I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Both my parents read so I guess it was only natural that I grew to love books too (although, I’m not really sure what happened to my brother on that front…). I think one of the first books I read was called The Adventures of Mr Pinkwhistle, not that I can really remember much about it, only that I loved it. Then in my teens I read The Diary of Anne Frank, and found it all-consuming and tragic. I was amazed that I could be swept up in a story and learn about the world all at the same time. It must have resonated as at the time of reading it I would have been the same age as Anne. You couldn’t help but draw comparisons between my life of freedom and hers of (what must have seemed like) captivity. Then of course came the Point Horror books that most teenagers of my time were reading and I was no exception. Any other 30 somethings remember reading The Perfume?? Awful isn’t it? Then I began to read the crime fiction novels my Dad read. If you’ve ever read an Ian Rankin book, mainly his Rebus novels, then you’ll know they are set in Edinburgh. I liked reading the story and being able to picture the scenery. I’d walked down Fleshmarket Close, I’d strolled up the Royal Mile. All of these things shaped the kind of reader I would become as an adult. Now I enjoy books I can become lost in, the all-consuming stories and experiences that align with true life events and places. I have recently made moves towards dystopian fiction though, through various recommendations from friends. It’s harder to relate to those…
In my mid-twenties one of the managers at the double glazing company I worked for let me borrow a book; Cross Stitch, as it was published in the UK. Elsewhere it was given the title Outlander. You may have heard of it, or if not, perhaps you’ve heard of the TV series it turned into (you can watch the first two seasons on Amazon Prime, FYI). It tells the story of Claire Randall, a nurse in the second world war who falls through the standing stones in Craigh na Dun, near Inverness, and finds herself in 1743. She is then swiftly taken prisoner (or rescued?!) by a red-haired Jacobite by the name of Jamie Fraser. Oh Jamie. As with most of my love affairs I’m a slow burner, it takes me a while to warm up to a man. Jamie was no exception. For me and for Claire. Their relationship is somewhat tumultuous at the start, what with her being his captive and she, well, trying to escape from him and travel back to her own time. Jamie is headstrong, born to be the future Laird of Lallybroch he’s a natural reader and well educated. He’s described as being tall and broad. A skilled soldier and fighter. But Claire is well looked after and comes to rely on Jamie, particularly when marrying him becomes the only option to guarantee her safety from the English army…
The first book is somewhat of a tome, around 700 pages, I think. By half way through I found that I was quite taken with this fictional character. What I wouldn’t give to trade places with Claire… By the time I’d finished reading it, I was convinced that it had changed me. I now now had new ideas of what I was looking for in a partner. I’ve always gone for tall and I like my men to be broad. Like Jamie, I want a really masculine man. Someone who can protect me (although I’m fiercely independent so will deny I need taken care of to the end). I want a man who is close to his family and loyal to them. Jamie is protective of all of his family and has a good relationship with his sister.
I have, of course, realised that falling in love with a fictional character isn’t realistic. Who knew?! A few years ago I met a man who seemed to embody a lot of the traits I had read of in Jamie Fraser. He was tall, red haired, handsome and wanted to look after me. It ended when we realised that my type on paper (excuse the pun and blatant Love Island reference, but that joke was too good to side step) wasn’t exactly my type in real life. He said he didn’t think I needed him, which I didn’t. And he wanted a girly girl who’d watch Disney films (I’m sure that wasn’t his exact type, but those words were actually spoken). He was a lovely guy and it was sad when we realised we weren’t exactly compatible.
So, okay, I fell in love with a literary character and what that taught me was a) what qualities I’m looking for in a partner and b) why you shouldn’t limit your dating pool to the men that tick all of those boxes. You know they say ‘be careful what you wish for’? Well, I couldn’t agree more.
Of course I’ve watched the TV series and yes it is very good. It’s also set near my home town so a lot of the scenes are recognisable to me. This is in no way detrimental to the story, I thought I’d stop believing it if I could identify glimmers of real life through the fictional world I was watching, but I didn’t. I was still swept up in the adventure and romance of the story. The casting of my beloved Jamie? Well, Sam Heughan who plays him is very obviously an attractive man, but he’s not exactly how I imagined Jamie. It’s always the way, isn’t it?
I’d highly recommend reading Outlander, as it now seems to be called even here in the UK, or if reading isn’t your thing then watch the series. Yes, there’s a love story and yes it’s fantasy and historical fiction, but it’s also an adventure. To me, it has it all and I loved it. And I’ll always hold a little soft spot for my first (literary) love, Jamie Fraser.