love for Frank all that much. Yes she loved him, cared for him, respected him, but was she passionately, crazy, and whole heartedly in love with him….???….I think not.

But then again marriage isn’t always about who you are most passionately in love with, there couples that love each other too much and as a result can never be happy together….loving each other and living with each other are two entirely different things.

As for Brianna and Roger… the previous books I kind of felt like Roger was a bit of a push over and wasn’t maybe a match for Brianna who was so strong and independent. However in this book my opinion of him really changed–especially when he tells Brianna that he will have all of her of nothing—yeah Roger! Way to be a man! I think the quote he inscribes on her bracelet sums up their relationship nicely:

Jet’aime…un peu…beaucoup…passionnement….pas du tout. I love you…a little….a lot….passionately….not at all

I love that Roger put his foot down and stated his claim and his feelings….I thought it was interesting that Brianna couldn’t do the same–right away at least. I thought that Roger was really ready to love her and commit to her (I think the bracelet inscription shows all his feelings for her very plainly). However Brianna seems very young and almost not ready to love Roger in the same way….call it too proud/prideful, call it stubbornness, call it not being able to control/harness her impulsive feelings……who knows but I don’t know that she was ready and it still seems like she’s a little ‘meah’ on the idea of being married to him even in the end.

The rape of Brianna and the subsequent feelings she has and how it effects her relationship with Roger is interesting to me so I will comment on it briefly though I could easily write a whole paper on it :).

Inevitably the rape changes Brianna and Rogers feelings for her, but I don’t know that they both realize to what extent–to some degree to be sure but grasping it all is going to take time I think. I thought it was sad that they had one great night together and then everything changed–it was like one minute they were single, then they were ‘married’, then they were ‘divorced/separated, Brianna was raped, then she was pregnant, finally they were reunited and left to get to know each other all over again under much more trying circumstances–even the strongest relationships would struggle to survive in this situation! Which I guess is the whole point–true love endures. Still it will be interesting to see how their relationship changes in the next books–apparently the prologue was right in suggesting the idea of ghosts which haunt our pasts…..

Over all, I enjoyed this book a great deal and found myself now just rushing through it to get to the story. In some of the other books I felt like–‘come on already can we just get to the story? Enough of the recap’–since this book started by jumping right into the story I could slow down and enjoy what I was reading which is why this book took me a little longer to read than the others.

I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment which I plan on starting tonight or tomorrow….I can’t wait, lots more ‘mmmmphmmm’ to be sure 🙂

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Book: Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published (first published December 1st 1996)
  • ASIN B000FC2L1Y

This book counts toward: 2011 Outlander Series Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Historic Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historic-Romance

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Look back, hold a torch to light the recesses of the dark. Listen to the footsteps that echo behind, when you walk alone. All the time the ghosts flit past and through us, hiding in the future. We look in the mirror and see the shades of other faces looking back through the years; we see the shape of memory, standing solid in an empty doorway. By blood and by choice, we make our ghosts; we haunt ourselves.

7 thoughts on “Review: Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Interesting to read your impressions of DRUMS. This book definitely has a different “feel” to it than Diana’s previous books — but then again, that’s intentional. Diana often says that she doesn’t like to repeat things she’s done before.

    I understand what you mean about the “soap opera” aspects of the plot of this book, but there’s a difference. The major events in these books have permanent effects on the characters (Brianna’s rape, for example, or what happened to Jamie at Wentworth) and the characters change over time as a result — just like real people.

    Now that you’ve made it this far into the series, I would highly recommend that you take a look at another OUTLANDER fan-site, My Outlander Purgatory ( Especially if you start with some of the oldest blog posts. Carol blogged her way through her first reading of the series, just as you are doing, and you might find her impressions interesting.

    Oh, and about FIERY CROSS…be patient with this book and don’t let its slow start bother you. There’s plenty of Good Stuff in it! (I won’t say more until you’re done with the book.)


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