Monday, March 23, 2015

Scottish Obsession

Actress Caitriona Balfe who plays Claire Randall, the heroine of "Outlander"

I have a confession to make. I spent much of the weekend plunged back into 18th-century Scotland. That is because I discovered Outlander, the television series based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon that take place in the Scottish Highlands. I watched three episodes and am officially hooked. Do you know about this show? It premiered last summer on Starz network here in the U.S. and was a big hit. It's hard to believe it still hasn't aired in the U.K., though I believe it will be starting there this month.

While I should have been outside enjoying the gorgeous spring weather, I was instead glued to the television and happily immersed in the Jacobite uprisings and battles between the rebels and the Redcoats that occurred in the Scottish Highlands over two hundred years ago. I was equally riveted by the growing romance between the beautiful heroine, Claire Randall, a second world war nurse mysteriously transported from England in the 1940's to Scotland in 1743, and the handsome young Scott, Jamie, who rescues her from a sadistic English soldier.

Claire and Jamie in "Outlander"

I wondered if there has ever been such a romantic and swashbuckling television drama. Or one that made you want to travel to its setting more than this. I read that tour companies are training their guides to learn about the series and its locations for the influx of tourists that will visit Scotland because of the show. One other drama with these qualities that comes to mind is Poldark, a television series from many years ago that was set in Cornwall. It centered on Ross Poldark, another dashing war hero who returns home from fighting in the American Revolution to discover that his fiance is engaged to his cousin and his estate is in ruins. He takes in a young street urchin Demelza as his housekeeper and ends up marrying her. I just learned that a new dramatization of "Poldark" has premiered on British television. Definitely looking forward to that one.

Here is the premise of "Outlander":

It opens with Claire nursing a wounded soldier at the end of World War II, a scene that shows her as a woman of courage and fortitude. After the war ends, she is reunited with her husband. They have been separated for five years and try to reconnect on a holiday in Scotland. They both are slightly anxious and unhappy at the beginning of the trip, but finally manage to revive their romance and seem resolved to stay together. Claire's husband is an historian and they spend their days exploring castles and other historic sites in the Highlands for his research.

One night they observe a Druid ceremony amidst some mysterious standing stones. When Claire returns the next day on her own, she is transported in time and lands in the 18th-century in the middle of a battle between the Scots and the English. This is when she is assaulted by the English officer, the evil "Black Jack," who happens to be an ancestor of her husband. Both characters are played by the same actor. She is saved by Jamie and whisked off by his band of Scottish insurgents to their castle. There she is met with great incredulity and is pressured to explain how a wandering Englishwoman came to find herself in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. She does her best and is accepted by the men, mostly because of her healing powers and her gumption. The housekeeper dresses her in proper period clothes and she is transformed into a tartan-clad 18th-century Scottish woman. It looks as if she can keep up the pretense for a while, but it is obvious she must figure out how to return to the present. In the meantime, it is easy to see she is attracted to the brave and handsome Jamie.

This lavish production is filled with stunning visuals. Has tartan plaid ever looked better? Or candlelit castles? Or the Scottish highlands? Not to mention the gorgeous actors who play the romantic leads. It is my new guilty pleasure and I am living for next season to premiere in April. It also has me planning a trip to Scotland this summer to experience the wild and poetic beauty of the Highlands. Looks like the magic has worked. Please let me know if you are a fan.


  1. I have the feeling that I'm about to become one!

  2. I'm a big fan and have been so happy with how the books have been adapted for television. I think Caitriona Balfe is fantastic as Claire and the whole show just looks amazing, as well as being a wonderful story. I can't wait for the new episodes to start in April!

  3. I'm lucky enough to get American itunes so have been able to watch this! I so enjoyed it - the setting is truly spectacular and Caitriona Balfe is wonderful. I'm absolutely loving Poldark as well - you're in for a treat!

    Miranda xxx

  4. I'm obsessed with Outlander and also binged on the whole series a number of months ago. Also increased my love for tartan (if possible.) We had a trip to Scotland planned a few years ago, but it got cancelled due to granddaughter's birth - must reschedule as well. Outlander is so romantic, and looking forward to "Poldark".

  5. I just posted about the books. The author has used the word sussurus five times now. I thought who uses that word? Then I read Evangeline and sure enough, Longfellow used it in the book. The author then wrote in the fourth book that "Longfellow couldn't have described it better". Irritatingly, in my head, I still keep trying to read it in a Scottish brogue. Couldn't be a more beautiful country in the world, but the weather sounds atrocious. I'm on the 5th book. The new series starts in April and I can't wait.

  6. I cannot decide which is more enticing... the Scottish scenery or the handsomeness of Jamie.
    Either way, it's an addictive series.

  7. OH< My husband willNOT like you for this SUGGESTION!Being 100% iTALIAN he has a hard time with the English accent or I should say SCOTTISH!!!
    I will LOVE IT!

  8. So happy you love it too Sunday! Watched the show countless times, read all the books (nearly)...and had Mr. H watch it too. Counting the days for the next installment. It's going to get dark, very dark..but it sounds like they have handled it well. Here is my Ode to Outlander. ;).

  9. I've had the pleasure of meeting Diana not once, but twice, and she has signed my books. When the series aired I wasn't sure that I wanted to watch because I had my own vision of how things looked. The buzz has won out and now I'm curious...I've placed a hold at the library and will indulge in a binge.

  10. Dear Sunday,
    I really love your blog. I especially enjoyed your recent posts on ‘Jane Eyre’, ’The Testament of Youth’ and ‘Outlanders’.
    I am an independent book and film reviewer and I write a blog called Read Me;
    My recent post is on 10 Great Films About Authors and Poets;
    I thought your readers may enjoy this post and was wondering if you would like to share this link with them?
    I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Sunday.
    Best regards,

  11. Thank you for your review of this series. I always trust your judgement on these issues.