guest post by Jan Grupp
I’ve lost track how many times I’ve gone back to reread Diana Gabaldon’s series of books about a certain Scottish Highlander and a time-traveling nurse, but living once more in Droughtlander territory makes me think about doing it all over again.
But re-reading after Season Four hasn’t happened for several reasons.
First, there is the issue of starting from the beginning. A very wonderful idea, perhaps, and one that’s been accomplished by many of us, more than once. But really a seriously LARGE project–something in the neighborhood of 5,000 pages, even for a voracious reader. And where does this get me…to travel from that once upon a time, post-war belated honeymoon to now? A nice diversion, you say?
It would pass a goodly amount of days in the current wait for the next 900 pages or the start of Season Five to move Jamie, Claire and me forward, but only if my family doesn’t want to eat, the Spring pollen didn’t build up beyond EPA limits on my windowsills, and I get to sit in PJs all day. This sounds overly dramatic I know, but we re-readers, who absolutely love the complexity and length of living in close quarters with the Frasers, in reality do have other lives!
Secondly, I’ve been in and out of Droughtlander since the early 1990s. Twenty-five years’ worth! I fell in love with a young Highlander and his lucky wife back when my youngest was starting second grade. After that final page, I didn’t know what I felt, or what to call it when I finished. Exhausted, perhaps, by the rather full life the Frasers were leading, but also, maybe a serious case of separation anxiety?
Now I know those feelings as big time Droughtlander. Had it waiting for Book Two. Then again between Two and Three. What next? Darn! I had to wait some more.
Nothing has changed. You get the idea. I like to think that agonized waiting back then made the excitement of coming home to this story even better. You know, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Perhaps that’s only an obsessanach explanation, but I think it likely true.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to give up the tender moments that have held my attention all along, by plunging back into a storyline that requires reading a long way to relocate the special bits I already know almost by heart. Sure, repeat readers like myself, always mention how FUN it is to find ourselves back in familiar story lines with both fondness of memory and insight from before. We also relish those aha moments when a re-read provides extra detail, little gifts rising up from the pages as additional nuggets of intimacy in the lives our favorite duo. If we take a lesson from Diana’s hub who describes her fiction writing style as something akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire, out and back in again, re-readers already know the delight of familiar adventure and predicament resolution that repeat storytelling offers. All true.
But if re-reading is a bit like coming home, toting around Outlander, Voyager, Drums of Autumn. The Fiery Cross and the rest still may never quite make up for permanent memories of pages past, those Fraser “family stories” etched into my brainspace. I don’t need re-reading to witness Claire treating Jamie’s shoulder dislocation because I forever see the very tender beginning of two people feeling attraction and uncertainty, along with my own slightly heady wish-it-were-so belief in time travel, anytime I want to think about it.
I can’t hardly read about icky Jonathan Wolverton Randall’s outrageously dark brutalities and spurious sexual proclivities without thinking about the freakishly black screen portrayal (thank you, Tobias Menzies) and feeling sick. So, let’s not think about (or re-read) that so much, but spend time instead embracing the blossoming of a two-hundred year marriage on a journey with no known finish, and that extra special moment of reunion twenty years into the heart of our Fraser family connections.
Without a re-read, I can feel waves wash up against the Artemis anytime I want, and I sweat alongside the entire crew in the doldrums, finally finding myself amused by a trained pelican. I have memorized the excitement of a giant bonfire, fueled with national pride and love. I go along through the stones with Brianna whenever I think about the bond of family, and (screen spoiler alert) nod to myself over Lord John’s eye problem, while hopelessly stuck picturing a group of travelers coming up the road yelling, “hello, the house.” Yep, I’m dying to know what happens next. Do I need to relive that again?
Do I need more time with Geillis Duncan? Uh, no. Do I need more time with J&C under the willows along the riverbank? Uh, maybe.
Do I miss hanging at Lallybroch with the fam? Of course. But I can conjure the heart-strong Jenny and the soothing fortitude of Ian anytime I want because I already know these guys.
Shouldn’t I just bide my time, or binge watch Seasons 1-4 again? (Yes, of course, I’ve already done that, more than a few times). The real answer to more re-watching is likely a yes, especially the next time I’m stuck somewhere by weather and in for the long haul. For now though, I confess to pulling out the guide and handpicking special episodes for a visual treat. Honestly, Season 1 has so much to offer, I find myself back there again and again—except for Wentworth Prison, and nobody wants to think about that!
So what else is an obsessed reader, forever fan of books and series, to do in these months while actors ply their craft, while set designers and costumers pull together more lush details for the season to come? Find something else to read? Drown myself in all the internet options to stay connected to the Frasers? Study colonial history?
Right now, I think I’ll pray. Yes. Pray. This story is all about life and love, and God certainly is present in this remarkable tale. So, I’ll pray. Pray that the actors continue their talented efforts to get it right, pray that the producers don’t mess with THE STORY too much or apply too many contemporary critiques to historical fiction, and yes, pray that Diana locks herself away to finish the Fraser’s next installment so I can be with them again as soon as they show themselves.
But if it all that takes too long, my conviction to not re-read (again), might waver. I may start randomly opening the books one by one, (sequentially, of course) and diving in, just to see where I find myself. There’s an idea! Grab a few moments and time travel myself back to visit somewhere with dear old friends, the Frasers.
I miss these people too much.
Years ago, Jan was a newspaper reporter, a PR exec, editor, social services director for Red Cross, and a teacher. Mother of three, grandma of two, she divides her time between Florida(mostly), Michigan (some),and world travel as opportunity and dollars allow. She will publish Walking with Mom, a life care planning and living true story later this year. She and husband Bob recently celebrated 45 years of marriage by swimming with manatees, but she’s been in love with a fictional redhead (mostly), and his headstrong wife (some), since 1992. Thanks, for guest posting for us, Jan!
So tell us. What are you doing to treat your Droughtlander-itis?
That was lovely and so relatable!
Thanks Christine! It sort of poured out of me one day and Beth said yes!
Just last night I finished Book 5 on my third readthrough! And every readthrough I glean some new info that I missed on the others. I only read for 1-1.5 hours at night after getting in bed. It’s hard to keep to only that much, but I force myself. My first read through I was obsessive and could finish a book in 2-3 days.
Totally get it Alysen. I can relate!
I am near the end of MOBY in my second re-read. I have been absolutely amazed in my second re through of all the books how much I missed the first time – especially the last three when I sped through them to find out what happened. My first reading of these had me marking pages and taking notes of favorite passages in a journal. When I finish and wait for Bees and then season 5 – I’ll read some of the LJG novels and novellas and I will no doubt pick up various books and re-visit my favorite parts. After I’ve given it a bit of a rest, I will once again begin at Book 1 and devour to the end of book 8 (or hopefully book 9). After all, I’ve only read the series twice so far!
I suppose I am lucky since I just came to the party. For me, it started in 2016, when I watched Seasons 1 and 2. Then, I started reading the books. It took me a long time, since the books are, well, long, and I would normally take breaks between books, too. But I did finish Book 8 a couple of months ago.
Now what? Luckily, I won’t have to wait that long until Book 9. Should I read the Lord John novels? Or the novellas?
25+ years offers plenty of re-read time but the novellas are another way to learn more about our beloved characters too. So read on read on. And thanks for commenting!