Outlander revisited

I recently finished my first “re-read” (via audiobook) of Outlander. I typically re-read my favorite books and there are undoubtedly some that withstand the test of time better than others, so for that reason,  I was a bit reticent going into Outlander again. I probably love this series more than anything I’ve read to date, and I didn’t know what I would do if it had somehow lost it’s magic.

I went into the initial read blindly; I had read no reviews or summaries and thus had no subconscious bias based on other people’s opinions. I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely waylaid. Typically, I’m a pretty reserved person, but Outlander brought out the hyperactive, excitable, flailing-arms, high-pitched squealing fangirl in me like no other. I was obsessed with this book and thought of nothing else for months after the initial read. I cursed the unfairness of a life that forced me to leave my house and go to work while I was right smack in the middle of major Jamie and Claire drama! How cruel that my boss did not understand the gravity of my situation!? On the job, I was jittery and sleep-deprived and desperate for an open ear to listen to me ramble on and on about all the incredible things that had just happened. (Keep in mind, I was completely ignorant of the online fanbase at this point in the game.) Just recently, I cleaned out my old-emails and came across several that had been written during that time period. Bless my poor friends who had to endure my madness…

(click to enlarge)

Also during that time period, I had to help my brother and sister-in-law paint their new house. I had my nose buried in the book while waiting for the paint to be mixed at the store; and once we actually got to work, I painted faster than I’ve ever painted before! I was flying from room to room, unscrewing and removing light switch and outlet plates at lightening speed and futilely attempting to motivate the others with rapid hand claps and shouts of “Chop-chop, people! Let’s get this done!!” Afterwards, I declined a complimentary dinner and sped home so that I could get back to 1700’s Scotland.

As crazy as I was, I loved every minute of that euphoria. It still amazes me that a book can evoke so much emotion and make me so darned happy. While on the surface, it appeared to be making me regress in both intellectual ability and emotional age (what with all the girlie squeals and the extreme new-found boy crush); in reality, it was making me smarter. I learned so much history and increased my vocabulary with this book, and it spawned an interest in a country that I probably never would have even thought about otherwise. Of course, that feeling can almost never be re-captured after the first time, no matter how resilient said story may be. Therefore, I didn’t expect to revive that first time high and only hoped for at least another spirited experience. As you may have predicted, I was much relieved to find that Outlander still has what it takes to make me a very happy girl. Suffice it to say, it will still plaster a huge, goofy grin on my face :)

I was able to listen better and pay more attention to details this time around since my brain wasn’t hijacked by newbie mania. What struck me the most during my second go round was the emphasis on how young Jamie was. I knew all along that he was 23 years old of course, but I suppose I didn’t pick up on the multiple references to how young he appears, or the fact that Claire is sometimes caught off guard by his youthfulness.

I took a lot more notice of Frank this time. I had initially found him very distant and cold, but now have a different impression. I saw more clearly that he was quite loving with Claire and simply very dedicated (with a tendency towards complete immersion) to his research. I must say that I am notorious for switching “teams” upon second reads: I switched from team Edward to team Jacob and I switched from team Bill to team Eric (although, I watched “True Blood” for the first time in between those re-reads and I have to admit that Mr. Skarsgard had something to do with that about-face…). While I did see Frank in a more agreeable light, it definitely wasn’t enough to sway me from team Jamie. It did however, force me to much more critically evaluate Claire’s decision to abandon Frank. I’ve always found Claire to be a bit selfish, but I now see her decision as more foolhardy and callous. (It worked out in the end of course, so I can’t say that I blame her for it…)

I didn’t shed a tear during the Wentworth scene with Jamie and Black Jack Randall (compared to my first read when I WEPT LIKE A BABY). I understand Claire’s “solution” to Jamie’s depression at the abbey much better this time as well. The first time around, I was so emotionally drained and my mind so muddled that after the opium abbey brawl, I found myself blinking dazedly and thinking “wait….what the hell just happened?” but I was too excited to jump into Dragonfly in Amber to go back for clarification.

After finishing An Echo in the Bone, I consistently told people that the first book was my least favorite and that this is the rare series that gets better and better with each additional book. While I still believe the latter part of that statement to be true, I can not believe that I ever uttered the words “least favorite” and “Outlander” in the same sentence! It is so not my least favorite, I really can’t choose the “best” one because they are each so wonderful in their own way. Each book builds upon the last and weaves each thread tighter and those thousands of pages together are what makes the characters so richly realistic.

I’m starting to gush…so brace yourselves…but as I’ve said before, I feel like I know these people, actually I feel like I’ve known them my whole life. I’m constantly comparing this series to a real-life relationship: you enter into a whirlwind courtship, you’re madly in love and can see or think of nothing else, and then you settle into it, get comfy and feel like you’ve know that person (*cough* or character) forever. Seriously though, all of you hard-core fans out there, can you remember the time before you met Jamie and Claire? ;)

Anyhoo, I’ll wrap this up by saying that Outlander is a classic, it will never get old or lose it’s magic and I should’ve never doubted that (however tiny that doubt may have been). It’s the unique book that simultaneously stimulates both my giddy inner fangirl and my studious inner historian. You’d think that after a year of reading this series and writing multiple blog posts (well, basically a whole blog) about the same characters, that my excitement would have quelled at least a bit, right? Well, I’m still in love and still a loyal devotee and I think it speaks to the quality of the writing. Next up: the audio version of DIA.

14 comments on “Outlander revisited

  1. ChristieH says:

    Ha-Ha… I feel you, girlfriend! Totally agree with what you said about Frank – although I’ve never really hated him like so many fans apparently do. I think it makes ’em not notice how selfish Claire’s decision to leave him was. By the way, did you listen to Davina for the audio version? All I can say is she is wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful.

  2. Sophia says:

    Great, great post. You capture perfectly so many people’s adoration for this book.

  3. maria says:

    So true. You have basically summed up my obsession with Outlander. I have reread the series up to Fiery Cross but have never listened to it,which I really want to do.
    Love you blog.

  4. @Christie- I did listen to Davina and I agree, she is fantastic!

    @Sophia- Thank you :)

    @Maria- Thank you, listening is a totally different experience and I would highly recommend it. I was a little worried that it might ruin my mental impression/image of the characters, but it really didn’t.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I could not agree more. You have put in to words what I could not.
    Forever Outlander Fan,

  6. T.Y. says:

    Love this post! Outlander is still good the third time around if you should ever want to read it again!

  7. Carla says:

    Your e-mail above to friend Angela is DELIGHTFUL!

    I still find the first novel best with characters at their most innocent and story progress evenly paced. The more recent novels in the series go slomo for lengthy bits, then dash breathlessly to finishes.

    As for character Claire, she’s an opportunist as is Jamie, but a more selfish one than he. Claire’s comfortable in the 1700s with an inside track on the immediate future and a uniquely unmatched professional skill set…..neither of which elevate her above the salt in the 20th century. Moreover, the only true gentleman in this circumscribed universe is Lord John, who can be counted upon always to do the done thing…..which sadly can not be said of Claire or Jamie…..but most readers don’t give a fig. Then there’s proper Frank the wronged husband…..to date not given a fair shake for the most part…..but it’s not over ’til it’s over.

    So, Outlander fangirl, watch for a unique support box near April 15th.

    • Hey Carla! Tis true what you say about Jamie and Claire, and I agree that Lord John is the most dependable of them all. It’s interesting to think about whether or not Claire’s skill set (and the fact that it instantly made her a cut above the rest in the 1700’s versus just another doctor in the 1900’s) had anything to do with her choice to go back the second time? I wonder if that factored into her decision? After all, there was the possibility that she wouldn’t find Jamie, so maybe she was thinking “well, even if I don’t find him, I’ll be the best doc on the block.” Doubtful that she would’ve phrased it quite like that…but you get my drift ;) Fun to think about!
      And I’m most excited about this support box!

  8. She says:

    Ahahaa, that email was wonderful! It’s so awesome when a book can do that to you.

  9. I just found your blog…Love it! Of course, I LOVE Outlander…I have been known to go without food in lieu of putting down one of these books….and for me, thats BIG!!! I love that I’m not alone in thinking about these characters as actual people….that I know! Ridiculous ,really! Ok, I crushed so much on Jamie that I kept my mouth shut and wouldn’t tell anyone about the series for the longest time because I didn’t want to share him with anyone!!!! And let me just say that you should never start one of these books when you are close to giving birth to your 4th child….NOT a good idea! Anyhow, Thanks for giving me a good chuckle this morning…I’m off to do the dishes and daydream of my Jamie!

    • Ha! Too funny that you didn’t tell anyone about the series so you could keep him all to yourself :) I was desperate for someone else to read it so that I could gush to another fan (my husband was very patient, but not so appreciative), and trust me, I could TALK, TALK, TALK about Jamie for endless stretches of time!
      I popped over to your blog earlier today and your children are just beautiful. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  10. Patty says:

    Great blog! I myself feel that Frank cheated on Claire during the war so I’m not so torn with her choice.What I find hard to believe is that Jamie is still a virgin. Sure he was on the lamb or imprisoned but it seemed like there were plenty of nubile girls at Castle Leoch ready to ponce on Jamie. Why was he in the alcove with Laoghire when he (as he later confessed to Claire) wanted Claire? Enquiring minds want to know :)

    But on second listen (yes Davina Porter is the best reader ever!), I realize that Diana Gabaldon is a true genius. She blends sci fi, romance, and adventure seamlessly and with a dash of poetry (“…held in bondage like Prometheus on his lonely rock, divided love the vulture that tore at my heart.”). Outlander, the first installment, is certainly the best of the series so I don’t know if I’ll continue to re-listen to all the books again. But I will undoubtedly buy the last (?) installment when it finally comes out in audible and kindle.

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