Outlander Book Club – “Inverness, 1945”

Greetings Obsassenachs, and welcome to the Outlander read along!! The purpose of this project is to pull some of the excerpts from Outlander that stood out to me, and to discuss them with you guys! This is going to be a VERY long droughtlander, and while news of season 6 is slowly starting to trickle in, filming won’t be starting for AT LEAST another three months. So, in the meantime, make yourself cozy by the fire with a wee dram, and join me for an Outlander Read Along.

If this is your first read through–welcome to the club! If this is a reread for you, then welcome back! Either way, I hope you guys enjoy my commentary, and please feel free to interact and ask questions about Part One: “Inverness, 1945” in the comments!

Here we go!!!

Prologue

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

Excerpt #1

People disappear all the time. Ask any policeman. Better yet, ask a journalist. Disappearances are bread-and-butter to journalists.

Young girls run away from home.  Young children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives reach the end of their tether and take the grocery money and a taxi to the train station. International financiers change their names and vanish into the smoke of imported cigars.

Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations.

Usually.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

This is probably one of the most intriguing prologues I have ever read. It serves a purpose and it does it well. These three simple paragraphs evoke the tone of the novel and engage the reader while setting the stage for the rest of the book. Unexplainable disappearances are the gift that keeps on giving in this series, and the sarcastic undertone of the words already give us a feel for our protagonist–Claire. Never have I wanted to keep turning the page more, than as I was reading this for the first time!

Chapter One

Excerpt #2 – “Claire’s Origins”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

Faced with the necessity of prying my chubby fingers off the car’s door handle and dragging me by the heels up the steps of the school, Uncle Lamb, who hated personal conflict of any kind, had sighed in exasperation, then finally shrugged and tossed his better judgement out the window along with my newly purchased boater.

“Ruddy thing,” he muttered, seeing it rolling merrily away in the rearview mirror as we roared down the drive in high gear. “Always loathed hats on women, anyway.” He had glanced down at me, fixing me with a fierce glare.

“One thing,” he said, in awful tones. “You are not to play dolls with my Persian grave figurines. Anything else, but not that. Got it?”

I nodded, content. And had gone with him to the Middle East, to South America, to dozens of study sites through the world. Had learned to read and write from the drafts of journal articles, to dig latrines and boil water, and do a number of other things not suitable to a young lady of gentle birth — until I had met the handsome, dark-haired historian who came to consult Uncle Lamb on a point of French philosophy as it related to Egyptian religious practice.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

There is so much to unpack in this excerpt!! Claire lost her parents at the age of five in a car accident, and lived a nomadic life with her only remaining relative — her paternal Uncle Lambert. Her uncle was her primary source of education as they travelled the world from dig site to dig site.

In this little snippet, we see the man that was responsible for giving Claire her independent personality, excellent survival skills, and the part I personally find most entertaining, her distaste for wearing anything that covers her hair. This particular habit, or lack there of, is a sticking point for many acquaintances in the 18th century, but ultimately becomes a quality Jamie loves about her. We also get an abridged version of how Claire met Frank. He was a junior professor and scholar who met Uncle Lamb, and by extension Claire, during an antiquities consultation!

Excerpt #3 – “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

“Interesting,” he said, “the whole evolution of profanity.”

“Yes, and it’s still going on,” I said, carefully picking up a lump of sugar with the tongs.

“Oh?” said Mr. Bainbridge politely. “Did you encounter some interesting variations during your, er, war experience?”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “My favorite was one I picked up from a Yank. Man named Williamson, from New York, I believe. He said it every time I changed his dressing.”

“What was it?”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said, and dropped the sugar lump neatly into Frank’s coffee.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

It’s the genesis of the Outlanderverse’s most famous phrase, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.” It’s such an odd combination of words, and I don’t for the life of me know what inspired Diana Gabaldon to use this phrasing, but I get a kick out of it every time I read those words or hear them on screen. (Side note: if you DO know how DG came up with Claire’s catch-phrase, please do tell in the comments!) In all reality though, it does make sense for Claire to have picked up curse words and “bawdy” phrases during her time in the army–I had a similar experience in picking up a different vernacular when I entered into my career field.

Excerpt #4 – “The Ghost”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

He was down at the edge of the garden on this side, standing by the fence. I thought” –he hesitated, looking down into the glass– “I rather thought he was looking up at your window.”

“My window? How extraordinary!” I couldn’t repress a mild shiver, and went across to fasten the shutters, though it seemed a bit late for that. Frank followed me across the room, still talking.

“Yes, I could see you myself from below. You were brushing your hair and cursing a bit because it was standing on end.”

“In that case, the fellow was probably enjoying a good laugh,” I said tartly. Frank shook his head, though he smiled, and smoothed his hands over my hair.

“No, he wasn’t laughing. In fact, he seemed terribly unhappy about something. Not that I could see his face well; just something about the way he stood. I came up behind him, and when he didn’t move, I asked politely if I could help him with something. He acted at first as though he didn’t hear me, and though perhaps he didn’t, over the noise of the wind, so I repeated myself, and I reached out to tap his shoulder, to get his attention, you know. But before I could touch him, he whirled suddenly round and pushed past me and walked off down the road.”

“Sounds a bit rude, but not very ghostly,” I observed, draining my glass. “What did he look like?”

“Big chap,” said Frank, frowning in recollection. “And a Scot, in complete Highland rig-out, complete to sporran and the most beautiful running-stag brooch on his plaid. I wanted to ask where he’d got it from, but he was off before I could.”

I went to the bureau and poured another drink. “Well, not so unusual an appearance for these parts, surely? I’ve seen men dressed like that in the village now and then.” “Nooo…” Frank sounded doubtful. “No, it wasn’t his dress that was odd. But when he pushed past me, I could swear he was close enough that I should have felt him brush my sleeve–but I didn’t. And I was intrigued enough to turn round and watch him as he walked away. He walked down the Gereside Road, but when he’d almost reached the corner, he disappeared.
That’s when I began to feel a bit cold down the backbone.”

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

Jamie’s ghost… it’s a hot button topic in the Outlander fandom. How is Jamie there? Why is he there? How is this connected to the greater arc of the series? Apparently these are all questions that will be answered in the end. Literally. Diana has stated all will be revealed in the final book of the series. In the epilogue… Say a prayer for me… I may faint. I know this is supposed to be some big romantic gesture for Jamie to wait 200 years to see Claire again, but am I the only one that finds this whole situation a tad depressing? Like Jamie’s just hanging around in limbo by himself, waiting for Claire to be born so he can ghost stalk her? I don’t know… just my random thoughts.

All joking and random thoughts aside, by the time I got to this part in the first chapter, I was all in: hook, line, and sinker. I feel as though this scene packs a bigger punch on a reread though. When you are armed with the knowledge that this ghost is indeed James Fraser, and you are 100% aware of the EPIC love story these two will have, it’s equal parts sadness and anticipation, both for what will eventually unfold.

Chapter Two

Excerpt #5 – “Palm Reading”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

The elderly housekeeper pored over my hand again, stabbing a pointed forefinger here and there to mark her words.

“Now, there, a well-marked lifeline; you’re in good health, and likely to stay so. The lifeline’s interrupted, meaning your life’s changed markedly–well that’s true of us all, is it not? But yours is more chopped-up, like, than I usually see; all bits and pieces. And your marriage-line, now” –she shook her head again– “it’s divided; that’s not unusual, means two marriages…”

My reaction was slight, and immediately suppressed, but she caught the flicker and looked up at once. I thought she probably was quite a shrewd fortune-teller, at that. The grey head shook reassuringly at me.

“No, no, lass. It doesna mean anything’s like to happen to your good man. It’s only that if it did,” she emphasized the “if” with a slight squeeze of my hand, “you’d not be one to pine away and waste the rest of your life in mourning. What it means is, you’re one of those can love again if your first love’s lost.”

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

I certainly hope when Claire looks back on all the events leading up to her trip through the stones, she remembers Mrs. Graham hit the nail on the head with her palm reading. I really appreciated Diana Gabaldon’s use of foreshadowing in this scene, and it’s so seamless that a first time reader wouldn’t even notice it.

Foreshadowing is a technique that is EXTREMELY easy to overdo and get wrong–like a literal elephant in the room, but this particular scene could have easily been a silly little fortune telling whim. It’s not until much later in the book that a reader will realize the author literally told them what was going to happen. It’s fantastic. I also really found the whole concept of palm reading extremely interesting. How palm readers observe different characteristics of the hand to derive meaning from those characteristics just fascinates me!

Excerpt #6 – “Dancing Druids”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

They should have been ridiculous, and perhaps they were. A collection of women in bedsheets, many of them stout and far from agile, parading in circles on top of a hill. But the hair prickled on the back of my neck at the sound of their call.

They stopped as one, and turned to face the rising sun, standing in the form of two semicircles, with a path lying clear between the halves of the circle thus formed. As the sun rose above the horizon, its light flooded between the eastern stones, knifed between the halves of the circle, and struck the great split stone on the opposite side of the henge.

The dancers stood for a moment, frozen in the shadows to either side of the beam of light. Then Mrs. Graham said something, in the same strange language, but this time in a speaking voice. She pivoted and walked, back straight, iron-grey waves glinting in the sun, along the path of light. Without a word, the dancers fell in step behind her. They passed one by one through the cleft in the main stone and disappeared in silence.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

I felt that this excerpt deserved a spot in my read along simply for what it represents! The power of the stone circle these women are paying homage to serves as a catalyst for 9 books and counting. How could I not include this scene?? As readers we are getting a bit of an ominous and awestruck feeling by the descriptions of what Claire is seeing. The power of this stone circle (or what the circle represents) is something that ancient Celts worshiped, and sects of Druids still worship in the world of 20th century Outlander.

I do find it extremely interesting that in the multiple times leading up to Claire’s trip through the stones, she doesn’t hear them screaming until she is alone on the Dun looking for the Forget Me Nots she’d seen previously. Hmmmmmm… so many questions I hope we eventually get answers to!!

Excerpt #7 – “Through The Stones”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

I could say that my field of vision contracted to a single dark spot, then disappeared altogether, leaving not darkness, but a bright void. I could say that I felt as though I were spinning, or as though I were being pulled inside out. All these things are true, yet none of them conveys the sense I had of complete disruption, of being slammed very hard against something that wasn’t there.

The truth is that nothing moved, nothing changed, nothing whatever appeared to happen and yet I experienced a feeling of elemental terror so great that I lost all sense of who, or what, or where I was. I was in the heart of chaos, and no power of mind or body was of use against it.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

This is one thing about the books I felt it was VERY important to emphasize. Going through the stones is not easy or simple. It is a life threatening experience that takes its toll on both mind and body. As we go deeper into the books we will see that many have actually died attempting to go through or simply never come out the other side and are “trapped” in the stones. Its kind of crazy, and this is one aspect of Time Travel that I wish the show would attempt to portray better.

Chapter Three

Excerpt #8 – “Dislocated Shoulder”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

“This is the worst part,” I warned the patient. I cupped the elbow, ready to whip it upward and in.

His mouth twitched, not quite a smile. “It canna hurt much worse than it does. Get on wi’ it.” Sweat was popping out on my own face by now. Resetting a shoulder joint is hard work at the best of times. Done on a large man who had gone hours since the dislocation, his muscles now swollen and pulling on the joint, the job was taking all the strength I had. The fire was dangerously close; I hoped we wouldn’t both topple in, if the joint went back with a jerk.

Suddenly the shoulder gave a soft crunching pop! And the joint was back in place. The patient looked amazed. He put an unbelieving hand up to explore.

“It doesna hurt anymore!” A broad grin of delighted relief spread across his face, and the men broke out in exclamations and applause.

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

I’ve found that there are two common motifs in Outlander. 1) Jamie is hurt and Claire is tending to him or 2) Claire is in trouble and Jamie is saving her.

Granted, there are moments within the realm of the series where these roles are reversed and those moments are beautiful to see, but I found it so fitting that these are the circumstances in which these two meet for the first time. Jamie, ever the stoic, suffer-in-silence type, grits his teeth and prepares for Claire to do her worst, and I think he was just as shocked as everyone else when she actually fixed him!

This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the two of them, and is part of what I admire most about the evolution of their romance. They grow to have a friendship and mutual trust in each other before there are ever any romantic feelings involved. It is made abundantly obvious early on that there is an undeniable chemistry between the two, but the seeds of a lasting love and friendship are being sown in this scene.

Chapter Four

Excerpt #9 – “New Standards”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

“The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through rough country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man. At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn’t rain. By the standards I was becoming used to, it was quite dull.”

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

It is slowly sinking in for Claire. She is in the 18th century. I really loved how she’s resigned to it now in a lot of ways. Her smart ass internal dialogue is one of the many reasons that I love her, but when you read this excerpt you realize how relatively safe the 20th century is — bar the full-scale World War that just ended… Seriously though, how tedious it must have been to ride for hours on a horse just to get 10-15 miles down the road! No wonder people didn’t get out much.

Excerpt #10 – “Seeking Comfort”

Photo Credit: Outlander-Online

The lad had nice feelings. Instead of calling for help or retreating in confusion, he sat down, gathered me firmly onto his lap with his good arm and sat rocking me gently, muttering soft Gaelic in my ear and smoothing my hair with one hand. I wept bitterly, surrendering momentarily to my fear and heartbroken confusion, but slowly I began to quiet a bit, as Jamie stroked my neck and back, offering me the comfort of his broad, warm chest. My sobs lessened and I began to calm myself, leaning tiredly into the curve of his shoulder. No wonder he was so good with horses, I thought blearily, feeling his fingers rubbing gently behind my ears, listening to the soothing, incomprehensible speech. If I were a horse, I’d let him ride me anywhere.”

[Excerpt from OUTLANDER, Copyright 1991 Diana Gabaldon]

My Thoughts:

I mentioned this quote in one of our early episodes of The Sassenach Files Podcast, and still to this day it makes me chuckle. I mean, yeah, get a guy with some good hands and… but I digress… My point is, whether Jamie and Claire admit it or not, there is an underlying attraction between the two of them. We could chalk this particular encounter up to exhaustion, but I’m of the mind that fatigue doesn’t change how you feel; it just lowers your inhibitions.

I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that this scene is where I started to fall head over heels for Jamie Fraser… er… McTavish… He is so sensitive and sweet, and in a situation that would have sent most men running for the hills, he pulls this strange woman into his arms and holds her while she cries. He knows she’s hurting. She’s in a strange place surrounded by strange men, and at her wits end with grief and fatigue. Granted, this reaction is why a small but vocal part of the Outlander audience says Jamie is not a realistic character, but to that I say, “Pipe down out there in the Peanut Gallery!”

Alrighty guys, that concludes my Outlander Read Along for Part One: “Inverness, 1945”. Let me know what you think in the comments!! Join me next week for Part Two: “Castle Leoch”.

6 Replies to “Outlander Book Club – “Inverness, 1945””

  1. I somehow found myself on this page and not sure how I got here. I am not technical in any way, but here I am. I felt like Claire going through the stones. I loved reading this and have been an admitted Outlander addict since watching Outlander Seasons 1 through 5, over and over and over. I want to read more while waiting for the next seasons to come back on screen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe that Jamie was a ghost in 1945 Inverness and could travel through the veil of time and go anywhere. But, when it’s not the times for traveling, he has Astral traveling or dreams.

      Like

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