Here's the main reason I've been AWOL from blogging for the past couple of weeks. I've been deep in the Scottish Highlands with Diana Gabaldon's very popular Outlander series. As you can see, there are seven rather hefty books in this stack, but it will be no hardship to finish them in July for they are the perfect balance for summer reading--a bit of fantasy where the main character time travels between two centuries, a great romance set in a most turbulent time of Scottish history, and a setting of great natural beauty. In fact, the setting had me going back through photo albums of a trip that I took through Scotland in 1998. I'll share some of the photos of the Highlands that were described in Gabaldon's novels--which will make this post entirely too long. Sorry! Just pace yourself, come back if you find it interesting. I just wanted to get the books, video, music, and travelogue under one roof.
by Diana Gabaldon
Claire Randall: "We camped the next night on the banks above Loch Ness. It gave me an odd feeling to see the place again; so little had changed. Or would change, I should say." p. 256
Synopsis: In this first book of the Outlander Series, it is 1945 and Claire Randall, a former English combat nurse is just back from serving at a field hospital in France in WW II. She is in Inverness, Scotland on a second honeymoon, reuniting after the war with her husband Frank Randall, an Oxford historian and instructor. One day Claire is exploring an ancient stone circle burial site just outside Inverness. She steps between two standing stones and disappears back in time to 1743. When she wakes, she is a Sassenach, or English outlander, at the mercy of raiding, warring Highland clansmen. She meets and eventually accepts the protection of a young Scots warrior, Jamie Fraser. With this meeting, Claire becomes a woman torn between loving two men in two different lives.
I love the current trend of television and film making based on popular fiction and non-fiction. If I enjoy the book, will more than likely appreciate the film as well. I don't get too tangled up about whether one will not do justice to the other. A film just adds another dimension to enjoyment of the novel, just as being familiar with the setting through travel does. Surprisingly there are no films based on the Outlander series, but the movie rights were purchased in 2009 and Outlander will be rleased in 2011. In the meantime, I found many fan videos on YouTube, including "Jamie & Claire". Fans have very definite opinions about who should play Jamie and Claire in the film. It's hard to argue with the lovely Gerard Butler as Jamie Fraser in this video:
"Bonny Portmore", performed so hauntingly by Loreena McKennitt in this video, is a Celtic ballad which laments the loss of the old oak forest in Ireland to shipbuilding, especially the ancient Oak of Portmore. It is a perfect symbol for the Outlander story--fierce Highland warrior Jamie, the longing of the Scottish clansmen to restore their rightful king with Bonny Prince Charles, the love of Jamie and Claire which will be tested by divided loyalties, war, and personal tragedies.
Travels through the Scottish Highlands in 1998, seeing the setting for Outlander:
Our group traveled north from Glasgow into the foothills of the Trossachs Mountains, passing the first of many beautiful Scottish lochs, or lakes, the bonny Loch Lomand:
Further north into the Highlands we passed across the wild Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe, Gaelic for "Glen of Weeping", so named for the 1692 massacre carried out by the Campell clan against the MacDonald clan. No mercy was shown for the MacDonalds--not children, women, the old and infirm:
We saw wild Highland cattle grazing in the foothills, the same shaggy breeds that clans rustled from other clans. In fact, Claire was captured by the MacKenzie clan and "doctored" Jamie on one of these raids when she first came to her senses after her time travel back to 1743:
The Highlands forests are carpeted with lush moss and great stands of bracken fern. Claire and Jamie spent many nights sleeping on moss and ferns--among other even more pleasant diversions!--in the forests when they were trying to escape both family and English enemies:
This is the picturesque village of Glenfinnin near Inverness and the ruins of castle Eilean Donan in the loch:
This is the town of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands where Claire and Frank reunited on a second honeymoon in 1945 after the end of WW II:
The couple spent their time in Inverness working on Frank's genealogy charts and Claire's search for herbal botanicals. They also explored some ancient sites like Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site. Our travel group visited this ancient place near Inverness one evening at dusk. The burial site was ringed by stone "kerbs" or walls and throughout the ring there were circular chamber tombs or "cairns" and standing stones:
One fateful day, Claire went back to the stone circle on her own, stepped through a split between standing stones. She was plunged back in time two hundred years and caught up in a dangerous time in Scottish history, the Jacobite uprising by clansmen to restore Bonny Prince Charles to the Scottish throne. What will happen to Claire? What role will she have with the Jacobites? Will she stay with Jamie in the 1700s or return to Frank in the 1940s? All questions answered by the next six Outlander novels. I can hardly wait to find out!