Thoughts on Outlander: Frank, Claire, and Jamie

The love triangle aspect of Outlander is a complicated and touchy subject.  In the fandom there are FoF (Friends of Frank) and Team Jamie and people are very passionate about their allegiance.

I think the reasons for the this loyalty has to do with the complicated moral issues of the book itself.  Diana Gabaldon created this love triangle in which Claire is married when she falls through the stones into a new time period and must marry again.  She falls in love with new husband, Jamie, and chooses to stay with him over Frank.

This creates a difficult situation for the reader who must now sympathize with a woman who may or may not be committing adultery.  This was a challenging moral dilemma for me when I first read the books, and almost caused me to stop reading them.  While it may be easy for some to justify Claire’s actions: she was forced to marry Jamie, or Frank was not alive in this period, another justification that many people cling to is Frank’s infidelity (or just plain: Frank was scum, to put it nicely).

Diana Gabaldon plants a seed of Frank’s possible unfaithfulness in the mind of the reader early in the book.  When Jamie’s ghost appears and is watching Claire in the window, Frank just sees a man who is possibly in love with his wife and asks Claire about it.  Claire then supposes that maybe Frank jumped to this conclusion because he was the unfaithful one.  This is Claire’s thought, and the reader has nothing to prove or disprove it.

I think most readers have a need to accept Frank’s unfaithfulness here (and in a later book) in order to make Claire’s own unfaithfulness okay.  Because if Claire is the 2nd person in the marriage to be unfaithful, than she is not the actual guilty party.

I also know that we never read a book in a vacuum.  Our own experiences color our interpretation.  And because half of married Americans divorce, and adultery is a main reason for divorce it makes sense that a lot of readers may see in Frank their own unfaithful ex-spouse.  They may feel a strong conviction because they saw the signs of infidelity in their own marriage.  This is really the only explanation I can come up with that explains the extreme hatred that I see and hear toward Frank online and in conversations.

I was firmly a friend of Frank on my first read through because I saw Claire as a married woman in love with her husband and desperate to get back to him.  I saw her marriage to Jamie and falling in love with him as a betrayal, even though I really liked Jamie and thought he was an innocent and wonderful man.  As I continued reading the series my own views of Frank followed right along with Claire’s view and when she suspected he was unfaithful, so did I.

Then one day I read in an online forum that Diana Gabaldon said Frank is an honorable man.  An honorable man would not cheat on his wife, in my opinion, so for her to say that might mean that Frank was not a cheater.  I decided that maybe I should do a read through of the series looking at Frank as a faithful husband, instead of as a cheater.

Now, I know about the “death of the author” and that no two people can read the same book because we all bring our own stuff to the book.  But I also know that I don’t have to keep my preconceived notions when I read a book.  I can toss those out, consider the fact that Claire is not a reliable narrator, and read the books looking for evidence that he is an honorable, faithful husband.

There is a lot we just do not know about Frank, and I for one, am hoping someday Diana will tell his story.

For now, I can develop a my own theory of how it is okay for Claire to have two husbands and love two men.  For me, that meant looking to the words of Father Anselm in Outlander, but also thinking about the stones as an uncertain means of travel.  After Claire’s first journey, she really did not know for sure that she would go back to Frank if she went through them again.  That had to be enough of a reason for me to justify her staying with Jamie.  And with Frank not in the 18th century, it would be the same as if Frank were dead, and Claire a widow.

Review of The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton

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The Wood’s Edge is the first in a family drama historical series set before and during the American Revolution.  The author is telling the story of two families that are forever bound by a horrible act of kidnapping and how each family deals with the aftermath.  The main theme is forgiveness but it is not all neatly packaged at the end, as some elements of the story will continue on into the next book.

The story itself begins slowly, to establish the history of each family: one white colonist family and one native Oneida family. But as the story builds each character and each character is more well known the story gets richer.  The setting was interesting and well drawn, a place I was longing to visit by the end of the story.  There is some romance, which builds into the theme of forgiveness and acceptance.

The only weakness I saw was in the very beginning much of the story is told by a character outside of the family and I questioned why she was the POV character.  Other than that, it was a strong, well told story.

I think what I loved the most about the story is it did actually remind me a bit of Diana Gabaldon’s work.  While Benton is writing specifically in the Christian market, so it does not have the sexual content of Gabaldon’s books, it has the same feel of life on the Ridge.  Set on the frontier in New York, it is a place that I feel like I am visiting while I read and the characters are people I am enjoying spending time with.  It also covers the same time period as books 4-6 of Outlander, which I think of as the pre-Revolutionary trilogy within the series.

This was my first Lori Benton book, but it will not be my last. I actually first “met” Lori Benton online in the Diana Gabaldon Compuserve forum so I was excited to receive this book as a Goodreads give away and am giving my honest review.

Review of The Creole Princess by Beth White


The Creole Princess book coverAs a fan of historical fiction, and someone with an interest in 18th century history, The Creole Princess was a very interesting look at the Revolutionary War in the U.S. from a part of the country that is rarely featured in history. It is also a romance, though that often takes second place to the events of history. I enjoyed the characters and the glimpse of life on the frontier of Mobile and New Orleans. I had no idea of Spain’s involvement in the revolution and found that very interesting. This is also a story about race, slavery, and acceptance of inter-racial relations, which was an interesting added twist. As the plot played out it seemed almost too ideal and perhaps not grounded in what it really would have been like for an interracial family, but one can hope for the best.

I thought the picture the author painted of the 18th century was pretty realistic.  While there were a few anachronisms that pulled me out of the story, there were less than I see in other books I have read about this period.  I also thought the politics of the period were tactfully portrayed as well.  One thing that is a hot button for me is the assumption that all people in the colonies were in favor of revolution.  While the main characters in this story did all land on the side of the colonies, I appreciated seeing some of the journey and struggle to get to that political position.

The romances in the book are sweet. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and seeing their development and reactions to the events of the story. I plan to read the previous book in the series and subsequent books as well. My only complaint was that it seemed like it ended too abruptly. I wish there was more!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodbyes and the Ex-pat Life

Spoiler Alert **If you haven’t finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, some things may be spoiled!**

When I say “Goodbyes” I am thinking most especially of the “goodbyes” that we see before someone must travel through time.  It was at the end of ABOSAA that it first really hit me how much I could relate to Brianna and Roger as they said goodbye to Claire and Jamie, probably for the last time.  That was the most heart-wrenching moment of the entire series so far for me.  I think because I feel like I have lived that scene multiple times as I left the U.S. to head back to my life overseas over the course of 4 years.  Since I worked in a school and had summers off I came back to the U.S. multiple times during the four years but each time I had to say goodbye to my parents it was heartbreaking.  They cried, I cried, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it now.

Especially painful to me in ABOSAA is the moment when Brianna gives Jamie one last hug and he grips her tightly.  He knows he will never see her again if she doesn’t come back to the 18th century.  Claire could always go back to the 20th century, and Jamie plans for her to do that when he dies.  But he knows he will never see his daughter or grandchildren again.

It hit me then that traveling in time is not so much unlike moving to another country and culture.  They say there are different kinds of culture shocks: big city/small town, one ethnicity to another, and I think also the shock of the way culture is throughout history.

I used to participate in Revolutionary War Reenacting.  Learning some of the behaviors and reasons that people did things the way they did back in the 18th century is a form of learning another culture, even just here in the U.S.  When Brianna and Roger went back to the 18th century that had a lot of things to adjust to in order to live their “ex-pat” life on Fraser’s Ridge.  They did a good job of it though.  The conversations about the things they missed were so familiar to me.  I’ve participated in countless conversations like that while living overseas.  The things you miss the most, what is hard about living in this new culture, the things you just cannot understand.  These are universal themes that people who have moved cultures have experienced throughout time.

As a reenactor, I also had to learn about how life was different then than now.  Such as a woman would never go around with her hair uncovered, because she would be thought to be a prostitute.  But do you know why women (and men also) kept their heads covered in the 18th century?  Because their hair was gross!  They didn’t bath much, and they would often put bear grease in their hair to keep the fleas and other bugs out of their hair.  So for women there was a cultural reason, but also a practical reason to keep their heads covered.  They also had to keep the elbows and knees covered as well.  Partly for modesty, but also partly because people thought that those parts of the body were ugly.

I think what we discover, if we care to find out, is that some things that seem weird to us about another place or time are often for a reason.  There is a reason behind something that seems unreasonable to an outsider.  But we have to care enough to learn about another culture to find out what that reason is.

The Calling of Roger Mac

The main reason I decided to start a blog is because I wanted to be able to share my thoughts about the books that I love to read.  This is mainly because of Diana Gabaldon’s A Breath of Snow and Ashes.  That book really took the series to yet another level of brilliance and depth.  I especially loved the character development of Roger Mac in ABOSAA.  The scenes where he realizes his calling to be a pastor and shares that calling with Jamie and Brianna are among the best.  I think this is partially because I see it as a way that Roger is really figuring out his place in the world, and not just the 18th century.  I also confess that it is partially because I am a person of faith and so I am particularly enjoying the discussions of religion in this book.  I love how DG is reveals Roger trying to come to terms with time travel as a part of God’s plan and predestination.  Speaking as one who comes from a Predestination background in the church but is now firmly on the Free Will, Wesleyan side of Protestantism, maybe adopting a Free Will position could help Roger out, aye?

But Roger’s revelation of his calling is a theme that is very prominent in the who Outlander series.  Claire talks about how she was called into medicine and had to become a doctor.  Jamie, obviously has a calling to be a leader of men, and takes up that role very often and without trying.  Brianna turns to mathematics and engineering after her mother leaves and takes up inventing all kinds of things in the 18th century.  Being called to a career or a purpose is important in all our lives.  It can define who we are and gives us a purpose for getting up each day in order to fulfill that calling.

I, for one, am very glad that Diana Gabaldon decided to follow her own calling to be an author.  I hope that you too will fulfill your calling.

 

A lapsed Outlander fan

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I admit it, I had become a lapsed Outlander fan.  I first became a fan of the Outlander series in 1997, about the time the Drums of Autumn was published.  I fell in love with the series and with Jamie, Claire, Brianna and Roger.  They became my friends and a part of my life.  Plus, at the time I was involved in an historical reenacting group for the Revolutionary War.  So it was exciting to read a series that would eventually cover the Revolutionary War.

After the publication of The Fiery Cross my life took a turn, I decided to have an adventure and take a job outside of the United States.  My life had a different focus and I was pretty busy with traveling and learning a new language.  When A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out it had been awhile since I had read the series and so I knew I would need to do a reread, but I just didn’t have the time.

Then one day this past March I ran across the news that an Outlander TV series was being made.  I was filled with incredible joy that it had finally happened.  And it gave me the inspiration I needed to do the big reread!

Thankfully I already owned all of the books in the series in multiple formats: print books, ebooks and audible so I was prepared.

What will follow will be my thoughts on the series as I read them, and other books set in the 18th Century.