Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

Sometimes I wonder why I’m continuing to read this series. This is the ninth Outlander novel and the last one that I really enjoyed was the sixth; since then, each book has felt longer and less substantial than the one before. In this book, the final sequence – 100 pages or so – is excellent, but to get there you have to persist through 800 pages of irrelevant subplots that seem to lead nowhere and minor characters we barely know suddenly given large storylines of their own. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, though, part of my problem is that I’ve never been a fan of the Lord John Grey spin-off series, and Lord John and his family have played an increasingly large part in these most recent novels when I would prefer to be reading about other characters. I don’t mind Lord John himself but have very little interest in Hal, Ben, Amaranthus, Dottie or Percy!

Anyway, if you’re new to the series, should you start with this book? My answer would be no – definitely not! Start at the beginning, when 1940s nurse Claire Randall first steps inside a stone circle in Scotland and finds herself transported to the 18th century, then read the books in order, otherwise you’re going to be very confused.

Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone picks up where Written in My Own Heart’s Blood left off. It’s 1779 and the Revolutionary War is drawing ever closer to Fraser’s Ridge, the settlement in North Carolina where Claire lives with her husband, Jamie Fraser. Although Jamie had resigned his commission in the Continental Army after the Battle of Monmouth, with tensions growing between his tenants on the Ridge he knows he won’t be able to stay away from the action for long. Elsewhere, Jamie’s son William is still trying to come to terms with the discovery of his true father’s identity while also continuing the search for his missing cousin, Ben.

Meanwhile, Roger is finally about to achieve his dream of being ordained as a minister, but he and Brianna are becoming convinced that they are being pursued by someone from another time and are questioning whether they’ve made the right choices to keep their children safe. We also catch up, briefly, with Fergus and Marsali, who are discovering that printing newspapers can be a dangerous occupation in times of war, and we follow Ian, Rachel and Jenny as they travel north in search of Ian’s first wife.

It may sound as though a lot is happening in this book, but the things I’ve mentioned above are not enough to fill 900 pages and there seems to be a huge amount of padding: Frances Pocock, the orphan rescued from a brothel in the previous novel, trying to adjust to her new life at Fraser’s Ridge; William’s friend John Cinnamon searching for his father; a young girl, Agnes Cloudtree, escaping from an abusive stepfather; Silvia Hardman, Jamie’s Quaker friend, making a shocking discovery about her husband; and the usual assortment of difficult births, medical procedures, hunting expeditions, and all the minutiae of daily life on the Ridge. The focus on Claire and Jamie and their immediate family members, the relationships that made the earlier books so compelling, has been lost and the new characters just aren’t as interesting.

With no overarching plot to drive the story forward, it’s not until near the end that the pace eventually begins to pick up and I was reminded of why I used to love Diana Gabaldon’s books. We end on a cliffhanger which gives me hope that the next book will get off to a more exciting start! Book ten is apparently going to be the last and I suspect we could have another very long wait (the previous one was published in 2014, a seven year gap). I’ll definitely read it – I couldn’t not find out how it all ends after coming this far! – but I hope it will be better than this one and will concentrate on giving the main characters we know and love the ending they deserve.

This is book 11/50 read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2022.

16 thoughts on “Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

  1. setinthepast says:

    I’ve never read these, but some series, like film series and TV series, do go on too long – they keep being churned out because the name’s well-known and people are attached to the characters, so they are always going to sell well, but ideas probably run out eventually.

  2. whatmeread says:

    I started to get tired of the series when it moved to America. I may have read one or two more, and then I stopped. It sounds like it was a good decision. Ah, it was the sixth that was my last one, the one you said was the last one you enjoyed, but I confess I found the series more interesting when it was set in Scotland. You should just stop if you’re tired of it. I know that’s hard sometimes.

    • Helen says:

      The books set in Scotland were definitely the best. If the tenth book really is going to be the last one I will read it, but if I hear that there are going to be more I think I’ll just have to stop.

  3. Karen K. says:

    I read it when it first came out (managed to get on the library’s wait list at the right time) and I have almost completely forgotten the plot and most of the characters already. I hope it doesn’t go the way of Game of Thrones and end with a whimper instead of a bang.

    • Helen says:

      I’m starting to think that the series should have just ended a few books ago. If the next book really is the last, I hope it’s a lot better than this one!

  4. GoAnnelies - In Another Era says:

    I still have to read the last two and I had a bit of a difficult moment in book 5 but as you say, the last 100 pages of every book are always so good. I did enjoy 6 en 7 though. I do like the fact that they move a way a bit from always the same 4 main characters (and Roger getting himself killed almost all the time). I also just like John Grey’s family (but I can understand why you don’t and indeed the John Grey series isn’t that good) and the new perspective of William so I’m looking forward to read ‘written in my own heart’s blood’ somewhere this year.

    • Helen says:

      I struggled a bit with book 5 too – it took such a long time to get started. If you like reading about John Grey and his family I think you’ll probably enjoy books 8 and 9 more than I did.

  5. Marg says:

    I loved the first four books in this series. Such great story with a bit of filler. Now it feels like a lot of filler with just a bit of good story. I am, however, still invested so at some point I will pick this up. I also don’t actively search out massive books anymore.

    Thanks for sharing this to the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

  6. Leslie jones says:

    I agree with you about too many characters. I sped through most of the books but this one sat by my bed for a month. Too many subplots and wtf was the idea about Ulises and the taking away of the land….. big boom then it fizzled. I did love the last few chapters and the end made me literally cheer. I think she had too much consulting with the series to get her to focus on this book.

    • Helen says:

      There was far too much happening in this book. I have no idea what the point of the Ulysses subplot was – it was just starting to get interesting, then was barely mentioned again! The last few chapters were great though, and I’ll be reading the next book whenever it comes out.

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