Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#11: Lord John and the Private Matter (Diana Gabaldon)

on July 6, 2014

If you’ve visited a bookstore or library in the past few years, I’m certain you have seen the name Diana Gabaldon. The covers of her books have always made me shy away from reading her works. While I enjoy historical fiction, the images of ships that I always seemed to encounter convinced me that I would not like her writing. This week, I decided to put my preconceived notions aside and actually read one of her novels.

Gabaldon is probably best known for her Outlander novels. When I went to the Memphis Public Library, this more common series was no where to be found. What I discovered was a related series, the Lord John Grey novels. Based on my reading of the jacket panel, John Grey is a character in the Outlander series; his story has become the basis for this group of novels.

Set in London in 1757, Lord John and the Private Matter opens with John Grey making an unfortunate discovery about the man who is soon to marry Grey’s cousin. The groom-to-be appears to have syphillis. How does Grey know this? He answers this for us better than I ever can near the end of the book:  “Saw your prick, over the piss-pots at the Beefstead.” (Lord John and the Private Matter, 267)  As Grey begins to investigate the truth of his observations, he is led into the strange London underworld of whore houses. Things become very strange as Grey becomes convinced that his future in-law may be involved in the mysterious and savage death of the woman in the green dress.

Lord John and the Private Matter is filled with interesting, memorable characters that are wonderfully developed by the author. While the story involves a strong presence of sexuality, promiscuity, and perversion, Gabaldon carefully walks the line between intrigue and vulgarity. (Just so there is no question, I do not recommend this novel for young adults or those who are easily offended by sexual commentary. At the same time, this is not 50 Shades.)  What I found more uncomfortable than the content was the constantly shifting scenes. Written more like a mystery, the novel demands that the reader move seamlessly around the city of London with Lord John. Without a clear visual of the city, the geography can become challenging.

I no longer question Gabaldon’s skill as an author. I liked the book. I just don’t know that I will venture into the world of Lord John again. There are so many books to read that promise (and deliver) greater returns for me.

If you’ve had a different experience with Gabaldon’s works, I welcome your comments below as well as recommendations of another of her books to check out.

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