Here are a few of my reactions to Diana Gabaldon's latest story, "Virgins", just published in the DANGEROUS WOMEN anthology. (Page numbers below refer to the Nook edition, so if you're reading the hardcover book, your page numbers will be different.)
*** SPOILERS BELOW! Don't read the rest of this post if you don't want to know yet. ***
I like that the story opens in Ian's POV. We've never seen his thoughts before, and it's always interesting to see Jamie through someone else's eyes. I was a little surprised that Ian thinks of Jamie as "the wean" (p. 382), but I suppose it's no different from someone in our time calling his slightly-younger best friend "the kid".
i liked Ian's reaction to the news of Brian's death. And when Jamie said, "I did" (p. 383), my eyes squeezed shut tight in involuntary reaction to the pain in those words, and the memories -- not just the story Dougal told of the flogging, but also the memory of Jamie in FIERY CROSS, crying as he dug Aaron Beardsley's grave. (Kind of hard to read with my eyes shut, of course, so that reaction didn't last long. <g>)
Jamie's account of the flogging was very moving. I liked Ian's line, "No. I willna let go, Jamie." And I loved this exchange on p. 384:
Ian looked at him, surprised, and Jamie gave him the I went to the Universite’ in Paris and ken more than you do smart-arse look, fairly sure that Ian wouldn’t thump him, seeing he was hurt.The forced baptism on p. 389 was not pleasant to read about, at all (especially for me, as a Jewish reader), but I can certainly imagine that such things happened.
Ian looked tempted, but had learned enough merely to give Jamie back the I’m older than you and ye ken well ye havena sense enough to come in out of the rain, so dinna be trying it on look instead.
p. 391 - "clipeachd" - Did anybody else catch this little connection to that deleted scene from FIERY CROSS that Diana posted on her blog in 2010? I did, and it made me laugh.
"So ye canna even tell the difference between your c*ck and your arse, and ye’re preachin’ to me about Latin?” - great line.
I liked the bit with Jamie and Ian placing stones on the grave on p. 392; that's a Jewish tradition, too, although I don't suppose either of them knew it.
p. 395 - "Ye think of me, Jamie, and Jenny and Lallybroch. Ye’ll not see us, but we’ll be here nonetheless, and thinking of you. Look up at night, and see the stars, and ken we see them too.” - I love this! And Jamie really has done this all his life -- in the cave, at Helwater, on the Ridge, etc. I can even imagine him telling Jemmy that, just before they left to go through the stones at the end of ABOSAA.
p. 398 - I burst out laughing at the idea of Jamie, in kilt and plaid, being mistaken for a Jew. And laughed even harder as it occurred to me that, by Ian's reasoning, if Jamie could be mistaken for a Jew because of his red hair, then a Jewish redhead like me could be mistaken for a Scot, despite my total lack of Scottish ancestry of any kind. And naturally I got a kick out of that idea. <g>
I liked the way they got Jamie to submit to having his back tended, without so much as saying a single word to him. <g>
I like Jamie's thoughts about Jenny on p. 411, especially this: "The truth was, it made him sick with shame to think about Jenny, and he tried not to--and was the more ashamed because he mostly succeeded."
p. 418 - "The pain had gone off to the far side of the room; he could see it sitting over there, a wee glowering sort of purple thing with a bad-tempered expression on its face." - I like that.
p. 428 - "the slight tremor in his voice when he added, 'Laird of Broch Tuarach.' - I like that. Probably the first time he's ever called himself that?
p. 433 - "Jamie was singing softly along to the fiddle’s distant tune" - Nice little detail there. <g> I did a double-take at this, and then I remembered, this is happening a few years before he got hit with that ax and lost his ability to hear music.
I liked the reminder of the "guarding your weak side" bit on p. 439.
p. 442 - "Something had come upon him and nothing mattered. Some small remnant of his consciousness registered surprise, and then that was gone, too. No pain, no thought. He was a red thing and while he saw things, faces, blood, bits of room, they didn’t matter." - I like that. We've seen him refer to "the red thing" from time to time in the other books, of course, but the way it's described here, it sounds like this might have been the first time he ever felt it. I wonder if Jamie had ever killed anyone before that day?
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It's a fascinating glimpse into Jamie and Ian's relationship, and really interesting to see Jamie at this point in his life, before he became the larger-than-life hero-type. What intrigued me most in this story is to see how Jamie picked himself up in the aftermath of the devastating shocks of the floggings and his father's death, and (with Ian's help) found the strength to keep going. I liked Ian a lot in this story. And the Jewish angle made the story even more interesting to me on a personal level.
If you want to tell Diana Gabaldon what you thought of "Virgins", there is a thread on Compuserve here.