In celebration of the announcement of a season 3 + 4 for Outlander, I thought I would republish this article because….print shop. 😉
This morning on Twitter, Richard Kahan, a member of the Outlander on Starz writing team and new “tweep” shared that he was about to start reading Voyager. Someone else shared that they were starting the Fiery Cross. Someone else shared that they had been completely spoiled by the Outlander series and have other books to read, but find themselves rereading…again.
I found myself nodding my head and responding to them all!
“Voyager is one of my favorites! It’s so quotable! Poignant! ”
“The Fiery Cross” Loved it! The longest day ever written! LOL! Love that each book is so different! ”
“I keep going back to ABOSAA because it reveals so many truths about true love.”
” Yep…never been able to duplicate the reading experience Diana has created for me. I NEVER tire of reading her books…again…and again. I’m ruined.”
I’m constantly thinking about why this series resonates so much. Right now, however, I’m thinking about Richard reading Voyager and what he’ll find revealed between those pages.
The book opens on the battlefield and it is truly one of the best opening scenes I’ve ever read. Culloden’s legacy was one of grief, starvation, and despair for the people of the Highlands and for Voyager’s main character’s Jamie and Claire. They both believe the other is lost to them forever and they are trying to find a way to live “without their hearts”. They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss. In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Jenny, Ian and their children. They go on…they exist. Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.
I love the way Diana has structured this book. The mixture of the present day with flashbacks to the past slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion. The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh. And… experience the years of the empty and deprived life Jamie led in Claire’s absence. We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience. She did love Frank and I know those feelings must surface, but Claire’s heart is truly and irrevocably Jamie’s. What ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. And, despite what I know some fans think, I believe Frank’s biggest sin is that he simply isn’t Jamie. When Claire finally realizes that Jamie is most probably alive, we see her struggle with her choice to leave her daughter forever and we see more of what her relationship with Frank was really like.
“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he? He was like her?”
He breathed heavily, almost a snort.
“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him. damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly. “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”
“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”
They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,
“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you? Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”
They are moving scenes, but I have to say Jamie’s solidtary existence and yearning tears me up. From the moment he becomes conscious that he has survived the battle, his first thoughts are of Claire.
‘…he began to take stock of whatever other torments he might be required to endure. There were numerous cuts, gashes, and bruises here and there, and he was fairly sure he’d broken the fourth finger of his right hand again__difficult to protect it, the way it stuck out so stiff, with the joint frozen. None of that was too bad, though. What else?
“Claire. The name knifed across his heart with a pain that was more racking than anything his body had ever been called on to with stand.”
“…Lord that she may be safe. She and the child.”
I always felt Jamie’s celibacy spoke volumes. As Jenny surmises, this is a man who is not meant to sleep alone, but he so closely relates sex to love that he cannot bring himself to seek out solace in someone else’s arms. He has resigned himself to living a lonely existence.,”…but he had long since accepted the fact that for him, life was unlikely to ever be otherwise.” Any of you, who have read the scene in The Scottish Prisoner where Lord John over hears Jamie longing for his “dead” wife, actually emit a choked sob while reading? (Raising my hand) They both dream of being in each other’s arms once again. So, when their ‘voyage’ back to love is finally realized, as readers we are entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.
The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes. Let’s start with the scene after Jamie realizes Claire has truly returned to him. They are holding each other and Claire notices they are both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”. They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene. The intensity of their need of each other was palpable. Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures? My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear.
I love that they do not fall in to bed right away. We get to see the delicate dance of their becoming re-acquainted with their lost other half. They are shy with one another; she lets us feel their insecurity, “...Will ye take me__and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew...”
And even when they do at last come together physically Jamie lets us know that this romance isn’t just sex,
“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”. And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”
Later, we find that Jamie did try to pick up his life and move on without Claire. It didn’t work, but he is now left with responsibilities and…another wife…which he hides from Claire. I was so moved by his desperate explanation,
…” I was half-sobbing with rage, gasping between words. “You should have told me, the minute I came! Why in hell didn’t you tell me?” …” I drew back my fist and hit him in the chest.
“Why?” I shrieked, hitting him again and again and again, the sound of the blows thudding against his chest. “Why, why, why?!
“Because I was afraid!” He got hold of my wrists and threw me backward, so I fell across the bed. He stood over me, fists clenched, breathing hard.
“I am a coward, damn you! I couldna tell ye, for fear ye would leave me, and unmanly thing that I am, I thought I couldna bear that!”
“…do ye know what is like to live twenty years without a heart? To live half a man, and accustom yourself to living in the bit that’s left, filling in the cracks wi’ what mortar comes handy?’
“Do I know? I echoed. …” Yes, you bloody bastard, I know that! What did you think, I’d gone straight back to Frank and lived happily ever after?”
This revelation results in Claire’s leaving. On the road away from Jamie we see her grieve for the life she spent in constraint, detachment and disengagement. Only with Jamie is she able to be herself.
“...with him, given him soul as well as body, let him see me naked, trusted him to see me whole and cherish my frailties–because he once had.”
“I had feared he couldn’t, again. or wouldn’t. and, then had known those few days of perfect joy, thinking that what had been true was true once more; I was free to love him, with everything I had and was, and be loved with an honesty that matched my own”
When circumstances return her to his side she understands how shallow was her wounded pride because her love of Jamie was like “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”
And then,… she hears his fevered confessions , “I was so afraid to lose ye again, mo chridhe, ‘ he murmured. “So afraid, I havena loved anyone but you, my Sassenach, ever since the day I saw ye–…”
Is it any wonder why so many of us treasure these books and characters? Voyager’s journey back to love is a story savor.
“Do you know, his voice said, whispering,” What it means, to say again “I love you” and mean it?”