After 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…
“…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.
I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.
“...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?”
Diana Gabaldon Voyager
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.