Confessions of an OUTLANDER Audiobook Addict
Well, all right, to be honest, I'm just addicted to the series, period. In whatever form. <g> But I wanted to share some thoughts on the unabridged audio versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books, which I've now been listening to almost daily since April 2007. (Yes, that's five and a half years!) The photo above shows my collection of unabridged OUTLANDER and Lord John audiobooks on CD, from OUTLANDER through THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
Things I Like About the Audiobooks:
1) They force you to sloooow doooown <g> and take in all the details.
I have always been a fast reader, and a "skimmer". I missed huge chunks of Good Stuff on my first reading of the OUTLANDER series in 2006, particularly in DRAGONFLY, because I was reading much too fast. (Example: "Wait, you mean to tell me Claire lost the baby? When did that happen? Did I miss something?" [frantically flipping back through the book]) It took me a while to realize that Diana Gabaldon's books just can't be read that way, because you miss too much.
This is where the audiobooks help tremendously. Because the narrators read Every Single Word, you learn to slow down and listen for the smaller details, the subtleties, the lyrical descriptions that skim-readers like myself often breeze right past. Slowing down has enabled me to see things in Diana's writing that I never would have picked up on otherwise, no matter how many times I re-read the books, because I just read too fast.
2) The narrators are terrific.
Davina Porter's voice is so expressive, and she does a wonderful job with all of the accents. (Well, almost all. See Things I Don't Like, below.) I love being able to hear what the Scottish accents and Gaelic phrases actually sound like. And she can be very creative with the voices at times. I absolutely love the way her voice for Roger changes in FIERY CROSS, for example: strong and resonant in the beginning; barely more than a hoarse whisper when he begins to speak again after the hanging; and by the end, a sort of harsh, rasping shadow of his original voice. Very much as it's described in the book, in other words. And Davina Porter's voice for Mrs. Bug sounds so exactly like the way I imagined, that I always have to laugh whenever I hear it.
Here's a fascinating two-part interview with Davina Porter and her husband Gus, recorded in 2009. I think it's really interesting to hear her describe how she works.
Part 2 (you may want to skip the first bit; the part relating to her work starts around 2:20)
Jeff Woodman, narrator of the Lord John audiobooks, is also a wonderful reader. I love his voices for Lord John, Hal, Tom Byrd, and Harry Quarry. Diana Gabaldon has said that Jeff Woodman's Lord John sounds very much like what she hears in her head. Here's an interview with Jeff Woodman from 2010 in which he describes his work.
3) You can listen anywhere, any time.
I frequently listen to the audio CD's while driving back and forth to work. It works out pretty well, especially if you are sitting in traffic, but I would recommend caution if you are listening to one of the really emotionally intense parts of the books! One day in 2007, I was driving home while listening to the scene in OUTLANDER where Jamie is being given last rites. I suddenly found myself half-blinded by tears, still driving down the road, about a mile from my house. I got home without incident, but it was a pretty scary experience.
I would also recommend that those of you with young children be careful which parts of the books you listen to when your kids are around. There are a lot of scenes in these books that would be awkward to explain, to put it mildly. And you might also want to use caution when listening to the audiobooks in front of people who are not fans, for the same reason.
One day in 2010, I was on my way out to lunch with a couple of male co-workers, and I forgot I'd had DRAGONFLY IN AMBER on my iPod coming through the car stereo. I got in the car, turned on the ignition, and heard Davina Porter (in Jamie's voice) saying "pustulent @rseholes...." <g> (I think the context of the phrase was something to do with Claire's work at L'Hopital des Anges, but it doesn't matter; the point is, these were the first and only words my coworkers heard.)
I shut the stereo off fast, blushing furiously.
My startled coworkers stared first at the radio, then at me. "What on earth was THAT?!"
I just couldn't think of any way to explain. The truth would have required a lot more explanation than I was prepared to give, just at that moment. (These being coworkers who had no idea of my OUTLANDER-addiction.) I think they went away thinking I had very odd tastes in radio programs, or something.
I suppose I should count myself lucky that I hadn't been listening to one of the sex scenes! <g>
Things I Don't Like:
Some of the voices are just plain wrong. If you've read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, you'll recall Wendigo Donner, the time-travelling Native American who whistles "Yellow Submarine". He's clearly not British in the book:
"Man," he said, longing clear in his voice, "what I wouldn't give for a cold Bud and a baseball game on TV."But the voice Davina Porter uses for him in the audio version sounds, to my American ears at least, like a Liverpudlian or something. <g> Certainly he doesn't sound like a man born and raised in the U.S. (Davina Porter admits, in the video above, that she got his accent wrong.)
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 123, "Return of the Native". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Brianna's accent is also a bit odd. She lived her whole childhood in Boston, yet she doesn't have a trace of a Boston accent. I've always thought she should.
And as for Jeff Woodman's voices: Well, let's just say that I don't care for his Jamie-voice, particularly in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE. Jamie sounds half-dead in most of the scenes where he appears in BOTB, his voice dull and almost inflectionless. And even if this is Woodman's way of showing a more subdued or even depressed Jamie than we're used to from the OUTLANDER books (which would be reasonable under the circumstances, I suppose), I still don't like it one bit. Especially compared to Davina Porter's Jamie.
Still, these are minor quibbles at best. I am thoroughly addicted to the unabridged OUTLANDER audiobooks, and I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go to audible.com to check them out.