exileWhen I cheerily announced on Facebook that I could officially check “read a graphic novel” off my bucket list, I heard from several interested parties.

”Was it the one I sent you ten years ago?” asked my sister. That was one of  the Sandman graphic novels (There are more than one, right?), and no, that wasn’t what I read. I admitted that it was Gabaldon’s The Exile, which is a graphic novelization of roughly the first third of Outlander, a book I’ve read multiple times.

My friend Diana (not Gabaldon) thought I had taken an important first step, but could not really check anything off my bucket list until I had read “the Shakespeare of graphic novels, Maus I and II”. My cousin Shannon agreed with her (maybe because they are both English teachers?) and also recommended Persepholis, which my sixteen year old daughter liked too.

Maybe I’ll get to them…sometime. I really enjoyed The Exile, but I’m not sure I’m a convert just yet. I get that it’s an art form, and that it’s something more than novel-meets-comic book. But I also have a big, fancy imagination that I have no problem employing while reading books without pictures. And my list of books I “should” read – and haven’t yet managed to – is pretty long.

That said, I found my first graphic novel experience interesting. Gabaldon mentions at the start of the book that she actually got her start as a fiction writer with graphic novels; she wrote them for Disney for years, and was predisposed to like the idea of an Outlander graphic novel from the start. It’s certainly a different way of telling the story; sometimes a single page with several pictures can show the equivalent of several pages of text. I felt I was helped substantially by the fact that I already knew the story quite well. It does mostly follow the story, though it tells events predominantly form Jamie’s perspective rather than Claire’s, and throws in some stuff with this guy Kenneth (a compatriot of Geillis Duncan) that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before.

Though I had my own preconceived picture of all the characters, I loved the artwork; I found it beautiful. Jamie and Claire were fairly close to the way I imagined them, as was Laoghaire. But I have a confession: I couldn’t really tell the rest of the Scotsmen apart. They were all wearing kilts, and everyone except Jamie had brown hair of a similar shade. Mostly, I figured out who they were from context.

It is worth your money? If you’re a big Outlander fan, probably. I can certainly see myself reading it again. Will I make time to read other graphic novels? Maybe. Would I read other Gabaldon graphic novels? Definitely.

What’s your experience with graphic novels? And should I really listen to Diana and Shannon and read Maus I and II?

– Blythe AAR