A breath of Snow & Ashes


Sometime ago a friend suggested I try Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. “I know it is chicklit” she said “but it covers a period of Scottish history that interests you as well as early life in North Carolina.”

So I did and was immediately hooked on the adventures of Claire and Jamie. Among other things, it sent me back to the historical studies of the Battle of Culloden, a sad field I visited decades ago to walk the ground where the Highland clans were smashed forever. Followed soon after by mass-immigration to new world countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes picks up the tale just a few years prior to the American Revolution or  – if you prefer,The War of Independence.

I can pick critical holes with Ms Gabaldon. Most notably , why didn’t her editor take a pair of shears to her prose and reduce these tomes to handleable size?  Thank heavens for Kindle. But her research is thorough, her imagination boundless and her descriptions pretty good. Besides which, I learned a lot about early settlement in lthe state I now call home.

Read with breaks for more serious writing, these books are a great way to pass the cold wintry months. I have not seen the TV program based on the books but as Tobias Menzies plays the nasty Black Jack Randall clan loyalty suggests I probably should make the effort now that I’ve installed a Roku on my TV.

Gabaldon’s side books on Lord John Grey also make for great entertainment and a sense of late -18th Century Life during the days of British Empire. Somewhat shorter tomes, too.

by Hugh Menzies