ECHO: Claire and Lord John (Part 1)
* * * SPOILER WARNING * * *
Don't read further if you haven't yet finished the book! There are some major spoilers here.
Here are my reactions after re-reading Chapter 93 ("A Series of Short, Sharp Shocks"). And I should preface this by saying, I really, really disliked the Claire-marrying-Lord-John subplot the first time I read it. (And said so, in no uncertain terms, to Diana when I first read it, and again on Compuserve recently.) The comments below are from my first re-read, when I made a deliberate effort to go as slowly and carefully through this part of the book as I could manage, and try to keep an open mind.
All right. I made it through this chapter, with my equanimity still intact.
Lord John is obviously shattered by the news. Walking the streets for hours (p. 769) - we know from BOTB that he walks like that when he's in shock, or when he needs time to think (after Percy's betrayal, for example).
"[Lord John] wasn't in the habit of lying to himself." (p. 770) - He knows perfectly well what he's feeling and why. Unlike Claire, he doesn't seem to spend any time in denial (or maybe he did, and we didn't see it?)
"But now he'd lost himself." That's a line I did not notice on the first reading, and I think it's significant. Is his relationship with Jamie Fraser so critical to his own self-image, to his own sense of who he is, that losing Jamie really means he's lost HIMSELF? If we were speaking of Claire, I'd say yes, instantly, with no reservations. It surprises me a little that John also feels that way. I knew he loved Jamie, of course, but I didn't realize before that his feelings ran that deep.
I suppose I always felt that Claire loved Jamie more than Lord John did, but I see now that I may have been letting my own feelings get in the way, reading something into the (overall) story that isn't, in fact, there. Now I'm beginning to grasp -- for the first time -- that Lord John might well love Jamie just as much as Claire does. That's not a thought I've been willing to entertain until now. Partly from sheer stubbornness, I suppose <g>, because I love Jamie and Claire's relationship SO much that I tend to resist -- strongly -- the notion that anyone else could love Jamie as much as Claire does. I think that's one reason why I reacted SO negatively to this storyline the first time, before I even got to the sex scene.
And it's not as though I don't KNOW how many times John has demonstrated his love for Jamie, his willingness to do absolutely anything he could for both Jamie and Jamie's family. Sending Jamie to Helwater in the first place, taking Willie to raise as his own son, looking after Brianna in DRUMS when Jamie could not, the many gifts he's sent them over the years, etc. I knew all that, and I STILL didn't believe that Lord John could possibly love Jamie as much as Claire does. Now, I'm wavering. I'm starting to see it. And I think I might be willing to be convinced.
Oh, and speaking of gifts -- about that medical chest. Reading the scene again this evening (pp. 772-773), I can see that from Lord John's point of view, this is (as many people on Compuserve have said) a touching example of his thoughtfulness, trying to give Claire what she needs for her medical practice. Somebody brought up the parallel of Lord John at Ardsmuir, giving Jamie "light and air and horses", and I do agree with that, now that I've taken the time to read this part in a calmer frame of mind (and, more importantly, to see the situation from Lord John's point of view rather than my own!)
As for the idea of Lord John marrying Claire in the first place, I still don't like it, but I do see the necessity of it, given the situation (and as I said before, I do see the parallel between Claire being forced to wed Jamie to escape BJR, and Claire being forced to wed Lord John to escape arrest).
Sorry to go on at such length, but I thought I owed it to Diana, in particular, to try to give a fairly detailed explanation of what I'm seeing on the re-read.