Historical fiction at its best.
Historical fiction is generally not something that excites me, but with the time travel twist added in, ‘Outlander’ grabbed my interest.
Up front, I have to say I enjoy the television series more than the novel – chiefly because of being able to forgo a lot of the exposition about the era and just enjoy the story. As much as I was engrossed in the novel, and enjoyed being educated about how people lived in 1700’s there were many times I skipped ahead in the written version. Dianna’s eye for detail in researching every small thing about life in that era is uncanny, you really get a feel for how difficult living was without the creature comforts. I take my hat off to her in that respect – it was really educational. Conversely it was some of that content that had me skipping forward. So I guess you could say I had a love-hate relationship with parts of the monologue.
The novel allowed you to get a real sense of history with the characters and set them up for the journey. The television series on the other hand does it through flash back and narration… which is well done and not distracting, although at times Claire’s voice over feels out of place even though the content is vital to the scene/story.
I feel the small screen version to be a lot more confronting. I remember reading the scenes in the novel, and I guess I mentally edited or sanitised the events somewhat to my own comfort level: seeing them replayed on the flat screen had me squirming at times. Though, I think they only enhance Claire’s story and not added to the production for shock value. Life in the 1700’s was raw, hard and a battle for survival (especially for a woman) and to show this you expect to be made uncomfortable. The added bonus with seeing the story retold in picture medium is the truly spectacular scenery – it had me fighting off the urge to jump online and book a Scottish getaway.
My imagined version of Jamie from the novel was rugged, huge with an imposing physical presence, where the actor playing Jamie in the television series, Sam Heughan, presents a softer, vulnerable more attractive version (not to say he is not imposing when he needs to be). Heughan cast as Jamie lends credence to the intimate scenes the Claire’s character; in the novel the conversations they have when they are alone is not something I could picture a battle-scarred highlander having with his woman, but this actor hits the perfect balance of naivety, strength, and masculinity to keep me engaged in the more difficult dialogue to swallow from the book.
Maybe because of the medium, but I find the television series keeps the pace going so much better than the book – as I mentioned I skipped ahead in the novel, but in watching the series, I’m always anticipating the next episode. The creators of the small screen version are doing Dianna a tremendous service in bringing the world of Claire to life.
Gabaldon really packs a punch in this story, I can’t say I predicted the story that well. She presents options for Claire, building up both sides of an argument to a point when even the reader has difficulty making a choice. Dianna really knows how to plan out a gripping storyline and make it real.
As you can garner from my critique, I enjoyed the book, but didn’t love it; the show however… so much more satisfying.
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