The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon

Jamie and Claire, along with Roger and Brianna, have settled into a routine of living at Fraser's Ridge. With her knowledge from the future, Claire is all to aware how close they are to the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Still, having committed herself to this life and her marriage with Jamie, Claire is determined to do her best to weather storm in front of her, no matter what may come.

This review is a tough one to write to be perfectly honest. The other books in The Outlander series are filled with horrendous tropes, gratuitous rapes, homophobia, child abuse, and of course racism.  The Fiery Cross is the least offensive book in this series to date; however, it is also the most boring book to date.  Absolutely nothing happens.  There is no plot to speak of and in fact, instead of a plot we are given:

  • adventure's in changing Jemmy's diaper (for the women at least because men don't do diaper duty) and Jemmy gets potty trained
  • Medical procedures which Claire must perform
  • Claire makes penicillin from mold 
  • A brief run in with the Regulators
  • Jamie gets bitten by a poisonous snake (pointless because Himself's life is never actually in jeopardy)
  • Ian comes back
  • Roger is almost hung as a traitor but of course lives, though he does lose his voice

I kept waiting for some plot to arise and for the story to somewhere.  You would think that since this novel is 1326 pages long and covers about a year in time that eventually, Gabaldon would get around to have the characters actually do something.  For as much as the other books were offensive,  at least they has some sort of discernible plot. Had I not determined to read the entire Outlander series, this is a book I would most certainly have DNF'd, as calling it tortuous is being kind.

I suppose the best I can stay is that at least the characters remained the same horrendous people I have gotten to know.  Claire, who made such a big deal about not approving of slavery, certainly has no problem with the noxious idea that if the slaves quarter are good and the slaves were owned by someone she likes, this horrible institution is not so bad.

She frowned at Jamie’s back, as he paused at the foot of the stair, listening before stepping onto the landing. It was easy enough to think that the misery of slavery might dispose one to suicide. At the same time, honesty compelled her to admit that Jocasta’s house servants lived reasonably well; better than any number of free individuals—black or white—that she’d seen in Wilmington and Cross Creek.

The servants’ room was clean, the beds rough but comfortable. The house servants had decent clothes, even to shoes and stockings, and more than enough to eat. As for the sorts of emotional complications that could lead one to contemplate suicide—well, those weren’t limited to slaves. (page 600)

Keep in mind that Claire was alive in 1968, and as such, has a full idea of exactly the deprivations of slavery.  This is after all her reason for not wanting to own slaves in the first place and yet since she cannot possibly condemn Jacosta, suddenly slavery isn't so bad.  I suppose part of her turn around is the fact that having slaves around is just so convenient.  They are there after all at the beck and call of a White person and cannot, if they fear for their lives, reject an order or even fight back.  Claire is not even remotely reflective enough to recognize the lengths that she has gone to in not only her acceptance of an institution she had heretofore claimed to hate, but her easy justification of it by stating that it's not so bad.

It was Bree who first discovered the comfort of having slaves, though she like her mother, apparently believes that slavery is wrong.  Bree, being from 1968 might lead one to believe that she would have a more enlightened point of view because Bree would have lived through, or at least had occasion to witness via media:

  • Non violent civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins and boycotts (Montgomery Bus Boycott, Greensboro sit-ins, Selma to Montgomery marches )
  • 1964 Civil Rights Act
  • 1965 Voting Rights Act
  • The Rise of the Black Power Movement
  • Mississippi Freedom Summer
  • Freedom Rides
  • March on Washington

The list of things that both Bree and Claire would have witnessed is immense and still yet, when it comes to Black people, though they have interacted and even claimed some as friends, at least in this per-Revolutionary period, they both espouse some extremely harmful rhetoric .

 I wasn’t sure it was a matter for democratic process, but I was inclined to agree with her.

 “Here’s another thought,” she said, looking round. “What if it’s this little black man who’s responsible for some of the half-eaten people? Aren’t some of the African slaves cannibals?”

Peter Bewlie’s eyes popped at that; so did the Beardsleys’. Kezzie cast an uneasy look over his shoulder and edged closer to Josiah.

Jamie appeared amused at this suggestion, though. “Well, I suppose ye might get the odd cannibal here and there in Africa,” he agreed. “Though I canna say I’ve heard of one amongst the slaves. I shouldna think they’d be verra desirable as house-servants, aye? Ye'd be afraid to turn your back, for fear of being bitten in the backside."(pg 956 -957)