When it comes to a good book, I have zero self control. There are sleepless nights, unfinished household chores and shunned social engagements. So when I stumbled onto the Outlander series this summer, I was lost to the world for a good two months. Yes, two months is all it took to, I think it’s fair to say, devour the entire Diana Gabaldon series (eight books so far) and if you’ve seen those hefty books you’ll appreciate that for the feat that it is. I’ve even read a few of the associated books from the Lord John series and bought the graphic novel, “The Exile” in an attempt to satisfy my cravings.
Having a particular penchant for costume dramas (Austenland would be high on my to-do list), I own a fair catalogue of BBC mini-series. Outlander had caught my eye a few times on iTunes (Apple TV is brilliant) but I had never heard of it and wasn’t sure I was ready to invest myself in an unknown. My friends and I often lament that Americans always manage to ruin things like this (sorry, Diana). Oh, the ignorance! One fateful afternoon, iTunes offered the first episode for free. I binge watched the first half of the season and nearly burst when I reached the cliff-hanger of the mid-season finale. I needed to find the source material and fast! Consequently, I found myself reading Cross Stitch for the first time. It very rapidly became one of my favourite things.
I’m not going to give you a synopsis – read it yourself and then watch the show. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to watch it with the remote handy to fast forward through some of the more gorey/intimate scenes but you will be hooked. And not just because Jamie Fraser is the “King of Men”, which he is. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he has edged Mr Darcy out from his No. 1 ranking on my list. It is important to note that Mr Darcy’s characterisation is almost shallow when compared to the treatment Laird Broch Tuarach receives by the end of the eight books. It’s probably not fair to even compare the two really, but I did anyway.
Speaking of comparisons, perhaps this is a little weird considering the ranking I just gave him but, Jamie constantly reminds me of my father. I’ve always held that our idea of what makes a “real” man is largely shaped by those we grow up with so the capable, tall, strong, country bloke fit most of my conceptions. In fact, I kept a mental list as I was reading that went something like this…
Reasons Jamie Fraser reminds me of my Dad:
- known by a variation of James (Jamie/Jim)
- for all intents and purposes, grew up in another century (my dad’s not that old but his family pioneered a farm from scratch so they started off without water, electricity, housing, and he road a horse to school…)
- therefore has no grasp on any modern cultural references
- he’s a farmer
- good with horses
- wouldn’t let a little thing like a severe shoulder injury keep him from getting the job done (dad has a wonky collarbone since he wouldn’t stop long enough for it to set properly)
- has a comprehensive knowledge of his huge extended family history and will happily spend hours explaining it to you
- taps his fingers on the table all the time
- has a good head for business
- honey is his weakness
- first names are reserved for special occassions (we all have multiple nicknames and “Sassenach” would not be the most creative amongst them)
- he’s a handy hunter
- loves telling stories
- has a collection of random things he “has uses for”
- strong believer in the virtues of corporal punishment
- I can only remember him giving his wife flowers once
- always ends up in charge/leading others without intending to
- has some serious scars, some unavoidable, others not so much
- spent some time living in the city but never really content unless he’s out in the open country
- has terrible hand writing
- has a strong sense of what it means to be a “man”
- has faith in God and biblical values
- not so concerned about the laws of the land…
The list goes on. While there are plenty of differences as well, it makes me think that part of the reason I was so attached to Jamie’s character so quickly was how familiar he was. He would definitely fit right in with my family.
What is even more attractive than Mr Fraser (hard to believe anything falls into that category) is Mr and Mrs Fraser. Claire and Jamie are better together, and that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? I’ve heard the author mention that so often the bulk of a romantic plot is spent in the “courtship” phase and the climax is the characters finally getting together. Gabaldon seems to set out not just to write about a wedding, but a marriage, including all of its ups and downs (which is gives Jamie’s character time to be shown in so much more detail than Mr Darcy ever had). She has done that masterfully and I appreciate it. In the interests of minimising spoilers, you’ll have to discover the rest on your own.
The constant immersion in 18th Century Scotland left me pining for the simple life I’d known as a child on our farm. Living off the land, away from the hustle and bustle of the city is a total gear shift from my current lifestyle and I think sooner or later, I will find my way back there. Maybe a strapping, young, kilted, red-headed Highlander will be waiting for me. Maybe.