Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ Series Has Devoted Reader Feeling Trapped (and Eagerly Awaiting Book No. 9)

Outlander-1991_1st_Edition_cover

That’s exactly how I feel—trapped! I’m in the middle of the eighth volume of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series and I’m afraid there might be a ninth book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed every page (and there were many of them—each book has in excess of 800 pages.) It is beautifully written and I’m envious of her ability to find the exact word for the exact place. But I want to read something else. I want to get out of the 18th century!

Time-travel is the premise of the book. It is not science fiction; you might call it fantasy fiction, but that doesn’t quite fit either. It is split between 20th century England and 18th century Scotland and America. It is well researched and I learned so much about life in those early times. Several important historical events are included in the story that made me wish my knowledge of history was better. Right now, in book eight, they are in the middle of the Revolutionary War and I’m racking my brain to remember the particulars. I was particularly intrigued by the Scotland sequences—the highlanders, the clans, and the countryside—since I have a Scottish forbearer.

The characters are memorable and admirable. Jamie (a tall, red-headed Scot) and Claire (a 20th-century-trained surgeon) Fraser establish a settlement in North Carolina and a great deal of the story takes place there. Other wonderful places to learn about are Scotland, France, the West Indies, coastal Georgia and South Carolina, battlefields, Philadelphia, and various ocean voyages. It is so well told that you feel you are sharing their adventures in each place.

A constant theme through all the books is Claire’s attempts to uphold her Hippocratic Oath. She sets up a surgery wherever she is, sets bones, pulls teeth, treats cuts and gunshot wounds, and delivers babies. Her pharmacopeia is limited to herbs and botanicals, which she gleans from the forest and stream sides. All the way through I kept thinking how interesting that information would be to a pharmacist or an herbalist.

She was exasperated and “fashed” because modern drugs and equipment were not available. (Fash is a Scottish word which means bothered or upset, as in “Don’t fash yourself.” A useful and explicit word and I plan to use it on occasion.) She longed for penicillin, and attempted to make some. The cook made a big to-do about moldy bread on the counter, but she persevered, boiled it up and used it for deep cuts. She was never sure that it worked or if the patient would have survived without it.

Whiskey was the only anesthetic available which worked fairly well for minor jobs, but not for complex surgery, so she figured how to manufacture ether and used it to retrieve a musket ball from a soldier’s abdomen. Ether was so flammable that it was tricky and dangerous, especially when she operated by candlelight and there were open-hearth fires in every room.

I was fascinated by these medical exploits and I’m no doctor nor connected to the medical field in any way. She served as a field doctor, much to the disgust and derision of regular army doctors, but wherever she could help she was determined to be there. An undercurrent throughout was the Protestant/Catholic conflict, and what a divisive thing it was

Another interesting aspect: since she had lived in the 20th century, she knew how events turned out, she knew that the battle of Culloden was a complete and deadly rout, but there was no way to forestall it. They met and liked Benedict Arnold, but they could hardly imagine his proceeding to his inglorious end. Several important men cross their paths, including Generals Washington and Howe and probably others that aren’t familiar to me.

I loved her descriptions of the flora and fauna and the countryside. Aside from the herbs she gathered, was the forest itself—the names of all the trees and plants, the animals, the interactions with the Indian tribes, the streams and springs, the smells, the breezes. I could see and smell the places she described.

I have never been so engrossed by a book. I think about it constantly. Everything reminds me—drinking a cup of coffee makes me think of what an ordeal it was then, going to the spring to get water, building up the fire so it would boil, grinding beans if they had any. It makes coffee taste better. Buying groceries makes me remember the four-day trip on horseback to the coast and the possibility of their finding what they needed. Their only bathing opportunity was a dip in a stream or lake, invariably icy cold, and with lye soap. I doubly appreciate my steaming shower. Birdsong in my front yard makes me think of the ridge and the forest.

So you see, I’m still trapped, but what a delightful place to be trapped. Bring on volume nine! I can hardly wait!

Books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, in order:

Outlander
Dragonfly in Amber
The Voyagers
Drums of autumn
The Fiery Cross
Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

(A publishing date for the ninth book, “Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone,” has not been announced)

For details, visit www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/

Mom and me xmas 2015Peggy Lewis, the mother of A News Cafe.com contributor Jon Lewis, has been a student at the Modesto Institute for Continued Learning since 1983. The institute is a program sponsored by the Modesto Junior College Division of Extended Education and is “designed for the mature adult student who seeks to experience learning for the joy of it.” She wrote this story as an assignment for MICL’s Writer’s Workshop and has graciously allowed A News Café.com to share it. Peggy will celebrate her 95th birthday this month.

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17 Responses

  1. Barbara Stone says:

    I’m intrigued…have to check out this series. I love historical novels.

    • joycemetheny says:

      Barbara Stone , I envy you so much right now ! The very thought of what you are about to experience fills me with delight.There is nothing to compare with your very first reading of this series…and believe me , you will read them more than once. ENJOY !!!!!!

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    And the books have been made into a television series shown on STARZ.  We’re up to season three or four now.  And Mrs. Lewis, you are an excellent writer.  Your ability certainly rubbed off on son, Jon.

  3. A. Jacoby says:

    Oh Peggy . . . . when I grow up I want to be just like you!!! It’s ll about keeping the fire for the zest for life alive and warming our souls, isn’t it?!

  4. Thank you for your review, and happy birthday, Peggy Lewis! We are so glad you’re here!

  5. Claudia says:

    While waiting for Diana Gabaldon’s next book,  you might want to check out Astoria. It chronicles the over sea and overland journey to establish Astoria,  Oregon as a Northwest trading center. Scottish immigrants to Canada were critical to the success of this endeavor that ended up impacting the northwest borders of the US. Saw the play yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the actor’s Scottish accents. Plan to pick up the novel the play was based on.

  6. Gill Winn says:

    After finishing the eighth book I couldn’t stop thinking about it either and now find it difficult to settle to read anything else, any book I start to read seems lacking in discription and bland, I have a few companion volumes like  ” Virgins” and some of the Lord John novels and I have watched  series one and two on Prime, but I too seem to trapped in time, help!

     

  7. Kent wakefield says:

    Happy birthday, Peggy!!

    Now I know where Jon received his gift of writing. Beautifully written article.

     

  8. Tammie says:

    This was a great read. I am a outlander fan

  9. Nicole says:

    Keep going, then start again.

  10. Diann says:

    Oh! Exactly! After being immersed in these books I have to remind myself I live in the 21 century. The most wonderful series of books I have ever read. And have read them several times. Can’t wait till the ninth book! The tv series is excellent too.

  11. Beth M says:

    I’m also an Outlander fan and love the Starz series too, as does my husband. Most days, however,  I get a ‘fix’ from Diana Gabaldon’s Facebook page whetre she posts ‘Daily Lines,’ often from the ninth book in process; sometimes from one of the new novellas. It helps. Like you, Peggy, I am in awe of the detailed research the author has done, although I’m sure her three science degrees helped that effort! For someone who wrote Outlander ‘for practice, she’s done pretty well.

  12. Shelly Meredith says:

    Mrs. Lewis, What a wonderful editorial you have given us. Mam I want to tell you I agree with you. I nursed book 8 for several months hoping book 9 comes out soon. We love this series both in print and the television series.  I was going through withdraws wanting more of this, so I have started reading the series again. Thank you again.

  13. Paula says:

    Please believe me.  I did not feel trapped but I felt enamored with  the lives of the characters.  I was was so sad when I finished the 8th book. I felt that I was saying farewell to friends that I had come to know and love deeply.

    I did not want to read anything else for a long while. I longed and still long for more adventures written by this author.  I did not want to escape…

    I did finally  force myself to read a few non fiction novels about the passage of the United States Constitution.  These books did shed light on the political upheavals described in the fictional series.

    I will read all of Diana Gabaldon’s works.  I won’t be surprised when she is ranked with the likes of Charles Dickens and other classical authors.

  14. Abi DyQues says:

    I appreciate so much the fact that all of you have a great love for Outlander. I’m 68 years young and I have read all eight of the books since June 2016 finished in 6 months… What happened to me! couldn’t put the books down!!!

    Now reading more of Mrs Gabaldon’s goodies!  Pleasantly feasting on her skills!!!

     

     

  15. I am also waiting breathlessly for the next book in Outlander series. I also read John Grey. I have been through allot of operations in the past year and holding on to what these two characters have been through has kept me focused on getting through my pain. I am ready was my mantra. I think of this series every step I take also and think of every scene in my head, every smell, every taste. I am not easily impressed or influenced and Diana you have done that. I even booked an Outlander tour in Scotland this year and I hate tours, but very excited to go. Draughtlander is the hardest time for me. I belong to Outlander Fan Club as well as several Outlander pages on Facebook and I never join clubs. Thank you all for bringing us this fabulous book series, TV series and these marvelous heart throb actors. We love them!

  16. Carrie says:

    I don’t know why this edition slipped by me until now, but I thoroughly enjoyed your article since I am fanatically immersed in the Outlander TV series! I, too, love historical fiction and now intend to start reading the Outlander series. I love all of Jon’s work, too.

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