Fresh eyes

Usually, the guys on Overdue discuss books I’ve never read before or read so long ago that I’ve forgotten what they were about. I just roll along with Andrew and Craig’s reactions to whatever they happen to be reading that week. But every now and then, because they are reading “the books you’ve been meaning to read,” Craig and Andrew read a book I know very well. This week, it was Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

Rene de Groux
Rene de Groux

I can’t remember the first time I read Outlander, but I’ve read it so many times I’ve had to replace my copy twice. I have passages memorized. I’ve read every book in the series (more than once, except for the last one). I’ve even read The Outlandish Companion. What I’m saying is that I know Outlander back to front. But listening to Andrew and Craig reminded me what it was like to come to the book with fresh eyes.

Outlander is the kind of book I recommend cautiously. I’m not cautious because of the content. I’m cautious because if the reader doesn’t like it, I might not be able to be friends with them any more. When I run into another fan, we gush. I was anxious until I heard Craig and Andrew’s verdict on the book.

This has happened before for me. When the guys read Pride and Prejudice, I was so eager to share my knowledge of the book that I had to go comment on their Facebook page. (I thought they’d misread the book and missed the satire. Someone was wrong on the Internet!)

A fresh perspective, however, has its uses. A reader who has missed the years (or decades, or centuries) of criticism can read the book without any expectations. How many of us have been disappointed by an overhyped book? A first time reader can also sweep away any subtext a frequent re-reader has assigned. The Outlander I read is subtly different from the Outlander others read. I assume a lot now about the story and what happened and why.

Listening to Andrew and Craig read Outlander made me want to re-read the book, slowly, paying attention to what’s there and what I’ve been mentally pasting in. I don’t know if this is possible, because parts of the book are indelibly inked in my brain. But it would be good to try.

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