Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Outlander story

Today I am supposed to talk about An Echo in the Bone, the seventh book in the very successful Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon. Despite the fact that I haven't yet finished the book, I will do that but first I wanted to talk about what the Outlander series means to me. To be honest, I am a bit surprised that I haven't talked about this in more depth on my blog at any time in the last five years. A quick scan of the archives tells me I have alluded to it a few times, but never fully expanded on it.

Let me take you back nearly 20 years. I was an avid reader and had been from as early as I can remember. Every time I got paid I would buy one (or more books) and then the next week I would have read those so would have to go back for more. I couldn't get enough of reading. From a very young age, if I was sent to clean up my room I would invariably end up reading a book. Reading was something that bought me happiness, it was my escape, it fed my soul.

Skipping forward a few years more, I was a young Aussie who set out to travel around Europe, and had ended up staying in the UK. I had met a boy and was settling down, but somewhere between travelling around and settling down I lost myself. It is no exaggeration to say that I didn't read a novel for about 7 years, and it's no coincidence that is about how long I was with the ex.

After returning to Australia, getting rid of the ex (or perhaps I should say breaking up - it sounds less sinister),  my sister asked me why wasn't I starting to read books again. I am not sure that she doesn't regret that suggestion because these days she is more likely to tell me that I spend far too much time reading and talking/blogging about reading.

One year she gave me a copy of Cross Stitch (which is the name that Outlander was published under here) by Diana Gabaldon for my birthday. She is not much of a reader, but her former house mate had recommended it. I said thank you very much and left it on the bookshelf for months and months. I had started to slowly read again, and one weekend I was looking around my house and saw Cross Stitch sitting there neglected and unread, so I picked  it up, not realising what impact that small decision was going to make on my life.

Cross Stitch was by no means the first book I read in coming back to reading, but it was the first time in years that I devoured a book, and I do mean devoured. Each of the Outlander books is about 800-1000 pages or more long depending on the format. I think I read that first book in a weekend. I promptly went to the bookstore and bought the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, and I read that in the next few days, meaning that I was reading until the early hours of the morning and going into work looking like a zombie. My poor child was probably 3 or 4 at the time and ended up having cheese sandwiches for dinner that first weekend (and yes, he would have had to make at least one of those sandwiches himself), and it wasn't much different the weekend after when I read the third book, Voyager, which is still one of my favourite in the series.

I quickly realised that I couldn't buy the next book on a weekday because otherwise I wouldn't get enough sleep, and so on the Friday night I would go and buy the next book and spend the whole of the weekend reading it and this pattern continued until I had finished The Fiery Cross. But then suddenly there were no more of these books to read.

That decision to pick up the first book in this series, reignited my love of reading. Yes, they weren't the first book I read when I started again, but they were the first books that made me realise how hungry I was to read! Since that time, I haven't really stopped, and meeting with like minded readers online, many of whom have become important friends in my life, and who have led me onto some of my other favourite authors. I first heard about Paullina Simons' fabulous Bronze Horseman trilogy from fans of Diana Gabaldon, and I similarly devoured the first two books in that trilogy. Other authors that I first heard about whilst talking to DG fans - Sharon Kay Penman and Sara Donati. From reading Sharon Kay Penman I found about Elizabeth Chadwick, and so on. 

Even after all these years, the Outlander books are right up there with the books that I talk to random people about most. I have pimped the books to people I work with, people I catch the train with, my ex boss, anyone who will listen really. Just today I was reading on the train, and ended up striking up a conversation with the lady who was sitting across from me about the books, about Jamie, and if we happen to sit near each other again we have agreed to have further conversation about lots of other book recommendations.

After reading The Fiery Cross, things came to a screaming halt though because suddenly instead of being able to rush out and buy the next book in the series, I had to wait for as long as it took for the next book to come out. I often wonder if those books were already written and if I had of just kept on reading straight through the series, would my reaction be different to what it is now.

In both A Breath of Snow and Ashes and now An Echo in the Bone, I really think that there is a lot of filler material in the book that doesn't really need to be there, and that was something that I mentioned in my review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes a few years ago. At this stage, I also worry about how exactly Diana Gabaldon is going to be able to finish the series off, and how long away that is, not that I want to see the end as such, but just because there has to come a point when Jamie is too old to fight, and Jamie and Clare are too old to get it on!

That may sound a little cynical, and it is, but in between all the unnecessary plot twists, fights, medical procedures, there are moments that are pure magic, and it is really for those moments that I will continue to read this series. Sometimes they are big moments, and other times they are just small moments but when I read them, I react emotionally, and often out loud. For example, here is just a small moment between Roger and Brianna:

He didn't look up, but kept his eyes fixed in the dark labyrinth of her curls. "I couldn't risk my own kids losing their father." His voice had nearly disappeared; he felt his vocal cords grinding like gears to force the words out.

"It's too important. You don't forget having a dad."

Bree's eyes slid sideways, the blue of them no more than a spark in the firelight.

"I thought... you were so young. You do remember your father?"

Roger shook his head, the chambers of his heart clenching hard, grasping emptiness.

"No," he said softly, and bent his head, breathing in the scent of his daughter's hair. "I remember yours."
Then there are the heart stopping scenes, like the print shop scene in Voyager being my absolute favourite scene! Or the scene....well, actually I can't share all of the scenes that have me reacting. You will need to discover those for yourself.

I want to know what happens with Jamie and Claire, and I want to know more about Bree, about Roger. I want to see Young Ian be happy, I will continue to read the spin-off Lord John Grey mysteries,  and so no matter how much more work it is to read one of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books these days, I will continue to do this, if for no other reason than these books were the catalyst that changed my life.. for the better.

The blog tour that this post is part of is being run by TLC Tours in celebration of the fact that An Echo in the Bone is being released in trade paperback in the US. For more stops on the tour, check out the following link

Monday, August 2nd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 4th:  The Literate Housewife Review (Voyager)
Monday, August 9th:  Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Outlander)
Wednesday, August 11th:  Starting Fresh (An Echo in the Bone)
Thursday, August 12th:  Under the Boardwalk (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 16th:  Planet Books (Outlander)
Thursday, August 19th:  Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 25th:  MoonCat Farms Meanderings (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 30th:  Hey, Lady!  Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)
Tuesday, August 31st:  The Brain Lair (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 1st:  My Two Blessings (Outlander)
Thursday, September 2nd:  Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)
Tuesday, September 7th:  That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)
Monday, September 13th:  Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)
Tuesday, September 14th:  Luxury Reading (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 15th:  The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)
Thursday, September 16th:  Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)
Friday, September 17th:  Devourer of Books (Outlander)


  1. Wow! That's quite a story. have you considered sending it to Diana Gabaldon? I honestly think she would appreciate it.

  2. This is a beautiful post. A touching tribute to a series as well as to the power of reading. You said it all perfectly. Bravo!

  3. I love Outlander! It's such an epic story! I don't have as interesting a story about my Outlander experience. I actually just randomly picked it up at a bookstore because I liked the cover.

    It took me awhile to get into it. I thought the beginning dragged but after she goes back in time it really pickedup and I was hooked.

    After reading it I pushed my mom to read it for.....several months. She finally read it. Then we gagned up on my aunt until she read it. We nagged no less than five of my mom's friends into reading it. I got at least 6 of my friens hooked. I'm pretty sure Outlander is the book I've pimped out the most and have managed to get a ton of people hooked. My mom and I even got my dad to read it!

    (He loved it. Read the whole series!)

  4. I agree, I devoured these as well (except for Echo). The scene in the print shop in Voyager is my favorite of all. *sniff*

  5. Great post, Marg! I was lucky. When I discovered this series the first six books were already out and I only had a few months to wait for Echo. But really I wish I'd read this series years ago. I don't know if I could pick a favorite scene. Wait, maybe I can. Probably the scene where Jamie says goodbye to Claire at the end of Dragonfly. And I would have to say Fiery Cross was my least fave of the series.

  6. I agree. This series is probably one of my favorites. I don't have an interesting story to share but I can tell you that when I was reading the books, I barely ate or spoke to anyone. The poor hubby couldn't wait till I finished so I would talk to him again. And the print shop scene is one of my favorites too!

  7. Wow, that is quite a journey with this series! I'm thrilled that you, being such a devoted fan, agreed to be on the tour. Thanks so much for sharing your love of the series with your readers!

  8. WOW, what amazing and powerful story, Marg! Thanks for sharing :) I remember the first time I read OUTLANDER, it was a slow reading. I didn't think I was going to like it...not until I got to the scene where Clare travel to Jamie. I love the Outlander series, ever since. I would buy the hardcover for each books, when it released too. But it usually take me 2 weeks to finish each books. Outlander happen to be one of my favorite book of all times. This series book are a worthy read and I love Jamie and Clare :)

  9. Julia, if people say they aren't feeling the Outlander love with that first book I usually tell them to keep reading after the wedding. If they don't like it after that, then so be it, but generally that is enough to get into the story for real.

    LisaMM, it was my pleasure! The main reason why I did want to join the tour was to share the love, oh, and also to give me the additional incentive required to actually start reading the Echo instead of just looking at it!

    Amy, once you are into the books it is certainly one which it is hard to escape from, even for necessities such as food and drink! lol.

    LadyQ, I can see why Fiery Cross is least favourite. The fact that it took 200 pages to cover one day shows how wordy she can be. I think mine was probably ABOSAA but again I think it was because I wasn't reading it in quick succession from the other books.

    Misfit, such a great scene, the build up of searching through the past, preparation and then the scene. Oh so good!

    Mollie, they are definitely pimp-worthy books! lol

    Thanks LiterateHousewife. I was truly very surprised that I hadn't already written something similar. Just goes to show that there are still plenty of things left unsaid!

    Alexandra, thanks for the comment. I don't think I could ever send it to DG. It's enough to know how important the books are to me, and to share it with all of you.

  10. That's such a lovely story- I'm very impressed that you read Cross Stitch in a weekend! (I timed my reading for uni holidays, and even then it took me a week!)
    I had always thought that the series would end with A Breath of Snow and Ashes (don't know where I got this from), so I'm intrigued to see what An Echo in the Bone has in store.

  11. I love these books as well, and devoured them all in a short space of time too. It was really touching to hear how these books catapulted you into reading again as well. I am going to have to hurry up and get back to these books!! Great review!

  12. I had a similar start to this series as you did and oddly enough at the same point in the series. My mother had been telling me about these books for years and I just kept nodding and smiling and forgetting about them as soon as the conversation was over. I guess she got tired of that b/c one Christmas(the year Fiery Cross came out) She got them all for me for Christmas. I, like you, devoured them and then had to wait years for following books to come out. I've just started rereading the series and have listened to some of them. The audio books are actually done really well.

  13. I had a similar start to this series as you did and oddly enough at the same point in the series. My mother had been telling me about these books for years and I just kept nodding and smiling and forgetting about them as soon as the conversation was over. I guess she got tired of that b/c one Christmas(the year Fiery Cross came out) She got them all for me for Christmas. I, like you, devoured them and then had to wait years for following books to come out. I've just started rereading the series and have listened to some of them. The audio books are actually done really well.

  14. The unabridged audiobooks are indeed excellent Jessica! I am not much of a rereader normally, but I have reread Cross Stitch earlier this year, and I am debating about trying to reread the whole series next year.

    Thanks Zibilee. This series will always have a special spot in my heart for sure.

    Sam, I think originally Diana Gabaldon had said that it would be a six book series, but that changed several years ago. Now I have absolutely no idea how many books there are going to be.

  15. Hello Marg!
    This was a lovely post, reminds me of a similar thing that happened to me: I rediscovered the pleasure of reading with TBH trilogy (they changed my life I dare say).

    And about the Outlander saga, I have to thank mostly you (and in a smaller part the PS forum): you were recommeding it so I gave the first book a chance. I got hooked and bought the rest of the books that had been published till then (It was around 2005)I devoured the first 4 books in a couple of months!
    Now I'm working my way through Echo in the bone, but I'm sorry to say that I'm finding it very very hard to do.
    Overall it's a pageturner, but there are a lot of unnecessary part, and because of them I found it difficult to follow the plot.
    I think that it is really time for Mrs Gabaldon to end, before she gets in a situation she can't get out of.


  16. See, THIS is why I haven't started the series yet - I know I'm going to devour them all and ignore the rest of my life in the meantime. But honestly, I'm planning to start the first book over the winter holidays here (starting maybe in November?) and hopefully that will give me the time I need to really enjoy them. :)

  17. This was a great idea for a blog tour. I really must read on in this series!!

  18. Evie, thank you for stopping by! It's always nice to see on the crowd comment! I know exactly what you mean - there is a lot of unnecessary information. and what until you get to the end! Oh my goodness, that ending! lol

    Heather J, don't let the fact that you will become totally addicted to this series stop you from starting it. It is an incredibly readable and emotionally involving series, particular those early books.

    Kailana, where are you up to in the series?