The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two is Diana Gabaldon's second authoritative guide to all things Outlander. Covering the second four books of the series, as well as the Lord John Grey series this compendium includes:
With her trademark wit and attention to detail, Diana Gabaldon also shares writing tips, personal stories, her thoughts on the themes of each Outlander book, recipes, and more. The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two is packed with information that makes it a must-have resource for every true Outlander fan.
The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two is, as the title suggests, the second companion volume to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. This one covers books #4-#8: The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood, as well as the two Outlander adjacent novellas, "The Space Between" and "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows." It also discusses all of the Lord John novels and novellas except for the most recent one "Beseiged." By the time this book was released, Season 1 of the Outlander television series was out, so there's some discussion of that as well. The series is so rich in detail that I love delving deeper into the stories, the characters, and the mind of the author, so this book is a real treat for die-hard fans like me. I liked it even better than the first Outlandish Companion, and I thought that one was pretty darn good and a must-have for anyone who loves the books (and television show) as much as I do.
Below is a section-by-section overview along with my thoughts on each one:
*Part One: Chronology - This is pretty much what it says, a chronological ordering of the books in the series, both Outlander and Lord John, as well as the related novellas. This section is only a few pages long and probably most helpful to newcomers to the series or more casual readers who maybe haven't delved as deeply into it yet.
*Part Two: Synopses - This section is fairly long and contains detailed synopses of The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood, as well as the two Outlander adjacent novellas, "The Space Between" and "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" and all of the Lord John novels and novellas except for the most recent one "Beseiged." I found this part to be very interesting and helpful. Not only did it allow me to relive some of the magical moments of all these books and novellas, but it also served as a wonderful reminder of everything that's happened thus far and where things left off. Now I'll be prepared for the next full-length book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which will be released in just a few months (Nov. 2021).
*Part Three: Cast of Characters - This is an exhaustive glossary of every character who appears in all the books and novellas mentioned above, from the main characters all the way down to minor characters who might have only appeared once or twice. I did read the entire thing (Have I mentioned that I once read the encyclopedia when I was a kid? :-)), and while not super-compelling reading when done this way, it's still a very useful reference. I can see readers referring to it to recall who a particular character is and what relevance they might have had to the series. I was also rather surprised (although I suppose I shouldn't be given that this is Diana Gabaldon, researcher extraordinaire we're talking about) just how many real-life people she included as characters and how she seamlessly wove them into her stories.
*Part Four: Sex and Violence - In this section, Ms. Gabaldon takes on her detractors who think her stories are "too rapey" or who are off-put by violent and non-consensual actions by exploring the intersection of sex and violence in her books. I found this part to be rather fascinating because it gives the reader a look into the mind of the writer and what she was thinking when she wrote these parts of the stories. This section also includes a lengthy discussion of Black Jack Randall and his sadism that was very interesting as well.
*Part Five: History and Historical Fiction: Organizing the Past - Again, this was an intriguing section as Ms. Gabaldon discusses history and how it can become distorted over time, as well as in what ways this plays into the historical fiction aspect of her stories. She also gives some insights into how she does her research and how she organizes (or not, as the case may be) her research materials and the things she learns from them. Another topic she talks about is how her books became categorized as romance and why they technically aren't that genre (they don't follow the conventions of it at all really), but are an amalgamation of many different genres. This section also contains a reprint of a newspaper article she wrote about how her parents got married and her own birth, which was entertaining and enlightening reading.
*Part Six: A Comprehensive Scottish Language Glossary and Pronunciation Guide - This section was actually compiled by Adhamh O Broin, who is the Gaelic consultant for the television show. I actually liked this Gaelic guide much better than the one in the first Outlandish Companion, because it arranges all the Gaelic words and phrases alphabetically in a neat table, which makes it much easier to look them up when encountered in the books. It also includes a phonetic pronunciation guide, book and page numbers where the words/phrases are found in the series, whether the word/phrase is actual Gaelic or Lowland Scots in origin, and a translation, which sometimes includes bits of trivia. I often found this last part quite informative and occasionally entertaining.
*Part Seven: Writing, and Other Games You Play by Yourself - This was also a fun section for me. In it, Ms. Gabaldon explores her own writing process, while being careful to emphasize that what works for her might not work for another writer, because we're all unique. Still, as a writer myself, it was enjoyable to get a peek into how she does it. She also includes an annotated breakdown of Denny and Dorothea's wedding night scene from Written in My Own Heart's Blood to demonstrate various writing techniques and how they can draw the reader into the narrative. Then she discusses the one-word themes of each of the Outlander books and finally wraps up with a few favorite recipes from her own kitchen, which I'm sure will please foodies.
*Part Eight: The Invisible Talent - This section is a series of essays written by three people who work behind the scenes at the Outlander television series. Terry Dresbach, the costume designer discusses historical dress and the challenges she faced creating the beautiful costumes for this new (at that time) series. Bear McCreary, the composer who scores the show, discusses his background with Celtic music and how he goes about setting the mood for the various scenes. Dr. Claire MacKay, the herbalist consultant, talks about the history of medicine in the highlands, including some interesting information about the Beatons who were very sought-after physicians in the area around the time the books take place. She also provides a brief Materia Medica of a few of the more common herbs you'll find in both the books and the show. Last but not least is a section by Theresa Carle-Sanders the author of the cookbook, Outlander Kitchen, who discusses eighteen-century food in the highlands and it's preparation.
*Part Nine: Maps and Floorplans - This section is pretty much what it sounds like, floorplans of Lallybroch and the Big House on Fraser's Ridge, as well as maps of the Ridge, the larger Lallybroch estate and some of the various battle sites mentioned in the books. This is great for people who are more visually oriented and like to have a picture of things in their head while reading.
*Part Ten: The Methadone List - This is a list of Ms. Gabaldon's recommended reads that might help fans to pass the time while going through Droughtlander, the interminably long times in between book releases and new seasons of the show. I found a few books that sounded interesting in the list and I'm sure other readers will, too.
*Part Eleven: Bibliography - This is a short list of the books Ms. Gabaldon believed might come in handy as research material for Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. (She was still in the early stages of writing it when this book was released.) It looks like it could make for some additional interesting reading for history buffs or anyone who wants to learn more about the real world that Outlander inhabits and its real-life characters. It's by no means an exhaustive list, though. She said that would fill a book in and of itself, so she's put that much longer catalog online at LibraryThing.
So, as you can see, there are lots and lots of goodies for Outlander aficionados contained in The Outlandish Companion, Volume Two. The two glossaries could make for somewhat tedious reading, but then again, they weren't really intended for that purpose.;-) Everything else engaged my mind and kept me reading and there are plenty of intriguing tidbits to take the reader much deeper into the Outlander world. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and can't wait for the upcoming release of Bees. I'm getting shivers of excitement just thinking about it.
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