Quite often I find my to read list being influenced by TV and film. If I watch something and enjoy it, then it’s only natural that I want to read the book that inspired it, as most of the time the book is so much better.
This is how I came across the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. I’d been watching the TV series, when I found out it was based on a book of the same title and thought, why not give it a go?
The plot is the same for both: nurse Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband Frank, getting to know each other again after spending much of their marriage so far apart due to World War 2. Their travels lead her to visit the circle of standing stones at Craigh na Dun where she is dramatically pulled 200 years into the past, to 18th century Scotland. The first person she encounters in this time period is her husband’s ancestor, ‘Black Jack’ Randall, who attacks her, before she is then ‘rescued’ by a group of highlanders, who are also suspicious of her unusual appearance and strange manners.
Claire’s only objective is to return home, but that is easier said than done when you are viewed suspiciously by both redcoats and Jacobites; she is quickly drawn into an epic adventure which puts her in both physical danger and also a moral dilemma, when she is forced into marriage with charming outlaw Jamie Fraser.
Now, when I say I enjoyed the TV show, there are a fair few eye-rolling moments. It seems that every episode is marked by Claire being in danger in some way and ever-so-handsome Jamie rushing to her rescue (although sometimes the other way round; she does her fair share of healing his wounds). Cue simmering looks, followed later by a whirlwind romance. And, to be honest, the book is pretty much the same – in fact maybe I probably rolled my eyes even more! In fact one thing that can be said is that the TV series is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book.
There are things that are difficult to get around: negative reviews that I’ve seen focus on the presence of violence in relationships (yes, historically accurate but critics are quite right to point out how unnecessary and unsettling this is) and absurdity of some scenarios (the heroine killing a wolf with her bare hands, I’ll say no more!). Positive reviewers seem to think the book is the best thing since sliced bread (not necessarily something I’d agree with; it is after all a bit of a ‘bodice-ripper’).
The truth, as always, lies somewhere between the two. The book is probably over-long and spends way too much time describing the bedroom (or outdoor) antics of the main characters. But I also sort of enjoyed the over-dramatic adventurous plot line, and I liked the fact that Claire challenged the 18th century belief of her new husband that a wife is a man’s property to own and punish: she is a heroine with a strong-will and mind of her own.
Definitely one to be filed away under ‘guilty pleasures’: the sort of book you feel like you shouldn’t enjoy, but do anyway.