Women Love Jamie Because He Talks In Bed…why yes,…he does and why yes,…I do

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I’ve been re-reading The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon and I forgot how many of my favorite scenes were in this book!  I think I forget because the focus when people talk about The Fiery Cross is usually about the pages (and more pages) devoted to the gathering  that I jokingly (and affectionately) call the longest day ever written.  To tell the truth, it was a bit of a slough the first time I read it, but true to almost everything Diana has written, over time, I have grown to appreciate those chapters more and more.  She has become my favorite writer and as a person who fancies herself a writer, I’m always eager to read anything about Diana’s writing process or  what she thinks about her own characters.  I want a keek at her brain!  So, I was thrilled when I recently got a delightful glimpse into her thoughts about her well beloved character James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser… who talks in bed.  

Erin Conrad, of Three If By Space, tweeted from an EW fan convention that Diana, responding to a fan question, said the reason women love Jamie is “because he talks in bed”.  I giggle-snorted when I read this and then thought, “Why yes,..yes, he does and it is definitely swoon worthy”. In fact, some of my favorite  Jamie moments are found in their bed.  

There has been a lot of discussion in the fandom about what we hope to see in season 3 of Outlander on Starz.  One of the biggest things fans hope to see is more time in bed with Jamie and Claire.  Some want to see them make love because let’s face it , Diana wrote some fantastic love scenes and as one of my readers put it, “I’m not paying Starz to use my imagination!” Yep. Another reason some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together. Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words. However, the things Jamie does say in bed…sigh…are funny, playful, moving, tender words that really could move a heart to love him.

I tried to think of my favorite moments and to tell the truth it just isn’t possible!  Each time I would think I’d narrowed my choice down another heart warming or pounding moment would leap to mind.  From Outlander to Written in My Heart’s Own Blood, the relationship between the two is both revealed and shaped in their bed and choosing a favorite seems impossible because each moment is a part of the whole, each moment important.

During their honeymoon, Claire muses about finding herself  the sexually experienced one in the relationship and thinks “…there are in fact only a limited number of ways in which two bodies can meet, and we had not yet established that territory of intimacy in which the act of love takes infinite variety.” Diana has always maintained that writing a good sex scene isn’t about the exchange of body fluids, but about the emotional connection.  Jamie and Claire’s sex life moves into the territory of “infinite variety”  because of what is said in their bed and each “coming together” becomes unique and important.  It is the words that are said between the two that make the physical act meaningful.  When Jamie and  Claire are in bed it is as if the world goes away and he speaks to her as we all wish our men would speak to us, open and vulnerable because they trust us to be gentle with their hearts.

JAMIE THE COMIC

IMG_0427Many of the moments in Jamie and Claire’s bed are funny; what animals have you seen, hedgehogs, and the King of Ireland come to mind.  When Claire returns to him in Voyager the importance of these moments becomes clear when Jamie tells Claire he never thought he would laugh in a woman’s bed again.  Being able to laugh together in bed is rare gift of intimacy and comfortableness.

“Aye, well,” he said. “I dinna recall Adam’s asking God to take back Eve—and look what she did to him.” He leaned forward and kissed my forehead as I laughed, then drew the blanket up over my bare shoulders. “Go to sleep, my wee rib. I shall be needin’ a helpmeet in the morning.”

OUTLANDER Chapter 36:

Their laughter often makes me as teary eyed as their more serious moments.  But, the serious moments are so revealing and represent the many different levels of intimacy.

EMOTIONAL JAMIE

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One of my favorite things about Jamie is his gratefulness and I’m always moved by his expressions of gratitude for what God has given him and that most certainly includes  his relationship with Claire.

 “And yet”—he turned me toward him, hand closing gently over one breast—“yet when I think of you wi’ my child at your breast….then I feel as though I’ve gone hollow as a soap bubble, and perhaps I shall burst with joy.”
He pressed me tight against his chest, and I hugged him with all my might.
“Oh, Claire, ye do break my heart wi’ loving you.”

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER Chapter 6:

VULNERABLE JAMIE

does-it-stop“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?” “Even when I’ve just left ye, I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again.”  OUTLANDER, Chapter 17

I loved this scene because of the awe and wonder he expresses.  To me this is the moment when he begins to understand that sex is more than the physical act.  Every woman wants to hear that a man cannot stop feeling desire for her and that he aches for her.

JAMIE IN CHARGE

master“Not yet. We’ve time. And I mean to hear ye groan like that again. And to moan and sob, even though you dinna wish to, for ye canna help it. I mean to make you sigh as though your heart would break, and scream with the wanting, and at last to cry out in my arms, and I shall know that I’ve served ye well.”       OUTLANDER, Chapter 41

This scene signaled that Jamie has come into his own as a lover and that Claire is no longer the teacher and he the pupil. He has become aware that he has the power to make her feel and he revels in it. She, I’m sure, revels in his power, as well. Take charge Jamie is hot.

HONEST JAMIE

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Jamie is a very emotionally mature man, a man who takes ownership of his perceived failings. His honesty is startling and endearing and gives Claire permission to reveal her own confusion and weaknesses.  He makes her feel emotionally safe with his openess.

“I always thought it would be a simple matter to lie wi’ a woman,” he said softly. “And yet… I want to fall on my face at your feet and worship you”-he dropped the towel, and reached out, taking me by the shoulders-“and still I want to force you to your knees before me, and hold ye there wi’ my hands tangled in your hair, and your mouth at my service… and I want both things at the same time, Sassenach.” He ran his hands up under my hair and gripped my face between them, hard. “I dinna understand myself at all, Sassenach! Or maybe I do.”  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER Chapter 17

 POSSESSIVE JAMIE

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 “All right,” he whispered. His eyes bored into mine, daring me to close them, forcing me to hold his gaze. “All right. And ye wish it, I shall punish you.” He moved his hips against me in imperious command, and I felt my legs open for him, my gates thrown wide to welcome ravishment.
“Never,” he whispered to me. “Never. Never another but me! Look at me! Tell me! Look at me, Claire!” He moved in me, strongly, and I moaned and would have turned my head, but he held my face between his hands, forcing me to meet his eyes, to see his wide, sweet mouth, twisted in pain.
“Never,” he said, more softly. “For you are mine. My wife, my heart, my soul.”

Outlander chapt.29- 

Sometimes jealousy is okay and sexy.  Who wouldn’t want to be this man’s wife, heart, and soul?

GENTLE JAMIE

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I’ve often told my husband those moments when he is gentle are extremely meaningful to me.  When he looks tenderly into my eyes and touches my face gently with his big hands, I feel cherished.  Jamie has so many of those moments when his gentleness lets Claire know she is cherished. This scene when she wakes and finds he is watching her sleep and murmuring his love to her makes me tearful everytime.

“What is it, love?” I whispered. “Jamie, I do love you.”
“I know it,” he said quietly. “I do know it, my own. Let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there’s no so much I can be saying to ye while ye wake, but the same poor words, again and again. While ye sleep in my arms, I can say things to ye that would be daft and silly waking, and your dreams will know the truth of them. Go back to sleep, mo duinne.”
I turned my head, enough that my lips brushed the base of his throat, where his pulse beat slow beneath the small three-cornered scar. Then I laid my head upon his chest and gave my dreams up to his keeping.                                                                    OUTLANDER CHAPT 45

JAMIE A LOVE FOR ALL TIME

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Every woman wants to find a mutually passionate relationship.  She hopes to find someone she feels free to love with all her heart . Jamie’s ability to express his love for Claire is nothing short of poetic.

“I was dead, my Sassenach–and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I always will.”

The grass fell away. Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours–we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire–I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”

 DRUMS OF AUTUMN, chapter 16

Jamie has raised talking in bed to an art form and we readers find ourselves appreciating his talent…a lot. I know that Jamie is a fictional man and perhaps ideal, but I can’t help but believe that real men could learn a thing or two about talking in bed from him.   Diana has created a man who makes us love pillow talk and him.

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Get ready for sexy old folks……a reflection on Outlander season 3

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Caitriona Balfe just celebrated her 37th birthday on October 4th.  All day long, I saw well wishes for her flash across my social media sites.  Outlander’s fans, the cast, crew, and creators were all wishing her the happiest of days and thanking her for bringing Diana Gabaldon’s character the WWII nurse, Claire Randall Fraser, to life.  Her birthday fell in close proximity to a few casting and award announcements and the unveiling of a new EW cover (the cover was tweeted one day after I wrote this http://wp.me/p4mtBT-4BP coincidence?…I think I’m clairvoyant! LOL).  All of this news had me thinking about season 3 and I’ve got ideas jotted down and several articles in creation about Fergus and Ian and Marsali.  There has been lots of inspiration for an Outlander blog! Today, however, I find myself still thinking of Caitriona’s birthday.  She is 37 on the upward slope toward forty which often is the point of no return or should I say no role for most actresses. Have you seen Amy Schumer’s skit on the subject?  https://youtu.be/XPpsI8mWKmg

I know that Cait has said that she has no interest in being a starlet and so, I’m wondering  if she had any real idea how fortuitous it was she said yes to playing Claire? She has an opportunity to play a character that will not only continue to grow as a person, but she will get the chance to play a character who ages.  She is going to get to play a female character who still has an active sex life past forty.  In fact, her character still has a passionate sex life…until she’s…well, last time I checked Claire and her Jamie were grandparents who indulge their appetite for each other…often. Folks,…Outlander has the chance to once again break some ground in portraying sex on TV. Brace yourselves there is a chance we will see hot sex between two older monogamous married people who are passionately committed to each other.

First, let me say that the older I get the older still being young seems to get.  I can remember when  I thought 50 seemed the end of the line for everything including being sexy.  I recall reading a reflection Erma Bombeck wrote about turning 50. She was looking forward to being able to dress in loose pants and going to the grocery store without makeup.  She believed there would be less pressure to conform because nobody cared what you looked like when you turned fifty.  Evidently, Erma and I believed their was an expiration date on sexual attractiveness.

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I’ve been married to the same man going on 41 years.  We still hold hands and kiss…in front of people…like our children, which for some reason totally grosses them out.  We hear things like “Stop!  We get it, we get it, you still have sex , but just… STOP!”  LOL!  It’s not like we are groping each other and swallowing each other’s tongues and need to be told to get a room.  Usually, it’s just a “moment” when we feel affection or gratitude and lean in for a gentle kiss and a look into each other’s eyes.  I would think knowing your parents feel this way about each other would be a good thing, but evidently,…not so much. This leads me wonder how Outlander will portray sex between it’s two main characters who are rapidly approaching fifty.  I’m wondering if they know they have the chance to once again break the mold when it comes to how sex is portrayed on the screen, because believe or not, people over fifty do have sex lives.  One of the things that has kept me attracted to this book series is Diana Gabaldon’s decision to go beyond the falling in love stage in relationships.  She decided to write about love that lasts for fifty years.  I think that’s why some of the books that come later in the series like A Breath of Snow and Ashes are my favorites.  I read them and find myself nodding in recognition of the truth of what it is like to be in a committed relationship.  

I believe that our society has a very unrealistic view of being in love which Hollywood has tended to perpetuate.  We tend to believe it’s like the fairytale. Happy endings aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. Ms. Gabaldon’s books take the reader beyond falling in love and into the everyday realities of how people stay in love despite tragedy and hardship.  

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My husband once told me about a conversation he had with one of his young college football players.  The young man had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to drop out of school. My husband told him our story which included my getting pregnant at 18 and his not dropping out of college.  He told him it could be done and he would help him find a way to make it happen if the young man wanted to stay in school.  My husband said he felt the need to tell the young man the truth about marriage, “Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the thing I am the most proud of”.  Diana’s books give us a portrait of the self-sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and sometimes the forgiving it takes to maintain a long-term relationship.  One of the reasons some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together.  Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words.  It rings true to me, sex is important for a variety of reasons in a marriage and I hope season three of Outlander will show us sex between this older couple that comes close to approximating real-life because for the most part Hollywood hasn’t.

I find myself more and more fascinated by the role film plays in our perceptions, particularly of women. In general, Hollywood has an abysmal record when it comes to representing women as real members of the human race and that includes representing aging women in film.

Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. That has implications for the number of female authority figures onscreen.

Age is one issue among many that has endured in Hollywood. The study found that among actors over 40 in film and television, 74.3% of characters are male and only 25.7% are female.

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When they do put older women paired with an older man in a film the relationship still isn’t portrayed as sexy, but instead is “typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous”. It is about companionship rather than a real relationship.

If you watch a random assortment of Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who have sex are in their 20s and, occasionally, 30s. When people in their 50s and older engage in an on-screen romance, their relationship is typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous.

In other words, the message that film-makers send us is, “Sex is for when you are young. Companionship is for when you’re older.” While it’s true that most of us know more about relationships now than we did as teenagers, this certainly doesn’t mean that sex has left the building. Far from it! In real life, baby boomers are saying that sex gets better with age.  (read this great article with Dame Helen Mirren about sex after 60) http://sixtyandme.com/should-hollywood-embrace-sex-after-50/

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Curious, I began looking for information to read about older women and sex in film.  One article link that popped up on my screen was entitled “The Top Ten Sex Scenes of Actresses Over 50” on a webpage call MiddleSexy which promotes the idea that sex when we are older can be better than when we are younger “older/better/sexier”.  I was hopeful that what I would find was a list of films that showed women over fifty in “realistic” sexual relationships…not so much.  In this article, 9 out of 10 of the films listed involved older women having sex with younger men and one about incest.  Evidently, Hollywood and the author believe only “cougars” can be sexy or have hot sex.  http://middlesexy.com/2014/10/21/top-10-movie-sex-scenes-featuring-actresses-over-50/

Men, as Amy Shumer’s skit suggests, don’t have an expiration date and are still seen as f*able no matter how old they are.  Do you remember the fuss over Carrie Fisher’s not aging well in the new Star Wars movie? http://wp.me/p65lj4-2r Women are consistently told they are too old to play the love interest of men older than themselves.  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/maggie-gyllenhaal-too-old-hollywood

I asked myself if I could remember a film that actually showed an older couple having hot sex. The only movie I could think of was The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan.  It was definitely sexy, but missing a key component for me…the ever after part.  This was still just another falling in love story. However, it should still be considered ground-breaking for it’s portrayal of an older couple having passionate sex. I would have loved to have seen a sequel to that movie.  Were those two character able to make a relationship work?! 

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The good news is that there seems to be more attention being paid to Hollywood’s issues with women in general.  Outlander has been part of a movement that has shown that TV with a female protagonist can generate audiences and money.  One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more realistic portrayals of older couples on the screen is because there aren’t enough women behind the camera and enough good roles being written for older women.

You’ve got to go behind the camera to fix things in front of the camera.http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/youre-the-worsts-aya-cash-on-ageism-in-hollywood.html

But, here’s some even better news…Outlander has two seasons to show the world that sex between two older committed people can be hot and meaningful too.  

Spoilers: They tried to live without their hearts…Jamie and Claire the years apart

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imageAfter hearing the distressing noise, Lord John approaches the door thinking of perhaps going into the room to see if Jamie is alright.  He hears heavy breathing and realizes that Jamie has awakened from a bad dream. He overhears the big Scot talking to his lost wife, “Could I but lay my head in your lap, lass. Feel your hand on me, and sleep wi’ the scent of you in my bed”.  John knows he shouldn’t be hearing this extremely private conversation and tries to back away quietly. Before he gets away he hears Jamie sob and then whisper, his voice full of longing and pain, “Christ Sassenach, I need ye”.

Cue me, ragged intake of breath and leaky eyes.

I’ve been rereading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite of the Lord John books.  Last night, I reached the scene where Lord John Grey hears Jamie cry out as if he was having a nightmare. This is one of those scenes that causes me to take an involuntary sob. The characters have become so real to me that I feel invested in their lives and experience moments of crippling compassion when I read of their moments of distress or pain.  I feel what John feels and what Jamie feels and have to put the book down and take a moment to recover, laugh at my silliness, and curse and simultaneously love Diana for writing books and characters that can move me this much.  I’ve often wondered if Diana feels the kind of empathy I do when she writes. Does she have to take a break and recover, does she smile through her tears at the beauty of these poignant moments she has written?

Diana has written many moving scenes in her novels, but this particular scene gets me every. single. time.  I’m curious as to why this scene, in particular, makes me so…so…verklempt! Reading that scene and “overhearing” Jamie’s private moment with his vanished wife makes me feel like I’m right beside Lord John trying desperately to get away from that door. Like Lord John, I want to go into that room and offer Jamie comfort, but I know there is nothing I can offer that would comfort him.  With that realization, we can now think of nothing worse than Jamie knowing his private pain and moment of grieving was overheard and we are quietly careful as we move down the hall.

Loved Diana’s metaphor of John missing a step and coming down hard as he escapes detection. Hearing Jamie longing for his dead wife brought John back down to Earth hard. The heart wants what it wants, but John is a realist and no fool.  He knows this man will never be his. This man will never be his because his heart belongs to a woman and a ghost at that.

It’s Claire’s ghost that I find myself thinking about this morning and Jamie’s as well, the ghosts of their lost love. I think this scene affects me so much because it is one of those rare moments when we get to see what Jamie is thinking and feeling.  We can guess how lonely he has been without Claire, but this overheard private moment confirms it.  He is trying to live without his heart and having a tough time of it. He needs her. Time hasn’t cured this. A decade separates him from that moment on Craig Na Dun and yet, his need of her hasn’t lessened.  His grief feels raw to me.

I’ve also been thinking this morning about the print shop and how the TV series is going to get us there.  I know there has been some speculation because people can’t wait to see our couple back together.  They want to get to the “good stuff”.  I understand that is “good stuff” and I would love to see them stay as faithful to that scene in the book as possible, but the show has to think about viewers other than book fans. I am reminded of an article I read about adaptations and good story-telling.

…Going from a derivative work to its source, people tend to expect fidelity less than when they start with the original, then move to the adaptation…When I read the book first, I go to the movie expecting to see a strict translation of what I saw onto the screen, even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

“…even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…”, the truth is those moments at the print shop need to be earned.  They need the context of knowing what has come before.  It will not be enough to segue way from Claire’s realizing Jamie might still be alive to her going back through the stones. Viewers will need to know what life was like in the in-between.  And, whether we want to admit it or not, we book readers will too.  Those moments at the print shop are meaningful and moving because of what happened in those twenty years apart and who Jamie and Claire were 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. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

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 Fergus, William, 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.  Diana chose to tell Voyager in a mixture of present day with flashbacks to the past that 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.  We get glimpses of the deprived and lonely existence Jamie led.  We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience.

We will need to see what life was like for Claire. I know this isn’t a popular idea for many fans because it means more Frank.  But, to ignore what life was like for Claire would not serve the story well and lessen the impact and meaning of the print shop reunion. These glimpses of life with Frank are sprinkled throughout the story, but it makes sense to me that the show will need to rearrange things and tell the story more chronologically. What was life like for Claire?  She made a promise and I believe truly tried to make it work with Frank.  She did love him, but what ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. Frank believes they can make it work. He needs to make it work because he loves her, but her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.  As a result, what started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted convoluted mess.

One of the few looks Diana affords us of Claire’s life with Frank comes from her remembrance of the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do? What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?  When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.

.Outlander Season 3

I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”

“Yes.”

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?”

“No.”….

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The last straw had been reached for Frank, but it also served to let us see how impossible it has been for Claire to love anyone but Jamie and to live without him.  The show foreshadowed this with Breanna’s comments about her mother living in another world. She is present physically, but she left her heart in another time, another place. She is living a life she no longer wants, but tries for Bree’s sake.

The story will be best served by the show showing us how empty and difficult their lives were without the other. So, when the ‘voyage’ finally leads us back to the print shop, as viewers, we will be 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.  Her nervous look at her reflection in the shop window, his fainting dead away at her sudden appearance, their holding each other 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. And for Claire, loving and being loved by Jamie was like  “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

Lord knows, the sailing will never be smooth for these two, but at last they will be together and nothing else will matter.

“…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.”

Yeah,…we need to see the years without their hearts.

 

I promised him I would let him go…Outlander episode 2.1

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by Beth Wesson

 

The past two weeks have seen an absolute glut of Outlander related news, articles, interviews, and images.  Which is soooo different from last season.  Back then we scoured the internet for anything about “our” show and anxiously read what few articles there were, hoping that critics and reviewers liked the series.  We dreamed that the world would find out about the wonderfulness that is Outlander.  It took awhile, but what we hoped would happen did happen.  In fact, there is so much Outlander stuff out here right now that I feel slightly overwhelmed!

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The articles I’ve been reading this time around have been absolutely delightful.   They have been meaty, insightful, and VERY complimentary.  For the first time, I feel like the critics “get it”.  And, the outlets that are sitting up, taking notice, and writing about it are getting larger and more numerable.  I’d feel a little sad about the competition for readers except…THERE IS A COMPETITION FOR READERS!  It is everything we fans had hoped would happen for our beloved books and show.  They are getting the attention they deserve.  Despite the “Scotland’s answer to GOT”, “fifty shades of plaid”, “bodice-ripper’ labels  given to the show, people tuned in and …got hooked

When I went to bed after watching the Television Academy’s From Scotland to Paris: A Behind the Scenes Journey with Outlander, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo0aWxwY2EA I dreamily fell asleep convinced that I had just witnessed something very special. The astonishing level of creativity, skill and …love demonstrated by all involved in the creation of this show was so evident that as a fan I felt proud and strangely emotional. So, after reading all the positive reviews, watching all the insightful interviews, and being gob smacked by the panel, I thought I was prepared to watch the premiere.

I wasn’t.

I’m sitting here trying to find words.  Searching for words that have even the slightest chance of expressing how I felt about this episode.  I’m not entirely confident that I can, but I’m going to give it a shot.

THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

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I’ve always believed that no matter how great a movie or show is, if it is based on a book, the book is always better.  It makes sense.  An author has time and room to give us the details and let us see into what makes a character tick.  I have never seen anything that has caused me to doubt that belief…until now.

Just this week, I wrote an article for Outlander Online  http://wp.me/p57847-jFr that wondered how the beginning of the book would be handled.  How would the audience be told that Claire had returned?  I was concerned because despite our frustration (and downright pissed off at DGness), the fans I’ve talked with thought her opening with Claire in the 1960’s was powerfully discombobulating and kept us wanting to turn the page. As much as I admire Diana’s skills as a writer and adore her books, the TV adaptation told the story of Claire’s return to Frank better. This was so much more powerful and I can totally get why they did it.

As a reader of Diana Gabaldon’s books, I am as fascinated with what she doesn’t write, as much as with what she does.  What I’m trying to express is the idea that sometimes a writer doesn’t give us all the details and lets us try to figure out a characters’ motivation. Like a good author does.  It is often what is not explicitly explained that keeps us all talking about the books, speculating and theorizing. Ron and his writers have the enviable and monumental task of adapting Diana’s books into a visual medium.  They have explained that each episode has a story arc and that to tell the best story sometimes things have to be changed.  I finally get it.

 

HOW THEY TOLD THE STORY DIFFERENTLY, BUT STILL KEPT IT PLAUSIBLE

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I’ve often said that the most controversial character in the book series isn’t Black Jack Randall, or Gellis, St.Germaine, or any other villian.  It’s Frank. Drop Frank’s name into a discussion of Outlander and watch the sparks fly. He is loved, pitied, and hated. But understood?  We have all wondered what Frank felt and thought, why he and Claire decided to stay together, why he got over his belief he couldn’t raise another man’s child, and if he still loved Claire or if he was just doing what he saw as his duty (cuz he’s not a cad). Did he believe her? Ron chose to answer some of those questions in his adaptation and I think the story is the more powerful for it.

  • THEY SHADOWED IT FROM THE BEGINNING

In the very first episode, we saw Frank accept the possibility of Claire being unfaithful. “It wouldn’t be unheard of. Understandable…comfort”.  And, we saw Claire’s indignation over the idea that he would think she could ever be unfaithful,.  “There is nothing you could do to make me stop loving you.”  They foreshadowed his acceptance of the child with Frank’s interest in his own genealogy and their renewed attempts to start a family and then there is… Jamie’s ghost.

  • THEY LET US SEE FRANK WORK THINGS OUT BEFORE OUR EYES

In the books, we never get to see or really know what Frank did when Claire disappeared or how he felt about losing her.  As readers, we became so engrossed in Jamie and Claire’s relationship that we soon forgot about poor Frank.  Diana has revealed more and more about Frank as her series of books has continued, but she is still keeping what Frank really knew and what he felt a bit of a mystery.  In my opinion, what Ron has done is very plausible and not a large departure from the Frank in the books.  Let’s look at the how it went down:

  • Frank does come to Claire after she has been missing for almost three years
  • he is told outside of our hearing that she is starved and pregnant
  • she tells him to leave and that she loves another man
  • she explains what happens and Frank gets angry over her explanation of being carried through the stones
  • he doesn’t leave and agrees to raise her child as his own
  • he moves them away for a fresh start

In the TV series, it happens a little differently, but the pieces are all there. Frank hears her story and although it is a “leap of faith” agrees to “accept’ it.  Knowing Frank, Claire doesn’t buy it and calls him out. He acknowledges that although he doesn’t understand her feelings for this other man, he believes her when she says she loved Jamie. But, he is now, he is there, Jamie is not. He only cares that she is back.  She then tells him she is pregnant and this is the catalyst that triggers his anger instead of when the anger is triggered in the books.  He still had a last straw moment.  She hit him where it hurt the most. Different yes, but, maybe better? Certainly, watching his joy and then devastation when he realized it was a mirage was powerful and echoed back to Wentworth and Jamie thinking he saw Claire and then realizing it was all an illusion. The pain and loss was real.

  • THEY LET US SEE CLAIRE’S STRUGGLE AND JAMIE’S GHOST

Claire’s voice-over set the tone for the episode.  If she could have died she would have. Her anguished screams and sobs let the audience know she has been ripped from Jamie’s side and all is lost. And, then we see Frank… hardly able to contain himself as he rushes into the hospital.

Diana has told her readers to remember that we see things from Claire’s perspective and that Claire has her own self-serving reasons for wanting to believe the worst of Frank. She needs to keep him at a distance, she has a need to feel loyal to Jamie her true love and yet, she loved Frank. I saw that struggle tonight.  Her guilt over what she had done to Frank. Frank’s points about her ring and how her story confirmed that she would never have willingly left him rang true and you could see Claire flinch in the face of it.  She grieves for her lost love and yet, as everyone reminds her he is a ghost. So, when Frank offers up his conditions she remembers her promise and in a last self-sacrificing gesture of love for Jamie she stiffens her spine, lifts her head and  lets him go.

The many symbolic gestures in this episode like the hands transitioning her past and her future, her reluctant hug so like the one Jamie gave her in the Abby, were wonderful. Everything reminded me of something that happened in season 1.  Jamie’s memory, his ghost if you will, continues to wander the streets of Inverness.

  • THEY KEPT IT REAL

I had the opportunity to use the books in a literature class.  The one thing that bothered my students the most about Claire returning to the future to live with Frank was how she could possibly ever look at Frank and not see Black Jack.  I had to agree that knowing that Frank isn’t Jack and that he is not responsible for his ancestor’s behavior might not be enough. I was glad to see the TV series addressed this issue right out of the box.  What I saw in episode one, maybe in part because it IS a visual representation of the story, felt more real to me; more believable.

  • ALL OF IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

It might not have played out on the screen exactly as it did in the books, but it could have.  The show deliberately connected the dots and fleshed out Frank’s character.  I think it was a smart move.  It all makes more sense, especially for viewers who haven’t and won’t read the books.  This treatment, in my opinion, makes all of their choices more poignant, more honest, and more powerful.  For the first time, I understood Frank and their decision to stay together and why they both did what they did.  I felt his hope (yet, you still wear my ring) and her painful resignation (I promised him I would let him go).

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Kudos to Caitroina Balfe and Tobias Menzies.  Emmy worthy performances right out of the gate. Kudos to Tallship Productions and Starz you’re keeping your word to the fans and …I can’t believe I’m saying this…making a great story better.

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie and Claire Fraser…Courtiers

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Soon, (a relative term) Outlander fans will be making a weekly appointment with Starz to watch their favorite couple Jamie and Claire Frazer navigate the salons, ballrooms, and dining rooms of the French Court of Louis the XV. The picture Starz painted of the Frasers’ new life in the first Season 2 trailer was visually far and away from muted and earthy Scotland.  Being a curious soul, I found myself wanting to know more about life in Versailles.

The story goes that Louis’ great grandfather, Louis the XIV, worked for thirty years to make the palace opulent as recompense for a childhood of relative poverty (it’s said he slept on tattered sheets and his mother had to pawn the crown jewels).   Versailles was literally built around an old hunting cabin and eventually was half-a-million square feet, had 700 rooms , 67 staircases. and 6000 paintings.  No surface was left unadorned. Gilded paneling, crown molding, brocaded or flocked wall coverings, allegorical paintings of Greek gods, floors patterned with parquet or colored tiles were found in every room.  Everything from furniture to finishes was embellished. It was a visual feast.

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Louis the XV was said to be a bit less into the pomp and ceremony his great grandfather seemed to enjoy, but still, on a daily basis anywhere from 3,000 to 10, 000 people were in attendance at the palace.  In an effort to gain control over the nobility, the King often required them to live with him.  Attending the King took them far from the daily operations of their estates and put them under his watchful eye.

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A courtier is defined as a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage or a person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc.   This certainly described life for the courtiers of Louis the XV. Currying the king’s favor was serious and tricky, courtiers needed to tread carefully because the King could make them or break them. Nobles needed his permission to do basically anything, so remaining in his good graces was vital. 

…a very varied society with a rigid hierarchy. Some were there by birthright, others by social obligation, others out of self-interest or curiosity, and others still to earn their living. The high-ranking nobility were often present, currying the favours of the master of Versailles.

…Among the courtiers, those who held a role were said to be “established” at Court. These roles, either inherited or purchased, often very dearly, corresponded to a function or office.

… Living quarters in the palace were also highly sought after. They avoided much travelling back and forth and provided a place of retreat for those moments when one was not at Court.

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/?option=com_cdvfiche&idf=D49E0D38-2622-D151-2217-6E71CAB84BE0

 

To stay in a state of royal grace required being up on the latest rumors and news. Information was power and the court was where everything was happening, kind of like the Outlander fandom x1000. #KingSam and #QueenCait  These folks lived by a very strict code of etiquette and adherence to the Monarch’s whims. Whether it be it how to sit properly, knowing the latest dance steps or wearing the latest fashions,  being a courtier was serious business and a serious competition. With so many in attendance gaining the King’s attention was no easy task.

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“beauty or wit, rivaled with dazzling finery to attract the Monarch’s attention.”

Hence, the need, as  Outlander’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach says, for everyone to look like “a butterfly”.  Enter Jamie and Claire, a tall red-headed Scots decked out with plaid and his English rose dressed in a blood red gown. You just know that Terry and her crew will have created a dress worthy of the King’s attention!

There is a lot more to know about this world and I’ll be writing these little tidbits to help satisfy my curiosity and maybe enriching my watching experience.  Hope you’ll join me as I explore!

 

 

 

 

Claire’s birthday!

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#sassenachbday

My Outlander Blog!

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It’s Claire’ s birthday….huh…. What would a birthday celebration for Claire be like? Hmmmm…giving this some thought.  Let me set the scene.

The setting: Gotta be Frasers Ridge in the big house. I’d have them celebrate there because I think that’s where she was happiest.  This is where she built a life and home with her love.

The decorations: I picture the table set with a homespun cloth, candles and a crock full of the posey Jamie has picked from the fall colors found in their woods. No poison ivy this time <g>.

The food: I see the birthday cake is walnut layer with blackberry jam filling. Dinner is a beautiful roast turkey that Brianna shot and samples of the plenty Claire has stored in the pantry. The room is full of the delicious aroma of brewing coffee and the firelight makes the glass whiskey decanter glow.

The guests:  They…

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Claire makes me proud I’m a woman…a reflection.

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Sometimes when I write, the ideas come quick and demand to be written immediately. Sometimes ideas need to simmer like good soup. I’ve already written quite a bit about Claire and I wondered if there was anything more I could say. The question, “Why is Claire important to me?” kept simmering in my mind. Soon, as it often happens, the answer to my writer’s question began to form through the colliding of seemingly insignificant events and knowledge.

The world very recently celebrated International Woman’s Day. Busy with my grandchildren, I sort of missed it. Two days later, I was given a picture of myself hugging my oldest granddaughter and it kick started my thinking about women and my role in womanhood. Of course, I blogged about it.

https://bethwesson.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/when-you-are-a…-is-womans-day/

My granddaughter laughingly said,” I feel like I’m reading a history lesson about civil rights!” In a way she was. I wrote about how each generation of women has helped to create the wonder that is my granddaughter.

Writing that article helped me answer part of my question. Why is Claire important to me? Because she is a wonderful example of the women who have gone before and paved the way. She is a wonderful example of women who had the courage to break out of gender-based roles and show the world women could be strong. She shows us that women can be all things; strong, kind, tough, gentle, smart, and intuitive.

The second half of my question was answered while writing an article about laughing at life. I was thinking of events both good and bad that have happened in my life and wondered if there was anything I would change if I could. I always come to the same conclusion…No… because I don’t know how those events shaped the woman I became. I wonder if Claire would come to the same conclusion?

We all bring our experiences with us when we read and I brought the story of Corrie Ten Boom with me when I read Claire’s story. Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian spinster, who saved many Jews from the concentration camps and then was interned for her actions.  She lost many family members to the camps including her beloved father and sister. She survived and then spent the rest of her life travelling the world telling her story of how there was no pit so deep that God was not deeper still. Corrie carried with her a bit of needlework to use as a visual representation of how life works. She would first show people the underside of the needlework.  They would see nothing, but a mess of different colored thread crossed and knotted. If they looked very closely they might be able to see a pattern, but it wouldn’t be clear. Corrie would then say that is because we can only see the underside of life and we don’t know why certain threads are used or how. The dark threads she points out might be as important as the light. She would then turn the cloth over to reveal a beautiful crown.  So, when I read Claire’s story I thought of Corrie’s crown. No one could accuse Claire of having lived a soft life.  She lost her parents at a tender age and spent her formative years travelling in third world environs. I believe these seemingly “dark threads” helped to form Claire’s coping skills, attitudes and values.

Why is Claire important to me? Because she is a good example of how to learn from all of the experiences of your life. Her experiences served her well.  She learned how to handle whatever life threw her.  She learned what is worth spending your energy on and what isn’t. She learned valuable lessons about what is truly important in this life and her exposure to different people and cultures helped her know herself which in turn helped her gain a heart for people.

Why is Claire important to me? Because she shows us a woman can persevere and adapt. Over and over again we are able to read of Claire adapting to change and unexpected situations. She may express concern, dismay or even grief, but she always picks herself up, dusts herself off and finds a way.  She always finds a way to make the best life for herself with dignity and often with humor. I have always admired her ability to laugh at the ironies of life.

I can’t think of an example when Claire was a willing participant in any kind of malicious gossip or intentional hurtful behavior toward another woman or anyone for that matter. Oh, there were people she didn’t care to spend time with, but even that choice was never spiteful.  Claire has just learned it is best to avoid poison people and situations if you can.  She doesn’t dwell on people whose values and views don’t match hers. If she doesn’t want to cover her head, she doesn’t. If she wants to spend her time healing the sick, she will. Why is Claire important to me? Because she shows us that it is possible to live without the approval of other women or men.  She doesn’t need others to validate her or her choices.

Why is Claire important to me? Because she stands up for what she believes is right. How many times throughout the story do we see Claire ride or walk or crawl for that matter to right injustice, many times at her own peril and to Jamie’s frustration.  We see her leave her husband to care for a ship full of plague, fight to stop the slaughter at Culloden and even offer her daughter the option of an abortion.  However, on the other hand, she does not easily take offense, is tolerant of other’s beliefs and does not need to always be right. She picks her battles and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Why is Claire important to me? Because she is a wonderful example of a woman who knows what is really important in life. Claire knows that in the end it is all about relationships and people. I credit her experiences of travelling the world and having few possessions for teaching her this lesson that so many folks come to realize late, if ever. I never read of Claire being worried about possessions, or fashions, or money, or position. She is not motivated by greed or political gain.  If they have enough food, clothing and shelter, Claire is happy.  It isn’t that she doesn’t enjoy nice things; she does, but, she doesn’t need them. It is very telling of her worth that the “things” she does treasure are never her own purchases, but rather gifts like the Indian amulet and her medicine chest.

And finally, Why is Claire important to me? Because she is a woman who knows her own worth and mind. Claire doesn’t bother with false modesty.  She knows what she is good at and uses those gifts and abilities to help others. Conversely, she knows what she isn’t good at and circumvents her weaknesses. One of things I most admire about Claire is her lack of guile and her unwillingness to lie to herself.  Time and time again, we see her take ownership of her thoughts and feelings even when she doesn’t like what she is thinking or feeling.  There is real power there. It is difficult to be manipulated when you own your “stuff”.

For all these reasons and more, Claire is a woman to be admired and emulated. Truly, I could point to her as a proud example of womanhood. I believe Claire’s example of what it means to be a good and proud woman will stand the test of time.  She represents the epitome of what it means to be a woman of worth and substance. Claire makes me proud I’m a woman.