He’s humbled on the gravel floor begging her to give him but one moment. One moment to know something of his lost child. Her heart is badly wounded and she clings to her depression, desperately afraid to let go of its numbing oblivion. She is afraid to let herself be present with him again…..This is one of many poignant scenes in Outlander that have moved me to tears and beyond. This story makes me feel.
As I’ve stated before, I am surprised at the emotions these books wring out of me. I enjoy them so much that reading feels like a guilty pleasure. I have laughingly commented that at times I feel voyeuristic . I’m right there with them. I’m the Peeping Tom in the bushes of Jamie and Claire’s life! I’m sitting broken-hearted beside Jamie in the gazebo and I am trembling with Claire’s fear as she runs down the garden path. It feels real.
I’ve asked myself if any other books have made me feel empathy and the answer of course is yes, but not to this extent and not with this depth. Diana Gabaldon’s skilled story-telling draws you in and makes you feel her characters’ emotions. I found her characters and their lives to be so real that I missed them when I wasn’t reading. To tell the truth, I feel I know Jamie and Claire better than some of the REAL people in my life. Which is a situation I may want to take a look at, but that’s the point! How can I feel this way about fictional characters?
Maybe, it’s all in the details. There is a scene during the honeymoon that has become one of my favorites. It’s not one of those scenes you can pick right out as memorable, but it is rich in detail. Jamie has taken Claire into the bracken to make love to her and in the aftermath she studies his naked sleeping body. She describes the shape of Jamie’s form and a thought forms in her mind. She expresses this thought with a single word, “damn”. This detailed description coupled with the mumbled epiphany speaks volumes. I’m drawn in and my mind’s eye travels the length of Jamie’s body and draws the same conclusion…damn…we’re in trouble. It seems Ms. Gabaldon knows just when to bring us close enough to see the ant crawling across Jamie’s’ hand and when not.
Sometimes, it’s the mundane details of their daily life that make me feel I’m there. Like, Claire taking stock in her pantry. I can smell the apples and braids of onions. I can see the yellow wheels of cheese and count the hanging hams. Like Claire, I’m feeling good about the coming winter and fruits of their efforts. As a reader, I’m charmed by this look into pioneer life. It makes me want to go create the same sense of well-being in my own home. There is a scene where Jamie is going over the “books” and complaining about the costs of things like indigo. He and Claire discuss their assets and make a plan for barter. I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact conversation. Maybe not about the cost of indigo, but the cost of milk or heating fuel for sure. While I’m reading this domestic scene, I’m chuckling with its familiarity and feeling closer to my new favorite couple.
I know Diana has generously written about her writing process and some great insight can be found on her web page. She writes about what helps make her characters real and often it is their idiosyncrasies. Some of my favorites are Jamie’s blush, his too tight shirt shrug , the tapping of his fingers, and of course the double eye blink. I love Claire’s need for the occasional drink , her glass face, her constant battle with her hair, and of course, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”.
There isn’t anyone who has enjoyed the series that doesn’t have a favorite line or two…or more! For me it’s more, in fact, too many to list. Some of the dialogue makes me laugh out loud and others bring me to tears. Some conversations are so heartbreakingly beautiful that I stop reading and allow myself to luxuriate; “Your face is my heart….” , “to say I love you and mean it…”. Diana allows us to understand the relationships between her characters by once again paying attention to the details. We know how her characters feel because she allows us to see facial expressions, body language and hear tones of voice. I feel the intimacy of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in light touches, significant looks and passionate embraces.
So, what is it that I’m trying to say? I think it is that Diana knows how to push my buttons. She has created a reading experience that I have yet to recreate. I read and reread and never tire of the adventure, history, relationships and feelings. Her dedication to the details captures my attention and my heart. Thanks Diana .