I’m not afraid of change or of trying new things.
That said, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on to pop culture trends—to pause a beloved TV series that I’ve watched a bazillion times, or to put down a dogeared favorite novel.
Okay, that might be a tad over-dramatic.
The reality is, I’m busy. It takes loads of energy to seek out a new novel or television series that’s not just good, but is also worth my time.
Like, suck-me-in, binge-watch, can’t-put-it-down, GOOD.
Part of me always wonders if these mega-popular, virally loved books and shows are really that amazing, or if people are simply being…lemmings.
Who has the time to devote to figure out which are worth the trouble? I certainly don’t.
Sometimes, though, the number of friends who espouse the greatness of certain shows and novels stops me in my tracks. Catches my eye. Gives me pause for thought.
“I’ve seen a hundred different friends posting on Facebook about Downton Abbey. Wait. Should I be watching this? Have I been living under a rock??”
This has happened a few times in recent years with television shows like Game of Thrones (and the books), Homeland, and most recently, American Horror Story.
And, yes. Downton, too.
And, no. While I do own A Song of Ice and Fire, I haven’t cracked it open. Yet. (But, it will happen.)
Late. To. The. Game.
The Outlander Series
I discovered the Outlander series
about a decade later than every other woman on the planet.
And by the time I finally decided to give the books a go, the television show was already airing on Starz. I vowed to read before watching, and ordered books one and two as we were preparing to head out on last summer’s family vacation.
So, I started. And I gobbled up the first book, and like everyone else, fell in love with Jamie. I’m mid-way through the second book now. I started (and quickly finished, thanks to binge-watching) the Outlander TV series when I realized its story line only went so far as the first book.
PRO TIP: Don’t breeze through the series in weekend without knowing in advance that the second season hasn’t been released yet. Savor it. OR, binge-watch and then re-watch
fifteen times, which might be what I’m currently doing.
Regardless, now’s the time to get caught up, before the second season premieres next spring. As I’m writing this, new photos and a teaser have just been released, and Outlander fans are buzzing about it all over the Internet—the costumes! Paris! Gah! April 4, 2016, can’t come soon enough…
Take a peek if you’d like; skip it if you don’t:
The Outlander books are not for the faint of heart; they are realllllly long. Some might argue—like my book club, for example—that a hundred or so pages could probably be omitted without harming the story line at all. Perhaps.
But I have still loved every word, and every episode.
10 Reasons Why You Should Begin The Outlander Series
Knowing this going in makes it easier to stomach the 800+ pages per book. Her characters are well developed, and even though there are a lot of them, it’s easier than you think to keep track of their stories.
Unlike years ago, it’s likely that you’ll see the actor who plays Jamie before picking up the first book in the series. Somehow I hadn’t (living under a rock, remember?), so when I read through the pages and built the character in my head, I hoped—oh I hoped!—that the show wouldn’t ruin the Jamie in my mind’s eye. He’s handsome, tough, sweet, smart, and basically everything you’d want in a perfect Highlander (or modern man).
Nope. Sam Heughan is perfect. A Scot himself, his accent is mesmerizing, and aside from his hair maybe not being “firey” enough for the “book Jamie” description, at a strapping 6’2″, he otherwise fits the bill. And Sam also manages to pull off the mix of smarts and stoicism with ease, connecting beautifully with the actress who plays Claire.
Also, Sam is 35 years old in real life, which makes the ogling totally okay for me and my fellow Gen Xer fans. Because, that smile and those eyes…
Claire Beauchamp (pronounced Beechum—don’t worry, they explain why). I loved her character in the first book, a strong and intelligent woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind, is beautiful in a “regular lady” kind of way, and whose heart loves fiercely and unapologetically. She’s the main character in the books and the show, as well as the narrative voice.
So, naturally, I wondered the same with Claire as I did with Jamie.
Will “TV Claire” meet my expectations?
Well, aside from the fact that Caitriona Balfe is a wisp of a woman, standing 5’9″ and maybe 120 pounds (she was actually a runway model years ago), I love how she plays Claire. Her emotions are believable.
The wit, the desperation, the love, the despair, the snark, the happiness—they make up for the fact that her physique isn’t as shapely as “book Claire.” And despite being Irish, she pulls off the English accent well (considering I have American ears).
Caitriona Balfe is in her 30s as well, a year older than Sam Heughan in real life. In the books, Claire is older than Jamie—though they’re only in their 20s—so I really appreciate that the actors weren’t pulled into the Hollywood “standard” of older man, too-young woman.
The fact that Sam and Caitriona are a decade older than their characters in real life doesn’t bother me one bit—it works beautifully.
4. SCOTTISH AND ENGLISH ACCENTS GALORE!
I’m a sucker for a non-American accent, especially English, Irish, and Scottish. So, basically anything in Great Britain.
On paper, an English accent is pretty close to an American one. Well, for the most part anyway—save certain colloquialisms and spellings, or geographical nuances like the Cockney English dialect.
Scottish words on paper though—Ach! You definitely read Jamie and the clansmen’s dialogue with a lilt that’s not English, nor could even be mistaken for Irish. Especially with Gaelic words and phrases interspersed.
And in the TV show, it’s even better. Jamie and his fellow Scotsmen regularly slip into Gaelic, which in the early 1700s was probably very common anyway, but was also used to communicate discreetly in front of Claire or other non-Scots.
And then there’s how Jamie uses Sassenach and Mo nighean donn as terms of endearment for Claire. Ye ken? (Swoon)
5. THAT SCENERY…
The books are long because Diana Gabaldon spends so much time describing everything from the Highland countryside, to the castles, outfits, and decor. It’s true that the story line would likely be fine without it; however, it truly gives you—as a reader—her vision.
Moving to the Outlander series on television, you can see how her gift of illustrative language was a huge asset to the screenwriters and the director. The first season of the TV series is filmed entirely in Scotland, with its rolling hills, green pastures, fog and grey skies, and castles. You can even take tours that bring you to each of the filming locations! Who knew?
Costuming has been a treat for the eyes, too: men in kilts. Women in the Highlands of that era weren’t very lavish, so the dresses and other garments are plain for the most part. BUT, I’m looking forward to next season when Jamie and Claire leave for a more urban setting, and attire that befits such a lifestyle…
6. NEVER MIND HISTORICAL ACCURACY, HOW ABOUT HUMAN ACCURACY?
Jamie’s sister shows up as a character in the first book, as well as the first season. She’s pregnant, and shortly after giving birth she needs to leave with Claire, on horseback, for a very urgent mission. I can’t stress the “very urgent mission” enough, but I also don’t want to give any major spoilers away for those of you who’ve yet to read or watch.
Riding away after giving birth (with or without the baby), may not seem very humanly accurate, especially to those of you who—like me—have birthed several bairns yourself. Let’s remember, though, it’s the early 1700s, and likely women of that era pulled up their pseudo bootstraps—especially those in the Scottish Highlands—when needed. And, it. was. needed.
The parts of this story that are satisfyingly and humanly accurate are these:
Before Jamie’s sister leaves, she tells the maid to milk the goat because they’ll need to use goat milk to feed the baby temporarily until she returns. Goat milk’s make-up is very close to that of human milk, in case you didn’t know!
And, while she’s gone, Jamie’s sister has to stop several times to hand express breast milk since clearly, at a few days post-partum, she’s a nursing mom with copious amounts of milk and potential for engorgement! Never mind the worry of messing up supply and demand for milk production, I’m sure mastitis doesn’t always end well in those days before antibiotics…
Well done, Diana Gabaldon. Well done.
7. MAGIC AND FANTASY, BUT NOT TOO MUCH.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good novel with vampires and witches and wizards and all kinds of other mystical creatures and story lines. Sure, there’s mysticism and lore in the Outlander series. But it’s not overdone. It’s peppered throughout, some real, some folklore. It’s the perfect amount.
8. STEAMY LOVE SCENES BETWEEN CHARACTERS YOU LOVE.
You spend a lot of time getting to know Jamie and Claire before they become lovers, and whether you’re a reader or a watcher, that’s vitally important to the story.
Also, they’re really good together. Claire and Jamie; Caitriona and Sam.
And, while steamy, their scenes aren’t inappropriate—though I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching this series with my tween, because there’s a lot of nudity, sex and adult themes.
PRO TIP: While most of the sex scenes happen between characters you love, there is one graphic scene between two characters that you don’t want to read or see together. It’s not to be taken lightly, and I’ve know several friends who’ve had to skip over the pages at the end of book one, or fast-forward past the scene in the first season. It involves Captain Jack Randall; you’ve been warned.
9. A THRIVING FANDOM.
I love a good fandom, especially if there’s a podcast to go along with it. With Outlander, the first place I look for info and updates is Hypable.com (same place I go for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, too), because it’s well-written by fans themselves. This Hypable post about the season 2 teaser? Spot on. “8. We needed to hear Sassenach! We’ve missed Jamie’s cheeky grin.” YES.
I haven’t started listening to an Outlander podcast yet, but I have my eye on this one, though can’t vouch for its awesomeness. Yet.
10. IT’S A LONG SERIES WITH MORE BOOKS COMING AND THE SECOND TV SEASON BEGINS SOON!
Nothing like getting sucked into an amazing book and knowing that it’s a really long series with so much more to come, along with an amazing TV show companion in its infancy!
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