Reading Challenge Discussion: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Posted July 6, 2012 by Emily in Outlander Reading Challenge, Reading Challenge / 3 Comments

I recently accepted the challenge issued by The Lit Bitch, to complete all seven books in the Outlander series by December 31, 2012.  Of course the challenge began January 1, but, as usual, I’m late to the party.  Not that I’m going to let a little thing like time get in the way of me devouring some Jamie and Claire!

I’ve finished my listening of the Outlander audiobook, the first in the series.  Holy Snotty Tissues, Batman!  Diana Gabaldon’s words are so lively and powerful on the written page, but hearing the story read aloud, Scottish brogue and all, can be something spectacular, especially toward the end of the novel.

Below are my responses to the discussion questions raised by  The Lit Bitch  Since there will be spoilers for those of you who have not read Outlander (and WHY haven’t you, I ask), consider yourself warned!

Did it bother you that Claire is older than Jamie? Why or why not? Does it matter she is not a virgin but he is? In what ways does it change/influence their relationship?

The difference in their ages didn’t bother me at all, especially when you consider all that Jamie had accomplished in his young life.  People were forced to grow up much faster in his time.  Claire’s maturity coupled with her vulnerability were an immediately appreciated by Jamie.  He needed a strong woman, not a weak young girl, to challenge him and be his equal.  As to the virginity aspect, I thought it was wonderful that he was not a virgin.  His charming response when she raised a concern about the disparity in their experience made me smile and obviously flustered Claire.  This was a man who had waited — for her, as it turns out.

Frank sees what he thinks is an “unhappy ghost” staring into Claire’s window. The ghost he describes sounds like Jamie, what do you make of this foreshadowing? How does the concept of ‘time travel’ change or influence this particular scene? Is this simply an unanswered observation with an explanation reserved for later books?

I believe Diana has stated (in the Outlandish Companion, maybe?) that the ghost is definitely Jamie.  I love to think that no matter where, or when, Claire is, Jamie will find her.  His soul is so connected to hers that a silly little inconsequence such as time could not keep them apart.  I always felt Jamie had a touch of “the vision” in him.  While he cannot pass through the stones, I don’t think he’s without his own special gifts.

Knowing that Captain Jack is related to Frank, does that change your opinion of Frank? In what ways? Do you think cruelty is in Frank’s ‘blood’? How much does of a role does genealogy play in their characters?

Poor Frank. Fellow never really had a chance, did he?  I think Captain Randall’s resemblance to Frank served as a touchstone for Claire, a bridge between her two worlds.  Frank’s relation to the Captain does not taint him in my opinion.  I see Frank being similar to Black Jack in the manner that they are both urbane, reserved men – only Frank is missing the innate cruelty and obvious mental illness.  Frank’s obsession with his ancestors laid a groundwork for Claire to have necessary knowledge to move the story forward and for her to adapt.  Rather ironic for Frank to have spent so much time researching his ‘heroic’ relation when he was nothing but a sadistic madman.

How did you feel when Jamie beat Claire? Was it fitting given the circumstance and time period?

Ah yes!  This is the sticking point that turns so many potential readers off.  I never think it’s right for a man to bring violence against I woman.  That being said, I understand his reaction and why he did what he did — and it fits the time and place.  Jamie needed the men to understand that Claire would not be allowed to endanger them without consequence.  That lesson had to be taught in a way the men would understand and appreciate.  These were rough and tumble Highlanders, a stern talking to wasn’t going to earn their respect – of either Jamie or Claire.  She needed to be ‘punished’ in a way the men could relate to.  Jamie himself had been punished this way so he knew both sides.  Plus Jamie got a little in touch with his dom! side.  His promise to her afterwards as they were on the road made it clear that he respected her and her body and would die to protect her from harm, even from himself.

What do you make of the two family mottos: Lucero non Uro–I shine, not burn (MacKenzie) and Je Suis Prest–I am ready (Fraser). How do these mottos influence the characters and families to which the mottos belong?

The MacKenzie’s in the story make the decision to grow and shine but not so bright it consumes them – at least that his how Colum is trying to lead them.  Greatness without grasping too high and risking defeat.  Dougal is is much more interested in the power without the caution.  Je Suis Prest: Throughout this novel, indeed through the entire series, Jamie has proven himself ready for any challenge.  He is prepared to offer his strength and his body in defense of others (especially Claire) and to do as honor demands.

Whether it’s read or heard, Outlander remains one of my all time favorite novels.  The issues of love, spirituality, growth, acceptance, and perseverance raised in it resonate loudly with me.

*Original art for gif by my friend Dove.  Click here for full size and to leave love.

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3 responses to “Reading Challenge Discussion: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Aloemilk

    I don’t have much to add, because I agree with you on every point.
    About Jamie’s “ghost”, I have to say I always imagined it was actually his ghost, as in after he died. I thought he would have visited after he died, needing to see her, or for some other reason, at just that time… I like your idea, though, it reminds me of something that happened in Voyager or Drums related to voodoo, and that I won’t mention further because it’s a spoiler.

  2. kc

    You know, I teach history, Each year I challenge my students to ponder if, or to what extent, our behavior can be excused given the context of time and place. How much are we expected to rise above the current mindset? At the same time, we also try to recognize that there “ain’t no good guys nor bad guys” – just human beings. We talk about President Wilson, one of the great minds of the time – League of Nations wizard and all – inviting D. W. Griffith to the White House after the release of Birth of a Nation just to say, “Finally, someone who tells it like it is!” Or the fact that Al Capone, with a bit of a propensity for violence, starts one of the first soup kitchens in Chicago during the Great Depression.

    So, the truth is, I don’t have a great problem with Jamie’s behavior in this instance. He’s the proverbial product of his time. My problem is with Claire. I watched to see how she would handle it – she who I certainly hope, has evolved beyond this concept of accepting wife-beatings. Boy, she sure did forgive him pretty quickly, didn’t she? I found myself saying, “Oh, please!” when she broke down and was giggling with him only the day after. I ask, his hunkiness aside, could you have? I’ve found that, as attractive and multidimensional as I find Claire’s character, I will have this type of problem with her again in a few places throughout the series.

    Frank. Humm. If he has Jonathan Randall in him, I think he’s just a reminder of how we all have a bit of Randall inside. (Hopefully, we don’t all act on it to that extent.) Look at how the writer plays with us, in one instance, dangling appalling details that horrify us until we have to put the book down to breath, in another delaying gratification in a teasing way. I wonder how much of Jonathan Randall is in Gabaldon? No, I think Frank is more a victim. (My sense is that his liaisons with his female students are his way of contending with knowing there’s a persistent ghost invading his marriage.) And yet, did he screw around during the war? Remember his suspicion of Claire. Was that guilt speaking?)

    I’m count on Ms.Gabaldon addressing Jamie’s ghost eventually. I expect it involves some sort of parallel universe concept. And, yes, I believe the books do
    give us incidents in a number of places showing how both Jamie and Jenny have the vision.

    I started to read Outlander in August of this year. I finished Echo eight weeks later. Don’t visit my house just now! I need to say that I sat with a computer on my right as I read – checking every historical inference. Other than a couple of references to Brie working with a pencil in the mid 1770’s (I believe, though there were charcoal square blocks, pencils were not developed until the 1790s. What the hell, maybe Brie just fashioned them earlier,) this lady is spot on. Even Tryon’s dispatches and journal entries while they are in North Carolina are verbatim.

    I love careful researchers and I love a good read. How lucky was I to be introduced to this author’s work!

  3. You know, I teach history. Each year I challenge my students to ponder if, or to what extent, our behavior can be excused given the context of time and place. How much are we expected to rise above the current mindset? At the same time, we also try to recognize that there “ain’t no good guys nor bad guys” – just human beings. We talk about President Wilson, one of the great minds of the time – League of Nations wizard and all – inviting D. W. Griffith to the White House after the release of Birth of a Nation just to say, “Finally, someone who tells it like it is!” Or the fact that Al Capone, with a bit of a propensity for violence, starts one of the first soup kitchens in Chicago during the Great Depression.

    So, the truth is, I don’t have a great problem with Jamie’s behavior in this instance. He’s the proverbial product of his time. My problem is with Claire. I watched to see how she would handle it – she who I certainly hope, has evolved beyond this concept of accepting wife-beatings. Boy, she sure did forgive him pretty quickly, didn’t she? I found myself saying, “Oh, please!” when she broke down and was giggling with him only the day after. I ask, his hunkiness aside, could you have? I’ve found that, as attractive and multidimensional as I find Claire’s character, I will have this type of problem with her again in a few places throughout the series.
    Frank. Humm. If he has Jonathan Randall in him, I think he’s just a reminder of how we all have a bit of Randall inside. (Hopefully, we don’t all act on it to that extent.) Look at how the writer plays with us, in one instance, dangling appalling details that horrify us until we have to put the book down to breath, in another delaying gratification in a teasing way. I wonder how much of Jonathan Randall is in Gabaldon? No, I think Frank is more a victim. (My sense is that his liaisons with his female students are his way of contending with knowing there’s a persistent ghost invading his marriage.) And yet, did he screw around during the war? Remember his suspicion of Claire. Was that guilt speaking?)

    I’m count on Ms.Gabaldon addressing Jamie’s ghost eventually. I expect it involves some sort of parallel universe concept. And, yes, I believe the books do
    give us incidents in a number of places showing how both Jamie and Jenny have the vision.

    I started to read Outlander in August of this year. I finished Echo eight weeks later. Don’t visit my house just now! I need to say that I sat with a computer on my right as I read – checking every historical inference. Other than a couple of references to Brie working with a pencil in the mid 1770′s (I believe, though there were charcoal square blocks, pencils were not developed until the 1790s. What the hell, maybe Brie just fashioned them earlier,) this lady is spot on. Even Tryon’s dispatches and journal entries while they are in North Carolina are verbatim.

    I love careful researchers and I love a good read. How lucky was I to be introduced to this author’s work!

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