Yukon Books - Whitehorse, Yukon
Yukonbooks.com > Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation


November 15, 2001


Diana Gabaldon fans all over the world will certainly recognize the above as that all-purpose Scottish sound meaning anything from "Indeed?" to "Yeah? You and whose army?" to an invitation to participate in activities too lewd and lovely to put name to. Similarly, fans will identify with the small moans and soft cries of delight emanating from my own ruby red lips as I cruise gently into Gabaldon's latest book in the Outlander series, The Fiery Cross.

It was a long dry spell, four years and endless teasers, since the Calling of the Clans at the end of Drums of Autumn. Yes, we heard, it would be out early in 2000. Nope, postponed till fall. Ah, sorry, probably spring, '01; July, no, October, yes definitely November. And then, November sixth and not one moment before. But it's here now, already on the National Post Best Seller list (which means 25% off the cover price at Mac's) and it does not disappoint. Taking up the day after the calling of the clans, Fiery Cross continues the epic tale of rebellion and love and betrayal, interspersed lavishly with details of daily life in 18th century Scotland and America. This is history, richly textured and stunningly well-presented, living and breathing on every page, and at the center of it all, a love so fierce and strong that it transcends all.

Unlike Gabaldon's earlier books which I inhaled at a gulp, stopping for neither feed nor water until I was done, I'm reading this wonderful fruitcake of a book slowly, savouring its composition and flavour, wrapping myself in the vibrancy and warmth of its characters. After each day, during which I have attempted to be all things to all people and have, as usual, failed miserably, it is my reward to myself.

< >"Here, mo nighean donn, " I tell my poor battered psyche, "Jocasta has been tied up and beaten, Jamie and Claire have just interrupted the torture-death of a mozie auld poutworm by his abused wife and one of the best characters is about to be found hanging and left for dead. Relax and enjoy!!"

Paradoxically, The Fiery Cross is both too long and too short. I wanted the book to go on forever, supplying me with the drama and adventure so obviously missing from my life. At the same time, I kept thinking, 'Here. If she had ended it right here, she could have had a whole 'nother book out in two years instead of the usual four.' In any event, God keep Ms. Gabaldon safe and hearty, I've already begun wondering when the next one will be out.

But speaking of adventure, it's not as if my life is totally incident free.

Last week, on my way downtown, I pulled over on Hamilton and stopped to pick up a young man, a practice severely frowned upon by the fellow who shares my bed and board. It was a sunny day, but windy, and he was hunched over as if he was cold. And anyway, I thought, someone new to talk to. Talk AT, more like. He didn't have a whole lot to say, and kept his head turned, looking out the side window. But was OK, I can keep a conversation trundling along without much help, the way Phil tells it, just having a warm body within hearing range is all that's required.

So I didn't mind that my travelling companion was not disposed to do much more than grunt at my witticisms and observations. Nor did I take too much note when he started to open the door as I slowed for the stop light by the Mall. What I did object to was the way he grabbed up my purse from the space between the seats as he bolted onto the side was and took off at a dead run.

Now, there wasn't much in that old purse. A handful of new and nearly new Kleenex. A comb with three or four teeth missing. A lipstick that is worn nearly to its shallow tin holder and I have to use a toothpick to dig out if I need some which I always do but rarely bother to (are you still with me?) Toothpicks (see above.) A little Swiss army knife advertising Coyote Air in Teslin. A leather wallet with few pennies in the coin pocket, a used ticket from a long-ago concert at the Art Center and a napkin with the name and address of a truck driver who used to stop at the Lodge a lot and called me one morning to come and have coffee with him at Macdonald's, just for old time's sake. In addition, there was a little zipper case with a couple of credit cards, a screwdriver and a few grayish Tums that have been rolling around in there, quite possibly since my last pregnancy.

It wasn't losing that old purse, or the wallet. My pockets are always full of new and used Kleenix. I'd been carrying the truckdrivers name around for several years and had never called him and any chance of having heartburn brought on by pregnancy had been severely reduced some ten or twelve years ago. The cards could easily be cancelled and replaced.

No, it was none of those things that prompted my next action. It was the thought of having to go home and confess to Phil that I'd been up to my old tricks in spite of his constant harping. "Hey! Stop!" I yelled as I leaped, gazelle-like, from the car, slipped and fell splat on my dignity right in the middle of the intersection.

By the time, I'd recovered my breath and wiped the hair out of my face, my purse was back in my hands and a nice young gentleman was helping me to my feet. Turns out, he'd heard my shout, had reached out a hand automatically and snagged my purse on its way by. The young thief had continued on his way without missing a beat.

I gave my benefactor a heartfelt hug of thanks and offered him a ride down to Main Street. "Actually, I'm going all the way to Riverdale, my Mom is in Macaulay there, so I could drop you anywhere between here and there. She's 98 years old, lived by herself until last year, now she's there. I'm taking her a cold potato sandwich, she likes a little snack at bedtime, so do I but I'd rather have a slice of cold pizza…"

I thought for a moment the young fellow was going to accept the ride but I guess he need the exercise because he closed the door rather abruptly and started downtown at a pretty good clip. As I drew abreast of him I rolled down the window and hollered, "Thanks again. Sure you don't want a ride? I could take you wherever…" But I was talking to thin air, he'd turned down a side street and was practically running and I continued on my way feeling pretty good about the whole affair.

I'd had a little adventure. There was no harm done. And certainly, there was no need to worry the family about it. Especially Phil. He worries so loudly. And tends to use words like "dumb" and "irresponsible" and even "featherbrain." I hate when he uses "featherbrain." Even when I deserve it.

As to the deserving, last weekend, our daughter Jo and her two boys, Andrew and Ryan, came for supper and an evening of cards. Andrew turned immediately to the TV, which was already tuned to the requisite Hockey Night in Canada. Ten-year-old Ryan took the small rocking chair beside his grandfather, with whom he has closely bonded, the result of recent afternoon spent in each other's company, wherein, much to Ry's complete and utter delight, Phil chose to reveal the secrets of a misspent and rather dramatic youth.

After a word or two with Andrew with regards to Chris Joseph's latest performance, Phil glanced down at his younger grandson. "So," he asked, mano a mano, "how's your love life?" Ryan gave the question serious thought. "Not so good, " he finally admitted. "I know just what you mean," Phil commented soberly. "Mine's not so hot either."

Ry mulled that over for a moment and then turned to his mother who was following the conversation with some fascination. "Did you hear that, Mom? Just one more thing that Grampa and I have in common!"

< >Mmphm. Maybe Grampa should try wearing a kilt. And not calling names.

Print Preview


[Special Order Desk]
Great Deals
New Arrivals
Special Offers
Recover password
Contact us
Privacy statement
Terms & Conditions
Shipping Information
Special Orders Desk

Copyright © 2007 Yukonbooks.com