Readers, it’s time for a confession.
“Hello, my name is Sara and I didn’t like the book Outlander.”
Please, before you click away, give me a moment to explain. When I first read Outlander, I was just shy of eighteen years old and had just begun to read Romance. (I was die hard Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader). I had no favorite writers, no genre I preferred and I based a lot of my choices on what my friends were reading. I finally went to my mother, a long time Romance reader, and asked for a recommendation. The first book she pulled off the shelf was Outlander.
”You’ll love it! It’s got time travel which you like and Jamie is the perfect hero.”
So I took the book, immediately intimidated by the size of the thing (it was 1995, no e-readers), and started reading. It only took me a few chapters before I realized that the story wasn’t for me. I didn’t like Claire and was a bit put off with the bigamy aspect. And its worst offense? It was boring. I forced myself to read the whole thing but never understood what was so appealing about the story. Maybe I was too young and had no knowledge of the Jacobite uprising in Scotland. I returned the book to Mom, probably made some rude teenage remark about it, and never thought about trying it or any of the sequels again.
Flash Forward to 2015.
I was older (unfortunately), wiser (that’s what I tell myself) and much more appreciative of romantic fiction. I understood how writers can weave a romantic tale in with history and make it entertaining. Plus, my romance genre of choice is historical romance. So when I heard STARZ was producing a television show based on the series, I figured this was my chance to try the story again. Since my experience with the book was so poor I had forgotten almost all of the details and had nothing to compare the show to. It would be completely fresh in my eyes and I could love or hate it on its own merits. I talked my husband into subscribing to the network and waited for the premiere.
It was incredible. The characters, the setting, the storyline–it all just fell into place for me. The idea of a modern, independent woman struggling against the strictures of a society where women were powerless without men resonated with me. I could now empathize with Claire’s heartbreak at leaving Frank behind while falling in love with Jamie. Having read Highlander stories I now knew the history of the Jacobites and their unsuccessful war to free Scotland from England. Finally I understood what was appealing about the story and why my mother, and so many women like her, fell in love with Outlander when it was first published.
Plus, I had an added bonus. I fell in love with the actors and their portrayals of the characters without the baggage of preconceived perceptions of Claire and Jamie. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are absolutely stunning–and perfect–in their roles. Tobias Menzies is lovable as Frank but when he switches roles and Black Jack, he’s utterly believable. Outlander didn’t bore me, not a bit. I even got my husband to watch it religiously, and he’s much more a zombies and The Walking Dead fan.
As the premiere of Season Two has drawn close, I’ve done as much as I could to avoid spoilers. Since I didn’t read the second book everything about Season Two will be new to me. The trailers and the Facebook posts show that Claire and Jamie have infiltrated the French court and are actively attempting to change history, but that’s all I know. Will they succeed? Will they fail? And what does it mean that Claire is somehow back in 1945? Inquiring minds want to know! It has killed me to have to wait almost a year to get any of those answers.
I know that it’s practically heresy for me to say I believe the television show is better than the book. I truly believe that this version gives fans the best of Outlander: A love that transcends time itself.
That, and Jamie Fraser!