It was about five years ago, just prior to moving back to Australia after having lived in the UK for two years, that a very close friend encouraged me to read a book called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. When I asked her what it was about she explained that it centered around a woman from the 1940s who suddenly travels through time to 1743 Scotland through some magical stones. Riiiiggghhhttt. I was not filled with much hope. I personally don’t like science fiction outside of the original Star Wars and this didn’t sound like anything I would be able to relate to. Five books later I am more than happy to admit I was wrong.
Claire in 1945 with her husband Frank.
While I admit it did take me a while to get into the story, once I was there, I was hooked. The characters are so well written that I feel as if I am on the journey with them. I love that the protagonist, Claire, is a fiercely strong, determined and self assured woman and these qualities are seen as something to be revered by the men around her, not patronised or belittled. Strong female protagonists are rare in this fifty shades of grey world we live in. In James Fraser, Claire’s romantic interest in 1743, we have a strong, forward thinking, educated man, wise beyond his years, whose devotion and love for Claire is something so many of us hope for. There’s is a partnership of equals with both mutual respect and love. That’s not to say Claire didn’t have that with her 1945 husband Frank – she did – which is why the struggle she feels is so pertinent.
Imagine my delight when it was announced that a television series of the books was being made. Created by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Left Bank Pictures for Starz, the series screens on Foxtels SoHo channel in Australia. It premiered last year and screened 8 episodes before a mid season break. The series will re-commence on April 5th and I cannot wait. The show is perfectly cast with Caitriona Balfe as Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser, Sam Heughan as James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser and Tobias Menzies as Claire’s 1945 husband Frank Randall. Balfe achieves a perfect balance between Claire’s tenacious and independent spirit and her compassion as a trained nurse. The character is torn between the husband whom she loves and left behind in 1945 and the world she finds herself in and the man she finds herself falling in love with. Menzies is incredibly like-able as Frank, a character I must admit I paid little mind to in the book. In a way in which the book did not, the series gives Frank quite a bit of air time and we see his perspective and story play out more, ensuring audiences have a greater understanding of Claire’s struggle to choose between the two men. I really liked Frank, due greatly to the added depth which Menzies brings to the character as we are afforded more of an insight into his struggles to find his missing wife which you don’t get in the book. But lets talk about Heughan. Move over Ryan Gosling, go hide out in your playroom Christian Grey – Sam Heughan as James Fraser is in a word – perfection. As soon as he appeared on screen in the first episode you could hear women the world over audibly swoon.
But it’s not just his obvious good looks that make him perfect for this role, or the fact that they chose a Scottish actor to play a Scotsman (thank God), there is an innate kindness in Heughan that is also found in the character of Jamie that cannot be forced. Also the genuine affection between Heughan and Balfe ensures their characters relationship is entirely believable. You care about these characters, you feel as if you know them and you so desperately want them to be happy.
A big highlight for me is of course the period costumes, particularly the scenes from the 1940s. If you have any passion for well crafted costume dramas then you really must watch Outlander. I feel nothing I can say here will do this show justice. With part two of the first season starting on April 5th you can catch up on the entire first series here. And if you don’t fall in love with Heughan/Jamie or have a burning desire to move to Scotland I’ll eat one of my 1940s hats.
We are first introduced to Claire at the end of WWII in London where she worked as a nurse.
In love with this blue coat.
Claire and Frank on their second honeymoon in Scotland.
Claire’s 1940s inspired nightgown is stunning.
The highly anticipated Wedding episode attracted more than 3.8 million viewers.