In the last Books on Screen, I filled you in on the Academy Award nominations for book-based films. Today I’ll give you my thoughts on Outlander, the 1991 book by Diana Gabaldon and the 2014 STARZ network TV show. The latest book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, came out last year and the second half of the show premiered this past Saturday. It’s about a married British nurse who is transported back in time from post WWII to 18th century Scotland. There are kilts, witch trials, wars between the British and Scottish, and lots of romance.
So of course, I’m here to answer the obvious question: how crucial is reading the book? Do you miss much if you just watch the show? Which is better?
I read this book at the recommendation of one of my favorite friends. You can read about her fantastic life and international travels (including upcoming posts on her recent hike on the Appalachian Trail) here. Just to mix things up a little bit, I thought I’d give you my unfiltered, emoji-filled review…via my text conversation with said dear friend (Some very light plot spoilers are included, but nothing explicit). Our friendship is rooted in our mutual oddness and our shared love of Harry Potter and the UK. During one of our conversations about our longing for the Scottish Highlands, Outlander was introduced.
Before our conversation, I knew very little about the series. I knew that a lot of women my mom’s age were all about the romance. I’d also heard it referred to as “the 90’s version of Fifty Shades of Grey“. Neither of these descriptions made me want to run out and pick up the book. But I’m always open to things that will encourage my wanderlust and I love talking to friends about books more than almost anything, so I bought a copy. It sat on my to-be-read shelf for about six weeks until I finally caved to the repeated inquiries and read it.
So, there you have the verdict: I never thought I would come out in favor of an adaptation in one of these, but there’s a first time for everything. The show is my new guilty pleasure. I’m crazy about it and I want more friends to watch it with, internet friends included! I love Claire, I love Jamie, I love the visual reminder of the Highlands. The book was…meh for me. I think Gabaldon’s writing style just isn’t my cup of tea. The characters annoyed me because they (and the main romance) felt very flat, even though the story was interesting. Don’t let that fool you about the romance, though. Be prepared, more timid readers. This book has history, fantasy, adventure, and mystery. But it’s beloved by a lot of people for the romance and Gabaldon isn’t shy in her descriptions.
I vote you leave the books for a bit and watch the show. If you love the show, read the books after—I think it would be easier to enjoy with the richer, more fleshed out (no pun intended there, but it’s a STARZ show, so there is…flesh. Lots of it) characters from the show in mind to fill in the gaps in the writing. I plan to read the next one in preparation for season two, though, because I can’t bear to not be in the know.
Alright, readers. What do you think? Are you Outlander obsessed?