On reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga books 4/5. Torn between love and boredom.  I know, it’s always a question of personal tastes. De gustibus.

Do I love Outander, its characters and its world? If you mean the TV series, the answer is: YES! I’M TOTALLY HOOKED! If you mean the books, instead, you must know that my relationship with Gabaldon’s saga has always been quite conflictual, complicated, with many ups and downs.
In my frenzy to discover more about the fascinating world of Gabaldon 's Outlander, after watching the TV series and reading the first 3 books (I loved Voyager),  I went on reading, enthusiastically. I wanted to know more, to discover more.  However, I started experiencing growing disappointment and came to a deadlock. I had quite a few troubles with book 4, Drums of Autumn,  but it went worse and worse with book 5. I suffered and struggled all through The Fiery Cross.
I love Jamie and Claire's relationship now they are middle-aged and live in 18th century America. To have characters growing up and developing their relationship through decades is unusual and great. Through endless (mis)adventures, troubles and ordinary issues Jamie and Claire, Roger and Brianna and their friends are tested and it is rewarding for devoted readers to get to know more and enjoy more of all of them.

Outlander 2 - Swoon-worthy 18th cent. dress for Claire
It’s stimulating and inspiring as well to see how after being brought together by destiny and passion, the main characters manage to carry on their married life successfully for so long.
I like the historical context and the thorough research behind it. The reason why I started reading Outlander was my interest in the Jacobite Uprisings  and the insistence of friends who had been fans for a while.

Swoon-worthy hero:  Jamie Fraser aka Sam Heughan
I enjoy Gabaldon highly descriptive style but,  honestly,  I hate when she loses control of the main thread of her narration and starts wandering along tens of minor paths ending nowhere and adding nothing to our knowledge of the characters or to the development of the story. Myriads of anecdotes involving a great deal of minor characters you'll never meet again in the following pages, detailed descriptions of events which both the reader and the characters will never give a thought once again later on. What 's the need of reading thousands of pages when the same story could be told as effectively - if not more - in hundreds? There! I said it.  

In conclusion,  I desperately wanted to enjoy myself while reading the rest of the saga, but simply couldn 't. I went on thinking : "There are so many books in my TBR list and I can't spend my time struggling through thousand of pages I can't enjoy. Maybe it is not the right moment. I'll try again some other time". 

Meanwhile, I' ll be looking forward to seeing how Ronald D. Moore will adapt book 2 and 3 for the small screen. I' m sure they’ll cut and adjust as they inevitably did for series 1.  I bet master producer and his writers will do a great job with all those twists and turns. I can' t wait!  
As for reading more of Gabaldon books, the Lord John trilogy is in my e-reader and a charming temptation, they are. I think  I'll give them a chance sooner or later.

Going back to the roots: classic literature

I went back to my beloved Victorian literature and read Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, which I found impeccable. Connotation and narration went on well - balanced and gave the plot both rhythm and depth. The characterization was wonderfully mastered through dialogue and action.  I also watched the latest movie adaptation, which is a good one, and wrote a post about both book and film  (HERE).

When Death tells you His own tale …

Then I moved on to one of the books in my students' summer reading list, The Book Thief. Brilliantly crafted and surprising. I mean, I've read quite a few WWII novels about Nazi Germans persecuting Jews, difficult to be surprised.  But I was. 
Of course, I am convinced it is our duty not to forget and go on teaching about those events. Despite my conviction,  I had to persuade myself to read one book more on those tragic years. 
The Book Thief had been on my night - stand for ages and I had to go through those pages before going back to school in September. 
My fault! I must stop letting my students choose the English books they want to read in their holidays because, in order to be able to test or discuss about them, I feel the duty to read them.  It can become demanding, you know. Anyway, it can also be very rewarding. Enriching. In this case, it was.  Surprising, rewarding, enriching and beautiful. 

Books mentioned in this post - Book Blurbs and Links

1. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (book 4) 

In this breathtaking novel—rich in history and adventure—The New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon continues the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser that began with the now-classic novelOutlander and continued in Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager. Once again spanning continents and centuries, Diana Gabaldon has created a work of sheer passion and brilliance.... 

It began at an ancient Scottish stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past—or the grave. Dr. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice.

Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became a legend—a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in the American colonies. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century—their daughter, Brianna....

Now Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the circle of stones and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history ... and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past ... or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong....

2. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (book 5)

The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser’s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge. Claire’s unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead—or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes. 

3. Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in Wessex, Hardy's novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships. 

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.


Anonymous said...

My feelings about Diana Gabaldon's series are exactly the same as yours. I suppose I'll not be able to finish this saga but I don't regret(though I am crazy about Jamie;). There are so many wonderful books around me. I am Victorian literature freak so Gaskell, Brontë, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy are my best friends and I still have quite a pile of books to read. "Far from the Madding Crowd" is great novel but my beloved is "The Return of the Native" ...although this sad and depressing story is my weeper. I loved "The Book Thief". Zusack created such beautiful characters that go straight to your heart. Brilliant.

dstoutholcomb said...

I've had that problem with some books, too.

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