Friday, 8 August 2014

Outlander - first thoughts



Anyone who has read the Gabaldon novels will no doubt be eagerly awaiting the tv series. 16 episodes for the first novel as far as I'm aware, which should be more than enough time. The critics seems to like it -
http://www.vox.com/2014/8/7/5980011/outlander-review-starz-diana-gabaldon-ron-moore - and from the snippets I've seen, it looks engaging. The pic above is from the website listed and from the Starz press-kit.

One thing puzzles me. Claire's narration is done in a lovely English voice, and the  dialogue is also English. But part-way though the section I saw, she suddenly breaks into American swearing. Jesus H Roosevelt Christ may be Gabaldon's choice of swearword for Claire, but I doubt it would ever be on the lips of a typical English of 1945. Same for "godamm." It just isn't English. So then I got to thinking was the character Claire English or not? 

It's a long time since I read the novels for the first time, but I did re-read Crosstitch (re-named Outlander now) not so very long ago. Somewhere along the line, Claire has metamorphosed into being American in my mind. It isn't something I've ever thought about until now, but there must be something in Gabaldon's depiction of Claire that has drip-fed my understanding that she isn't English, but American.

Which in turn is interesting for all writers. Can we really put ourselves in the skin of another character, particularly when they are from a different country? No matter how hard we try to get it right, something might give us away. Some little thing like curse words, for example.




1 comment:

L.M. Elm said...

"So then I got to thinking was the character Claire English or not?"

I think Gabaldon uses the fact that Claire was raised by her Uncle Lamb and carted off to all parts of the world as an excuse to explain her muddled "Englishness". Maybe so her character appeals to a wider audience? I guess that's the way I always took it.

I think when you use slang, with any character in any decade, you have to walk a delicate balance. You want to use the words of the era, but you want to put it in a context your reader of today will understand.

Some times, writing historical fiction is hard ;-)