It’s my favourite story to tell from my bookselling days. An innocent instruction to a customer motivated me to read the book everyone talked about, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Long story short, during one of my early cash shifts at McNally Robinson Booksellers I told a customer the line-up began in the centre. The woman came to the farthest register during an already busy time, cutting in an already growing line up. She literally threw the book at me in response, and that book was the mass market edition of Outlander.
The novel already had a following and had the right combination of the fantastic and sexy to warrant a read. Speculation already abounded about a possible movie adaptation. I read the book and wondered where the hell they will find an actor to play Jamie Fraser? Will the adapters mess up Claire? I meant to read the next books, at the time four have published, but to-read piles not only grow, but they also get distracting.
The show got me back into the books, starting with a reread of book one. One part of my mind read as a reader, drawn into a good yarn, tangled in the characters and unfolding story. The other part looked at language, especially how Gabaldon wrote dialogue. She wrote Outlander to learn novel writing, and I read the story to help me with my NaNo project. (Well, you can use ‘said,’ I thought.) I came up with a system regarding long-running series to not lose steam over time. I read a novel in the series, read non-fiction and some stand alone novels, perhaps some audiobooks, then start the next book in the series.
I already wrote about the memorable opening line of the book. (Nothing like an itchy nose to say ‘not dead’.) However, Voyager has fast turned into the WTF novel. I don’t mean it’s awful, far from it, it’s the internal commentary like Claire, Jamie, and others will listen to me. Things like “WTF Claire!” or “WTF Frank!” or “WTF Jamie”. I have thought the last one so many time I wonder how do I say it in Gaelic? The most memorable moment so far in the novel (big fat spoiler warning here) comes as Geneva Dunsany flat-out propositions Jamie with helping of blackmail to make it happen. I thought oh how awful and he doesn’t know Claire lived, and they’re not together and would I blackmail the hot guy to have an evening with him?
It brings me to what makes Diana Gabaldon so appealing as a writer, other than creating the most fantasised male character after James Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. She goes ‘there’ and doesn’t baulk. Lady Dunsany blackmails Jamie for a night of sex and going ‘there’ leads to a messy revelation about virginity and Jamie returning to the stables emotionally numb. In the biggest WTF moment, Jenny Murray fixes her brother up with *gulp* Laoghaire. I wondered why, why WHY?! Then marvelled Diana Gabaldon went ‘there’, adding another layer to the Jamie/Claire reunion.
The novel has not finished with me yet. I reached page 658 wondering how much can the author take me ‘there’, but Jamie and Claire leads the way with a relationship I ravenously follow. Sometimes I wince at their fights, laugh at their quips, but savour the sex as it fits within their narrative.