Maybe it’s all in the details….why I “feel” Outlander (spoilers)

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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 .

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39 thoughts on “Maybe it’s all in the details….why I “feel” Outlander (spoilers)

  1. Ashley

    You’ve expressed exactly how I feel, as well. I grieve when I finish the books. Sometimes I feel so devastated to know these characters do not exist but on page and in Diana’s amazing imagination. I often wonder how authors cope with their creations. These characters are so real to us…it has to be incredibly intense for the author. We all feel like Jamie and Claire are ours. What a wonderful gift Diana has given us!

    • Yes! I’ve wondered too! Does it feel like they are family or does the creation give her separation. I’m afraid I don’t know haven’t created a character!

    • ShariG

      I loved reading this because it so closely represents my experience when I read the Outlander books which I have not stopped doing since being introduced to them when the second half of season one television began. I had heard about the series but didn’t subscribe to Starz. Then I subscribed just to see it and was finally able to tune in at the beginning of the second half and watched all of the previous episodes. I fell completely in love with Jamie and Claire and started reading the books not wanting to wait for the series to find out what happened. After the eighth book I started reading them all again, missing the my new “family”.. There are so many scenes that make me laugh out loud or cry. Like you and so many of us, I love their daily lives, the moments of true intimacy between Jamie and Claire that include sex but are not limited to it. What astounds me is that the Outlander world is so rich in people I feel I know and whom I care about. Brianna, Roger, Young Ian, Jenny, Lizzy, the Beardsley twins, Rachel, Ian, Jem, Amanda, and the list goes on and on. Each character is drawn by words into such a complete picture of the person that you can’t help but feel they are family or friends. What a gift to us, this world that comes to life when we read and stays with us long after.

    • Thanks Karen most of my posts are Outlander related. You might like my first post about Diana (mentions the Fairfax event where I met you ) and the one about Jamie, “he’s a man and that’s no small thing” I feel humbled that you read my blog! You’re a legend!

  2. Critterrlr

    You’ve said in words everything I’ve told my friends about Diana Gabaldon, her writing of all her amazing characters and their woven relations. I’m always surprised to hear that she doesn’t write in a particular frame or order. Yet the series hold such description, you feel as if you’re standing in the midst. Thank you for this!

    • Linda Fraser Sinclair

      I have been a reader of the Outlander series almost since they first came out. I have read the entire series multiple times, and until recently considered it a little embarrassing. I had an immediate connection to the books since I am a Fraser. My father, Duncan Fraser, raised us with strong cultural ties to our Scot’s heritage. I grew up going to Highland games and ceilidhs In Ontario, Canada where my father’s ancestors were given crown lands after the Revolutionary war. Jocasta isn’t the only Fraser to end up in Canada. In fact, we attended a clan gathering of Fraser’s from around the world held outside of Aberdeen, Scotland at the Fraser castle in 1997. I had my picture taken with the current Lord Lovat. A family historian has traced our ancestry back to that branch of the Fraser clan.It was an amazing experience. I am always amazed at how “spot on” DG is when she describes the Scottish noises Jaimie makes. It immediately recalls my own father’s derisive noises. She constantly amazes me at how she brings her characters to life.

  3. Violet

    Wow Beth, just wanted to say thanks for articulating this so beautifully. I’ve often wondered why I’ve been able to read Diana’s books so many times without tiring of it – obviously I know what is going to happen in the story, but really it’s a magic combination of the best characterisation I’ve ever read, along with a breathtaking willingness to put our beloved characters in peril. Diana’s writing has made me laugh, cry, rage, and wonder, and has been responsible for me forgetting to eat, biting my fingernails, ignoring the phone, and occasionally neglecting my children. Hers are the only books I will buy the minute I see them for sale (although Jo Nesbo comes a close second, Harry Hole being another example of stunning characterisation), and I have turned to Claire’s story many times in my life, when I need to forget, remember, or escape. I also feel like I know Jamie and Claire much more intimately than I have the right to, and they will always be right there in my mind, along with all of my other favourite (mostly real) people.
    I’m ambivalent about the TV series, but Cannot Wait for Moby!

  4. Hi Beth,

    I found your blog link on the Catrionation group on Facebook…and I’d like to thank you for your heartfelt words.

    You have managed to put into words exactly how I’ve felt about Diana’s books! I’ve often said she’s my favorite author, and have read Outlander many times over.

    So often I’ve tried to explain to non-Outlanders how great these books are, but you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head. From now on, I’m just going to point the naysayers to this post!

    I’d also like to add that whenever I’m reading any of the Outlander novels, very often during the day I’d find myself wondering how my friends, Jamie and Claire are doing…
    For a long time I was sure if I shared those thoughts that I’d be promptly placed into the loony bin. Now that I’ve found several groups on facebook, I see that my obsession is not mine alone. It’s good to know I’m in good company!

    I’m following your blog now and look forward to your posts!

    PS. I did a post on my blog recently that had to do with the Outlander Starz television show. (which I love)
    Feel free to take a peek:

    http://color-me-read.blogspot.com/

    Sharon 🙂

  5. Thank you so much, Beth. Your way with words are so eloquent yet capture the true essence of what I feel as well. We live in this Diana created world and it is wonderful to escape into it.

  6. Karen

    Yesssss! It’s always so nice to read your thoughts, because it’s like you’re reading my mind. The characters are who I fell in love with, and they’re what always draw me back. I read other things, but nothing ever satisfies me quite like Jamie and Claire.

  7. Marc Spurlock, MD

    Beth,
    It appears I am the lone male commentator on your post. I feel obsessed with these characters and their lives also. DG makes them feel so real, and as you say, so much detail that we feel that we really know them, as if they have come off the page and are a part of our lives. I find myself quoting the books to make a point to others. The plot makes us read the books through, the story of Jamie and Claire is so eternal that it makes us read the books again so we can see how they managed to love so deeply. These are not perfect people, they are definitely flawed, but we love them so much, we wished we could really be family or friends with them. They show us what real life really should be, and maybe we can imitate them is some way to enhance our own lives. I know I have done so.

    The TV series is visceral! The actors have brought a whole new level of understanding. Sometimes, we the readers, get so caught in all of this, that we find ourselves drawn to all of the drama surrounding the series. I am a voracious reader, and I have never found any books that I cherish and re-read so much. DG is an extraordinary author who has skills much beyond others. We find ourselves relishing the plot, tortured by the terrible things, crying over the tenderness and exulting over the triumphs. Diana never makes it easy on Jamie and Claire, and somehow, it reminds us of how difficult life really is, but the relationships pull us through. I’m glad I can “feel so deeply” while reading these extraordinary novels!

    • Wow! Thank you! This was wonderful to read. I found myself shaking my head in the affirmative throughout your comments! I too have used examples from the story to explain some truth or irony about life. In fact, I have joked that all questions can be answered with an example from Outlander. It’s been a year since I wrote that piece and I find my love affair with the books and characters has only deepened. And yes! The series has only added to my enjoyment. Do mind if I share your thoughts?

  8. Glory MacTavish

    I love Diana’s writing. I read a lot and enjoy other books but never for the same reasons that I love Diana’s books. You have written an accurate description of why I love Diana’s writing the most 🙂

    Thanks for your blog, I also really enjoy your writing.

  9. Dee

    Hello Beth

    Once again I breathed a deep sigh as I read your post. It articulates so well how I have felt about these books ( and now the TV series) since I picked up the first book as a holiday read the year it was printed in U.K. in early 90s. I read it end to end sitting on my fav secluded beech in Cornwall ( far west in EnglanD) with a watchful eye on my 8 year old. I have been in love with that and all the others books ever since and they have been something I have drawn on at times of great joy and pain as there are so many truths , parallels and lessons to be had . Have lost track of the number of times I have read the books. Yes Diana certainly knows how to push my buttons too not just because I’m an incurable romantic but one who needs the characterisation, the reality, the history and the ability to provoke smiles and tears that OL brings along side the romance. Most of all I need good and beautiful writing too. How lucky to get it all in one package with compliments of Diana.

    With out all that the TV sieris would just not be possible added to by spectacular actors ( who can make your heart bleed) fab direction, stage set and locations, costume,script etc Differernt but powerful too. It brings the books to life in a new way and that provoke a new excitement as my minds picture of the story grows. Love the TV series too

    So thank you Beth for your post – and also for the opportunities to read all the responses from like minded people. It’s so good to realise that there are so many of us out there!

  10. Laura Kirkham-Buchthal

    Beth, as usual, spot on. I would like to add one of the things that make the books so real for me is how Diana constantly is describing the weather and the smells. So much of how they survive is based around the freezing cold of winter, the hot, steaming sweltering heat of summer, etc. Likewise, LOVE all the smells. Jamie always smells of something. Fear. Sweat. Leather. Grass. Wood chips. The air always has amazing, season appropriate smells. The leaves, smell a certain way. The smells of baking bread; cinnamon, etc., meat sizzling, the BBQ during TFC. Just thought of one more thing. Roger says it best in Echo. Claire’s parenthetical ways of writing her letters. She is very witty and funny in her thoughts in the book. Most of the cracking up comes from things Claire says. I am hoping the writers begin to write some of this into the show as Cait is funny and could easily pull this off. Thank you for this wonderful review!!!

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