By Marianne Hatzfeld
Illustrations : Gratianne Garcia
For those who say they have trouble with volume 5: We regularly fall back into it according to one question, then another.... just as a kind of tasting. This is the third (or maybe the fifth...) time we reread it. We would just like, to whet your appetite, to make a small comment on the first 277 pages, which cover a day of this famous gathering, a large gathering of Scots in North Carolina, about 400 people who meet and for this last day will celebrate, they think, weddings, baptisms and other festivities. This chapter is at the center, literally, of the saga, in the middle of the – probable – 10 volumes and between Scotland and the New World. The past is much talked about, and the future is coming, worrying and exciting too. This part of volume 5 has a form of loop, which begins when the couple Claire -Jamie wakes up and ends when they fall asleep.
All this under a gloomy weather, chilly sometimes rainy, there is even a small hail shower.
From the beginning we have the ghost of Frank who came to make a small visit to Claire, a visit a little embarrassing, but this ghost himself says "shouldn't I be present at his wedding?" (Brianna's, scheduled for the evening) while Jamie has an extremely funny silly and erotic dream mixing horses and king of Ireland... At the very end of the day it is Bonnet who also invites himself into an intimate scene between Roger and Brianna, like an unpleasant ghost
It is believed that Jamie and Claire will be able to relax and start their day with a naughty moment, but they are interrupted by a statement from Governor Tryon, read by Lieutenant Hayes: a new character, complex, interesting, sympathetic: a Scotsman, ex Jacobite "repentant" serving the English government. And this proclamation, while cutting off any idea of banter, launches the idea of a conflict, the one that will be called "the war of regulation".
Daily life is approached in several ways, in the open air: how we find coffee, what do we eat, the discovery of tomatoes, Lizzie's first periods. With a delicious little passage where Claire confronts the hard necessities of the life of the XVIII: change a baby with a piece of torn petticoat, and wash his buttocks in an icy stream.
We have an overview of the issues of contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. The life of a young mother of an infant is approached with a lot of sensations, which will speak to all the readers who have had a baby, who have breastfed it, and have suffered from this kind of overflow that this baby demands, breasts that hurt, crying attacks, smelly changes, dismissals and babbles, without downtime...
"Happy bride that the sun illuminates, happy the corpse that the rain bathes", this bizarre saying punctuates the day like a kind of chorus.
Very MacKenziennes tricks allow rather funny moments, that is, the typical MacKenzie makes believe in an opinion, just to provoke his interlocutor and get him ... what he wants: first Jamie who lets believe his dissatisfaction with Roger's religion, while he is much more tolerant than he expresses, which allows him to obtain the promise that Jemmy will be baptized Catholic. Then towards the end of the day it is Jocasta, master of the matter, who deliberately provokes Roger to test his attachment to Jemmy and the Fraser family, a family of possibly wealthy landowners. To his complete satisfaction Roger falls into the trap and reveals to everyone, including himself, how much he has a sense of honor and will defend "his" son. Jamie still as cunning, while the baptisms of babies seem compromised by the arrest of the Catholic priest, will save the ceremony but at the cost of an erotic theatrical confession (which he knows how to do so well).
Brianna and Roger are not left out for a heretical marriage, full of tenderness and grimaces, but without Latin, quite cheerful.
There are a few incidents, the fall of little Germain, the arrest of the headhunter, the barbecue dispute over a fundamental kitchen issue, religious quarrels...
The characters presented often have a link with Jamie's past, sometimes former co-detainees of Ardsmuir, who form a community united in the memory of misfortune, and some that we may find later: a shrew: Mrs. MacGillivray, accompanied by her little husband, her son and her three pretty daughters. The Chisholms who also had to settle in Fraser's Ridge. We meet a friendly and quite banal couple, the Bug, without yet knowing what importance these two will have; the man is silent and the woman pipelette but devilishly effective. Mrs. Bacon, the one who is able to encourage Claire to wear a hideous charlotte to comply with customs, and at the same time to entrust her with a contraceptive plant, a secret of trust in these times when not wanting to conceive can be very frowned upon? This gives a beautiful feminine complicity, reminiscent of Mrs. Fitz, Mother Hildegard or the Indian healer Nayawenne, the cohort of powerful women.
The presentations of these future tenants of Fraser's Ridge make it possible to explain how the settlement of this land will happen, whether it is the fraser property, or more broadly the young America: different European peoples are represented: English and Scottish majority since it is a Scottish gathering, but also German, French ..., competent craftsmen (gunsmith, cooper ...), hunters who will be able to offer goods to barter with the old continent but also farmers who clear
Young people, experienced, and women!! "Let's pay tribute to our women," says Jamie, "because they are our strength. In the end it is through the cradle that we will take revenge on our enemies." Everyone will find their place in this new world.
The poignant story of Mac Lennan, the death of his wife (after that of their 4 children) victim of the corruption of tax collectors, gives in a few words a glimpse of the why of the revolt of the regulators. The Findley family is just as moving, whose older brother is infirm, the family is dignified and miserable, they survive with difficulty but what will become if the young people die during the war?
Claire's activity as an outdoor doctor, who would not deny the dispensaries of the XX th, or bush medicine, is a small living moment, and imaged.
No banter described between Jamie and Claire, but sweet words and kisses throughout their meetings, they turn around, separate, meet, look for each other, and each time comfort each other. A delightful little passage, with a beautiful statement, when Jamie alludes to a story from the Bible (Sarah and Abraham giving birth to old age) and addresses the issue of menopause and its inconveniences with frankness and compassion.
This is the young generation: Roger and Brianna, faced with the idea of a possible abstinence as the only safe contraception, and the nightmare of the deaths of women in childbirth so numerous in the eighteenth, hurry to ... ignore this idea of abstinence in wet leaves.
All of a sudden, at the turn of a treatment, with Lieutenant Hayes, it is an evocation of Culloden, the terrible battle, and a small piece of the puzzle of Jamie's lost memory: he saved a young boy, 12 years old, in Culloden, Lieutenant Hayes himself, from death by the ignoble Murchison, the one we have already seen (at River Run), a real villain, so bad that he was two in one...
Roger's intimate thoughts: He is in the midst of questioning. Marry a richer girl and have nothing to offer her, her doubts about her skills to be able to live, protect her family, at a time when for this you have to fight, hunt, build and clear and not handle the pen! His curiosity, as a historian, to live this time of the pioneers! His jealousy when men read Brianna so different and so free, frank's letter that he learned by heart and which informs us about Frank (we had the entire text of this letter in volume 4, what an amazing memory Roger the singer has!) And Brianna's terrible revelations about Bonnet; We discover how susceptible Roger is when it comes to his father-in-law: he first believes he is being stripped by Archie Bug of the position of manager and therefore jamie's right-hand man, only to realize that Jamie will finally entrust him with an even more important role, that of Captain of the militia that he must constitute on the order of Governor Tryon.
The day ends with an improvised call to the clan by Jamie (does he really improvise it?) a speech that pays tribute to the missing in Scotland, "those who died of sorrow", he names each member of this community, starting with his Claire, his Sorcha, then Roger the singer, son of his house. Jamie's speech is very emotional, and his promise to watch over his men is strong and fraught with consequences.
Illustration : Pitch Mani - 2021
Roger is finally reassured about the place he has with his father-in-law and madly excited by the event in which he participates, as a historian. Roger and Brianna's wedding night is beautiful and complex. Brianna, between recent pregnancy, unregulated breastfeeding, and sequelae of her aggression by Bonnet, has trouble letting go, we feel that it will take time. As for the couple Claire / Jamie, in the intimacy of their tent, they share more than their bodies, but also their thoughts on what awaits them; they understand each other so well that words are rare: "What are you going to do?" asked Claire. "What I owe"
We cannot conclude without emphasizing to what extent, as always, Diana Gabaldon knows how to sprinkle her text with small details, anecdotes, hilarious sketches. The great Scottish warrior who washes a dirty diaper in the river, the overwhelmed grandfather and dad, who "pass on the baby" who stinks by calling for help to the foster mother "where is Bree?". Claire who calculates and redivides her provisions according to Jamie's invitations to their breakfast which are added endlessly, Roger who is looking for a wedding gift (a painted chamber pot?) for Brianna. The sheriff's and the judge's discussion of the rite of transubstantiation: is it cannibalism?or witchcraft?
Finally: why stop at page 277? It's the end of such a busy day, but it's the beginning of something else. The rest is exquisite, there is the return to Fraser's Ridge, invaded by the new settlers, a recalcitrant horse, a small wild cat, and the most wonderful of bouquets, picked on a charming misunderstanding, the first bouquet that Jamie, who still has to learn, we see it here, offers to Claire!
Illustration : Pitch Mani - 2021