Exception to the Rule: Outlander

Ad for the Starz show.

Ad for the Starz show.

I have to be honest- I really didn’t like Outlander when I read it. In 2005, I was working at a bookstore among some of the most interesting readers I have ever met. Several of these co-workers would not stop recommending Outlander. One in particular, whose taste in books was completely in line with my own, was relentless- with me, with customers, probably even strangers in the street! Around this time Random House released a special $5.99 paperback edition and my coworker bought it for me and sent me home with it. (side note: RH also released a similar special edition at the same time of a book I was unfamiliar with called A Game of Thrones. Great foresight, RH.). I slogged through the 800+ pages.


The characters and concept were quite original, I give Gabaldon credit for that. Especially for creating such a strong, female lead (as opposed to Strong! Female!). Even this sometimes hard heart was cheering for Jaime and Claire. But the plot was beating me down. How many horrible things could happen to these poor people? When I finally finished, I decided I was done with the series- creative or not. Another 800+ pages seemed too much to ask.

Then two things happened.

First, the pilot for the Starz series was released- in advance to reviewers, then to the general public by way of the premium channel offering up the first episode free. From social media to Sci-Fi/Fantasy blogs, I was reading nothing but raves for the writing, actors, and cinematography.

Second, I had a chance to listen to an author event Gabaldon did in my town last month. She was delightful and quite the storyteller. While I am sure she has addressed it before, it was the first time I heard her explain that Outlander was a practice novel. She never intended it to be read by the public, so she threw everything but the kitchen sink into the plot because she thought it would be her only chance with these characters. Also, maybe more importantly to nerdy me, the inspiration for Jaime came to her while watching an old episode of Doctor Who featuring Scots in kilts.

So, I gave in and watched the premiere this weekend. It was quite good. The actors seemed comfortable in their roles straight out and it was visually stunning. Claire, who was physically rather vague to me while reading, was brought to life wonderfully by Caitriona Balfe. As soon as Sam Heughan was on screen, I was reminded of the picture I had of Jaime through the first couple hundred pages of the book, before it became more about terrible events than characters to me.

So, for the first time I can recall, the adaptation of a book might be changing my mind about the book itself. I am still coming to terms with this idea, but it will be easier to work through while watching Sam Heughan. He is rather handsome, so if he convinces me to tackle the second book I will definitely post it here.

If you are a fan, what do you think of the show? Has a movie or television series changed your mind about a book?