Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Exile, an Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon

Product Description (from Amazon):
A luscious full-colour graphic novel — written by #1 New York Times bestseller Diana Gabaldon — that offers a completely new look at the original Outlander story!

The Exile retells the original Outlander novel from Jamie Fraser's point of view, revealing events never seen in the original story and giving readers a whole new insight into the Jamie-Claire relationship. Jamie's surreptitious arrival in Scotland at the beginning of the tale, his feelings about Claire, and much more — up to the point where Claire faces trial for witchcraft and must choose whether to return to her own century — are brought to life in brilliant four-colour art.

I loved it.
How could I not love this?  It's Jamie Fraser in full, living color?  Granted, he looked completely different from one page to another, sometimes he had a pretty boy look to him, sometimes he looked older and more steely, but most of the time he was just ... Jamie. *sigh*
When I first heard of this graphic novel idea, I was not into it.  For one thing, I didn't even know what a graphic novel was!  I thought it was something to do with explicit sex!  It seems laughable now, but I was really that clueless!   Graphic novels are basically comic books, only fancier with better drawings (in this case, the art work by Hoang Nguyen is superb.)  The characters are usually more extreme looking, i.e. sharper eyebrows, angular features, provocatively sexy, bigger boobs.  For instance, Claire's are quite prominent!  The Exile is a work of art.  It's hardcover for one thing, and the colors within are brilliant and evocative of the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, yet it has the separate story frames and overhead voice bubbles - just like a comic book.  It's an odd sort of fusion, but it works.  But, no matter what anyone says, I think a graphic novel is nothing more than a fancy-shmancey comic book. Yet, if it gets people to read who normally don't read books, then by all means - whatever works!  I'm all for that!
Here the story is told from Jamie and Murtagh's points of view.  I loved seeing what Murtagh saw, we're now privy to a lot of things we weren't aware of before, particularly his distrust of Claire and his desire to protect Jamie.  Because of this, The Exile is more political than romantic, in my opinion.  Yes, yes of course we have the basic relationship between Claire and Jamie.  But now the focus is more on Jamie's return from France and dealing with the clan politics at Leoch.  Claire only complicates everything.  Jamie's walking a tightrope between being an outlaw wanted by the English and honoring the Mackenzies without threatening his uncles as a future Mackenzie clan chieftain.  
Do the characters look the way I imagined them to look?  Not exactly, but close to it.  I will always have my own idea and vision in mind of how I picture everyone, but I appreciated this book simply for the fun and novelty of it.  I loved the drawings, the clothes in particular.  Now I know how they look in their plaids!  And now I know what Black Jack Randall's hat looks like (I always pictured it differently).  I can see Claire's original dress that she wears when she comes through the stones, and then in her yellow dress Mrs. Fitz gives her to wear once she's at Leoch.  I loved the look of Mrs. Fitz too!   And her reaction to Claire's bra! *giggles*  Murtagh looked exactly how I pictured Dougal to look (like Sean Bean in the movie, Lord or the Rings).  Claire was much sexier looking than I imagined, I can see how she would have created such a stir everywhere she went!  Apart from Jamie's face looking so different from drawing to drawing, (I guess since it was all hand drawn, it's hard to make him look exactly the same in every drawing) I loved all the various depictions of him.  Some of his shots were simply gorgeous - one particular nude backside drawing of him was particularly droolworthy with a typically gorgeous view of the Highlands.  Wow! Their wedding night love scene was another memorable and satisfying drawing (although Claire's elongated fingers were strangely claw like and scary looking!)  Claire looked great most of the time, even down to the detail of her English rosebud mouth.  

Here's the unexpurgated art work from their wedding night from Diana's blog, which you can click on for the larger version.
For the most part, all the pictures did the original Outlander book justice.  I can't be critical of it.  I guess my one gripe was how blousy Claire looked most of the time, but I chalk it up to the fact this is a graphic novel and she's more sexed up than usual.  Speaking of boobs, it was funny how certain thoughts were expressed by bubbles, particularly when Claire first tells them she's a nurse and all the men have bubble thoughts of a "wet nurse" and stare at her bosom!  I also loved the scene when she's sitting on his chest working on his slippery bandages and Dougal asks him if he's well enough to ride and he says yes if only they could get the lassie off his chest and a clean shirt!  Of course, those of us who have read the original book know, that's when Jamie said he first fell in love with Claire! *sigh*  I also loved Jamie's reaction after Claire tells him, in so many words, that he's a good lover.  *grin*
One particularly confusing point in The Exile is this new guy Kenneth!  Who is Kenneth??  He comes through the stones too, as witnessed by Murtagh, who thinks he's in cahoots with Claire.  Then we learn he is somehow associated with Geillis Duncan.  He must have been her lover from before she left Inverness in 1968 - or was it 1967?  I get confused on what is the actual year.  In any event, Kenneth is all new to us.   It turns out that he and Geillis were supposed to be together from the first, but he wound up showing up several years after she did.  It's not exactly clear what the point of him is - was he just supposed to be another Bonnie Prince Charlie devotee going back in time to try and change history?
I can't go over every part of The Exile, but take it from an Outlander lover - this is worthwhile and a must read.  I really surprised myself, I didn't know how I was going to like it.  I'm so glad I have my own copy (signed by Diana Gabaldon when I saw her at the National Book Festival in Washington last weekend) and I will treasure it. It's just lovely and I will peruse it over and over again.  It really makes me want to read Outlander over again (for the upteenth time) so I can absorb all these new revelations that have now come out.  One thing I'm not sure of, is The Exile supposed to be part of the actual series, so everything we learn about here is something that really happens in the series?  Or is it just an alternate "what if" re-storytelling?   I wish I had asked her when I had the chance.
Also, a few more things, as an FYI, be aware (I was not, so I was very surprised) The Exile only goes as far as when Claire decides to stay with Jamie after he rescues her from Cranes Muir.  It ends before they go to Lallybroch.  It barely covers the first half of the book.  I imagine this was so that it would appeal to a wider audience by taking all the Jack Randall stuff out at the end.    Also, right now, Outlander is now available for FREE on kindle!  Take advantage of it, I don't know how long this will last!
Overall opinion:  A must have!  5/5


Danielle said...

Soooooo glad to read that you loved it!
I have read nothing but negative comments about 'The Exile'. I think the majority of negative fan feed-back is because people didn't understand the whole graphic novel concept. I read Amazon posts from people asking if this was PG13 and aimed at children, for cryin out loud!?!?

"although Claire's elongated fingers were strangely claw like and scary looking!" - I saw that picture when Diana posted it on her blog and I thought the *EXACT* same thing! Lovely Jamie backside, but weird Claire claw! lol

And 'Kenneth'? WTF? I wonder if Diana has peppered 'The Exile' with little spoilers and tidbits that will appear in the 8th 'Outlander' novel (since that one seems like it's going to focus a lot on the time travel mechanics!? At a guess?)

I am just so happy you liked 'The Exile'. I was eagerly awaiting your reaction, because I know you're a Jamie fan-girl after my own heart :)

Misfit said...

Hmmmm. I am patiently waiting my turn for a library copy, but opinions have been all over the place at Goodreads (as well as comments over the *bum* picture.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Danielle, I don't think this is appropriate for someone younger than 15 to read, but that's my own personal view. A parent should at least Google Outlander and this graphic novel before buying it for their children to read! Aimed at children? Nonsense!

Btw, I posted a picture of the unexpurgated art from the wedding night scene Diana had posted on her blog. It is very similar to the one in the book, but not quite the same.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Misfit, I think it's a really great book as long as you go into reading it with the right attitude and are already familiar with Outlander to begin with. I wouldn't recommend this for someone who has no idea what Outlander is all about and this is their first venture into DG's world - they'll certainly get the wrong impression about how Claire looks for one thing!

Joanne said...

Loved reading your take on the graphic novel. I went into it with an open mind, so I guess I was ready to be pleasantly surprised and expecting a few areas where I probably wouldn't be on "on board." It was well worth it, but nothing will ever take the place of the "real thing" (the novel). I think Diana did this as a treat for her fans, and I'm so glad she did. :)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Oh yes nothing can take the place of the actual novel! One thing I forgot to mention is that of all my favorite parts of the entire series, the first half of Outlander is my absolute favorite, so it's nice that The Exile covered that period of it! And it's true, this is a treat for her fans, almost like she wrote a fanfiction of her own characters herself!

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