I originally posted this 3 years ago. I decided to share it again since I’ve read the 8 books of the Outlander series, and have almost finished watching all 3 seasons of the Starz series. Most of all, I’m sharing because I’m thrilled to be going to hear Diana Gabaldon speak at The Savannah Book Festival this week. Let me know what you think about Claire’s character, or how your own profession is portrayed in books and film.
I remember years ago my husband and I were watching a movie in which Val Kilmer portrayed a Civil Engineer. As a CE himself, my husband couldn’t believe there was actually a movie that was showing the realities of the job. I completely understood the feeling! I have yearned for years to see a nurse portrayed in a way that I could really admire. There are plenty of books, movies and TV shows that glamorize doctors. But nurses are generally less than desirable characters who basically exist for doctors to “hook up with” in the linen closet. There have been a few exceptions over the years, but I’ve finally found a character that I can truly sink my teeth into! It was actually one of my readers who suggested the series to me, and I’m so grateful that she did.
Claire Randall in the Outlander Series is just that character. She is a combat nurse from WW II that is transported back in time to the Scottish Highlands. She loses her entire life and has to start from scratch. However, Claire has the heart of a healer as most of the nurses that I’ve known also have. Regardless of time and place, lack of supplies and medication or ever proper sanitation, Claire maintains her passion for helping others remain whole and healthy. The portrayal of this passion is so raw and realistic it makes me feel as if I’ve been called to her side to consult with her. The dedication she possesses (tasting urine when she suspects diabetes) goes above and beyond what most people would expect someone in her position to be willing to do. But she consistently does what her heart and desire leads her to do…giving 100% of herself for the chance to make a difference in another human being’s life.
I’ll admit to being a bit jealous that this character wasn’t written by me, but by someone who isn’t in the health care profession at all. According to her bio, Diana Gabaldon holds three degrees in Science, including a Ph.D. in Ecology. She is incredibly highly educated and her background gives her immense knowledge regarding the medicinal uses of various herbs and plants found in the Scottish Highlands. What amazes me is how well she is able to capture the feelings experienced by Claire when she is treating a patient. The euphoria of seeing a patient recover when you’d almost given up hope yourself is portrayed beautifully in these books. Also the heartache of losing a patient for reasons beyond anyone’s control is movingly described. Ms. Gabaldon brilliantly captures the gut wrenching despair Claire experiences when she knows exactly what to do to help, but the cure doesn’t yet exist in the time in which Claire finds herself. The time travel element to the novels throws in this unique twist that completely captivates me. How frustrating it must be to have the knowledge of what is needed without the ability to acquire the necessary resources!
As nurses, we carry work home with us every day. Those we could help, and those we tried desperately to help but couldn’t…despite our best efforts. When I worked in the Pediatric ICU at a Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, there were times that I had to sit in my car and have a good cry before I trusted myself to drive home. I am so grateful for the author who has created Claire and made her so real to me– a woman, healer, mother, and wife with all of her perfect imperfections.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ve missed out on other great books with similar characters. If so, please enlighten me! 🙂 But for now, I’ll get back to reading the Outlander books and enjoying the bond I feel with Claire.photo credit: Starz Outlander Series