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 audio versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books, which I've been listening to almost daily since about April 2007. (I'm currently about halfway through OUTLANDER....again.)

Please note, if you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, there are SPOILERS below!

Things I Like About the Audiobooks

1) They force you to slow down, and take in all the details.

I have always been a fast reader, and a "skimmer". I missed huge chunks of Good Stuff the first time I read the series, particularly in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, 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])

Because the audiobook 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 Gabaldon'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 wonderful two-part interview with Davina Porter from 2009.

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 says that Jeff Woodman's voice for Lord John sounds just like the voice she hears in her head. <g>  He doesn't do so well (understandably enough) with the female voices, but overall he does a good job.

Here's an interview with Jeff Woodman from 2010.

3) You can listen anywhere, any time.

I often listen to the audiobooks in the car 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.

Some people like to listen to the audiobooks while gardening or doing housework.  I enjoy listening to them while doing needlepoint.

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."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 123, "Return of the Native". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Unfortunately, the voice Davina Porter uses for him in the audio version makes him sound like a Liverpudlian. Certainly he doesn't sound like a man born and raised in the U.S.  (Davina has admitted that she got his accent wrong.)  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 at all. Jamie sounds half-dead in most of the scenes where he appears in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, 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.

The dual-narrator approach that they tried with THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was not as successful as I had hoped.  I thought it was a good idea to have two narrators for that book, with Jeff Woodman reading Lord John's parts of the book and Rick Holmes reading Jamie's. Unfortunately, while Rick Holmes has a very soothing voice as a narrator, his Jamie doesn't sound distinctively Scottish, at least to my ears.

Still, these are minor quibbles at best, and they don't diminish my enjoyment of the audiobooks at all.

A Word of Caution

I would 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. <g>  And I'm not just talking about the sex scenes!

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 arseholes...." <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?!"

"Oh, um....nothing."

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>  That would have been AWFULLY hard to explain!

Where to Find the Audiobooks

All of Diana Gabaldon's books are available in unabridged audio format.  I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go to or Amazon to check them out!

Please note, if you get the OUTLANDER audiobooks from the library, make sure you are listening to the UNABRIDGED version, read by Davina Porter.  (The abridged versions have been phased out in recent years, much to Diana Gabaldon's relief and delight.)

I hope you enjoy the audiobooks as much as I have!


Flamingo 91 said...

thanks. i had not even thought nabout audio books. i've read the seriesmseveral times also, however, audiobooks will be my next source. Can''t wait to hear the story! love, love, love all things Outlander.

Unknown said...

I am also a fan of audiobooks and Davina Porter (and also about half-way through "Outlander" for the fourth time).

My "retirement" job is long-arm quilting. I listen to the books while I work and, using WhisperSync, pick up the book on Kindle where the audio left off.

I'm able to read only a few minutes a day, and read at conversation speed, so I would still be on the first reading (started about 2009) if not for Audible, Kindle and WhisperSync!

Same complaints about the Lord John narrators. Had to stop listening and just read those.

Bev C. said...

Enjoyed your post, Karen. Funny (but understandably embarrassing stuff about your co-workers - fits right in with the video you shared). :) I've shared with you before that I came to the series through audio books. I received a Kindle for a gift, and started an Audible account. Listened to a few books before I found Outlander series, and then I was addicted. Still am! I think it's time for a re-listen. :)

Anonymous said...

I love love love the audiobooks. I discovered them last year when I was going through my divorce and they literally carried me through it.

Davina is so awesome, but I always thought her take on American accents were interesting. Can't have it all, right?

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Sounds great!

Bev Sykes said...

I absolutely LOVE the audio books. Davina Porter made an Outlander fan of me.

Roz said...

I'm like you...skimming my way through the books. Someone recommended the audible books to me and they have been fantastic for slowing me down. I've caught all sorts of detail now! Davina does a fantastic job but I do have two complaints! (Don't hit me)I don't like her voice as Claire because I think she makes her sound too old and too prim. Also, since the TV series, I can only hear Sam and Caitriona's voices and Davina's sounds wrong!

Genevieve said...

I have a love-hate relationship with audiobooks. There are a lot of terrible ones. But I had an experience similar to yours when I listen to a Nora Roberts book... I discovered what a wonderful writer she is. I too have a bad habit of scanning and skipping when I read.

I have two favourite audiobook series. One is the "In Death" series by J.D. Robb. Reader Susan Ericksen is brilliant. The other is the Harry Potter series - I enjoyed the audiobooks more then the movies.

So now I'm listening to Outlander. I'm halfway through and enjoying it very much. The audiobooks will help pass the time until part two of season one arrives in April.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen, I love the audio CDs of the Outlander series , and I love the fact that you can listen to them anytime , in the summer months I listen to them while walking , or while gardening , in the Winter inside at night when the TV is bad , or while even shopping or making dinner , so I keep my collection in my library, will always be an Outlander fan, please post more soon. Happy Holidays . sincerley

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen, I too love the audio CD versions of the books I too would skip parts of the story , like the medical scenes I didn't care for so I'd skip that part , so the Audio Books are perfect for learning more , I work and often can't read the entire story so listening to the CDs helps in that way, plus I love the fact that you can take them anywhere to work or to the park or to the gym , so I recommend The Outlander Series on CD for other fans to try , please post more soon. Happy Holidays. Sincerely

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