After weeks of social distancing, you’re starting to fear that the couch is judging you and that binge-watching another television show after “Tiger King” may actually drive you into your own personal version of mayhem and madness.
You need to find another activity that still offers you a bit of company – the fictional and non-feline kind of company.
Look no further than Jamie Fraser and the cast of characters in Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling novel Outlander.
You probably expected me to start with great plot or well-defined characters, right? Well, all of that is also true, but I’m not going to bury the lead, here.
The sex scenes in Outlander are actually better than in the popular Starz television adaptation of the book series, which is saying something because the show does a pretty good job of showing those steamy scenes from the female perspective – just as they are written from our heroine’s perspective in the first book.
The sex scenes are all so good that author Diana Gabaldon actually followed up her success with Outlander by writing a book about writing sex scenes and even that book (called I Give You My Body) joined Outlander on the bestseller list.
Gabaldon is that good.
If you are watching the TV series then you already know that Jamie Fraser is made-for-fantasies gorgeous. If you aren’t watching the TV series, then let me just give you a little peek.
Believe it or not, the book version of Jamie Fraser is even more lovable. As a reader, you get to learn much more about his adorable mix of bravado and innocence – all sprinkled with a natural ability to lead men, learn languages, and love with intensity and devotion.
Am I swooning? Yeah, I’m swooning.
Knowing more than everyone else is always nice, especially since Outlander is getting a lot of buzz right now. Starz launched Season 5 of the TV series in mid-February before they even knew that the world would be on the collective couch binge-watching television and mass-tweeting during this period of social distancing.
The thing is that the book provides so much more detail and nuance that you will know way more than everyone who is only watching the TV series.
And if you decide to watch the series after you read the novel, all the better. The books make the television show so much more entertaining because you know the full story.
And you will understand much more about the haunting Outlander theme song.
I’m no doctor and no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that even before social distancing, we spent too much time on our phones, computers, tablets, you name it.
For must of us, though, our social schedules did not also revolve around a screen. Now it’s all about Zoom happy hours and Facetime.
I think it must be a positive thing to turn off the television – yet another screen – and turn on your brain in a different way. (And I do mean turn on.)
Now we get to the part about the plot and character development. Outlander involves time travel, love, war, and a strong female lead. All the ingredients for greatness – and then you go and add in the author’s skill with the written word.
Gabaldon herself says she challenges people to pick up Outlander, open it to any spot, and read for just three pages. If that reader can put down the book then she’ll pay her a dollar. She has, she says, never lost that dollar.
I believe her. I have read Outlander twice, listening to the Audible version once and falling hard for narrator Davina Porter’s portrayal of the characters.
Since then, I’ve listened to the entire series and most of the spinoffs, even making a trip to the Scottish Highlands to see the homeland and battlefields of Jamie and the Fraser clan. Which leads me to…
If you love Outlander (and you will!) there are eight books in the series and another in the works. Once you finish those, you can dive into the additional tales that I am calling “spinoffs” and that the author calls “the bulges”.
These are stories that aren’t told in the Outlander series but that did happen within the fictional lives of secondary characters.
Tell me, what better time than now to start a series with eight books not including the spinoff tales?
On a serious note, reading Outlander really will cheer you during this difficult period of social distancing and isolation.
And someday soon, when this is all over, we will start traveling again. And when that happens, you will have a place that will rise to the top of your list: The Scottish Highlands.
This is a place that you won’t regret visiting in the present-day or in the fictional past.
For more on Old High Church, Inverness, and the history of the Highlands, check out my story about taking an Outlander Tour through the Islands and Highlands of Scotland. (Warning some small spoilers to the Outlander series.)