The Week: 13th – 19th April

autumn-colours-garden-oksana-heaney-tuggeranong-canberra-australia-13th-april-2015

Autumn in Canberra this week

Weird week! I could say a lot more, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin!

Canadian troops to Ukraine 2015

US troops to Ukraine 2015

Seems the world is finally waking up…

Ako Kondo The Australian Ballet

Congratulations to The Australian Ballet’s Ako Kondo – one of my favourites in the company – for her promotion to principal dancer. I’ve been hoping she’d get the position for a year now, but expected an older dancer to win it first!

The Shadows, drama and the BDB.

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13) by J.R. Ward

Dreams in Books

Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sunset 24th October 2014 Sonya Heaney

Outlander 1×10

Outlander 1x10 Duke Simon Callow Sonya Heaney.

Back to the wife-beating in Outlander

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney - Copy

Cover Love

Whisper Falls by Toni Blake

My review of Raising the Stakes by Karen Rock

Raising the Stakes by Karen Rock

My review of Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

My review of Lori (The Circle of Friends #1) by L. Diane Wolfe

Lori (The Circle of Friends #1) by L. Diane Wolfe

Back to the wife-beating in Outlander

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney - Copy

So, the wife-beating episode of Outlander has been out there for a couple of weeks now, and I might be more upset about the reactions of people who haven’t read the books than people who have.

You go to any TV discussion site, or any review of the show, and the conversations are full of discussions with titles like “Claire is a Fucking Bitch!” (sorry, but that truly is one I’ve seen) followed by everyone saying she deserved worse than the beating she got.

Annnd… so much for feminism, equality and White Ribbon Days! No wonder we’re getting nowhere with domestic violence in the present, when the people in the present are still overjoyed with scenes like this.

The thing about Outlander is that the “It’s historically accurate! Jamie said a man would have been punished in a worse way!” argument is total crap. Diana Gabaldon picked choice pieces of history, mixed them up with the popular tropes of the bodice ripper era the book was written in, and then made a whole lot of stuff up.

Claire wasn’t beaten because history made Gabaldon write the book that way. Gabaldon wanted to include a scene where Claire got beaten with a leather belt, and so she twisted her understanding of Georgian era Scotland to justify the violence.

It’s exactly the same as the ludicrous claims women could expect to be raped every time they stepped out of their house, and by every single man they saw. “But, but, but… it’s history!” doesn’t work there, either.

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse 1 Sonya Heaney

Don’t believe me, look up the message boards where she rants at her UK editors who tried to correct some of her mistakes before releasing Outlander in Britain. Not knowing when World War Two ended was one biggie.

The Outlander show twisted the wife-beating scene into the episode’s comic relief, which disgusted me. Because now next to nobody is having a discussion about domestic violence or misogyny, OR questionable research.

Instead, everyone has decided it’s yet another opportunity to hate on women.

Outlander 1×10

This has also been posted HERE.

 Jamie Claire Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney.

My first thought about this episode was: where’d the book go?? There’s adaptation, and then there’s throwing the book out the window and just making stuff up. I specialised in scriptwriting and book adaptation at university, and so I understand better than almost anyone the importance of not simply putting a book onto the screen. That’s not how it works. But I also know it could have been done better. Oddly, characters from many episodes were suddenly brought back for big storylines, without any build-up.

Outlander 1x10 Claire Jamie Murtagh Sonya Heaney

The opening scene was… weird. Surely it wasn’t necessary for Murtagh to barge in on Jamie and Claire – naked – in their bedroom! It was really, really odd how nobody seemed to have a problem with it. Jamie and Claire aren’t peasants; they’d have expected a little more respect than that!

Geillis Duncan Dance Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney

My biggest disappointment was what they’ve done with Geillis, because the big reveals about her character were either given away here, too early in the story, or were ruined by a bizarre naked (always with the naked women in this show!) dance in the forest. Surely I wasn’t the only one worried she was going to set all that floaty fabric – or her hair! – on fire during that scene.

I’m going to spoil you here if you haven’t read the book.

So. Don’t read unless you want to know:

Geillis Duncan is from the future, just as Claire is. In fact, she’s from further ahead in time than Claire, and this is revealed in a shocking scene where Claire sees her immunisation scarring just before Geillis is taken away, condemned to death. This – one of the best moments of the whole book – was ruined by this episode. How can they ever do that scene now Claire has already seen Geillis frolicking around with no clothes on? And her pregnancy has also been revealed too early. All the cool stuff from the book – gone!

Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney Simon Callow Duke

On a better note, Simon Callow is a great addition to the cast. I also like the glimpse we were given at the life of a Georgian era aristocrat. Up until now, the lives of the Outlander characters have almost looked mediaeval. In fact, I’ve read some magazine articles that accidentally attribute that time period to the show.

Outlander 1x10 Duke Simon Callow Sonya Heaney.

Well, the lives have looked bleak apart from the fact the costume designer continues to dress Claire in a wardrobe fit for royalty (mixed with some very modern knitwear). Where the holy hell are all those clothes coming from? Who is paying for them, who is making them, and don’t try and tell me they’re hand-me-downs when Claire is twice as tall as every other woman in the show!

Outlander 1x10 Claire and Geillis Sonya Heaney

Geillis’ costumes and hairstyling are so incorrect for the time period it makes Reign look historically accurate! This wouldn’t be an issue if both author Diana Gabaldon and the people working on the show didn’t keep bragging about how historically accurate they are!

Outlander 1x10 Geillis and Claire Sonya Heaney

This is a choppy episode. That’s what tends to happen when you start adding in stuff that isn’t part of the original story. There’s good and bad and there’s some pretty stuff to look at, but too much of it was made up for no reason I can understand.

Some of the best scenes from the book have been omitted from the show, apparently so the producers can bore us with the nuances of Scottish politics and the main female characters’ breasts. So much for the much-lauded “female gaze” the show is supposed to have!

Argh! It’s so annoying. I want to love this show and I really want to see the book coming to life on the screen. But more often than not these days, Ron Moore has totally missed the mark.

Outlander 1×09 – the infamous wife-beating episode

This has also been posted HERE.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney

This is THE episode. The one book readers have known would be difficult to do. It’s the one I decided would help me determine if I wanted to continue with the show or not, because – to be honest – I thought up to here Outlander was getting consistently less-good, rather than better.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Jamie Sonya Heaney

To begin with a negative: the voiceover. It needs to go. It’s no different to a bad author who tells everything instead of showing it, and it’s especially bad in a situation where you’re already seeing the story play out in front of you.

Handing voiceover duties to Jamie instead of Claire is a huge departure from the first book, and while Sam Heughan is ten times the actor Caitriona Balfe is, his voiceovers add nothing at all to the show. Why would they when they’re totally unnecessary?

However, I did like to see a bit more Jamie, because he’s practically been a background character for much of the show so far. Talent wasted until now.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Start Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

My next thought about this episode was that they finally made the most of the Scottish countryside. Everyone has been praising Outlander for this from the beginning, but until this episode I didn’t think they had done Scotland justice. 1×09 fixed that. It was gorgeous.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

I thought they did a good job with the whole fort rescue thing, but Ron Moore is so obsessed with having Balfe’s breasts on display (or another woman’s if Claire’s not in the scene!) that it’s starting to really annoy me.

However, the whole scene looked as expensive and exciting as you’d expect from a movie.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Rescue Redcoats Sonya Heaney

After this, we hit the part of the book where author Diana Gabaldon had a field day with her misogynistic beliefs (her comments about feminists and women under forty make my blood boil!) and her pseudo-historical accuracy arguments. I found this comment on The New York Times review of the episode to explain my thoughts better than I could articulate them:

 Outlander 1x09 Historical Accuracy Diana Gabaldon Wife Beating Rape Domestic Abuse

However, the vast majority of people also lived fairly limited lives. They stayed in one place. They were born, they lived, they died, and they did it within small, local communities. Women were at risk from the men in their own family, not from every stray male in Scotland and half the British army. They did not go traipsing all over Europe encountering sexual peril from strange men at every turn. I enjoy Outlander, for the most part, but let’s be honest about the role of history here. Galbadon preserves those aspects of the 18th century that facilitate violence and disregards the rest (ie, all the bits where Claire wouldn’t have ever been in any of these situations to start with, because she would have been at home, by the fire). History isn’t a shield against criticism when it’s selective history…

The point is, Outlander is semi-historical fantasy and the author made choices – most of which maximize the potential for violence, particularly sexual violence. It wasn’t a necessity dictated by historical correctness, and it’s completely fair to question and critique those choices as a reader/viewer.

The show really changed the book’s scenes around a lot, which I’m sort of disappointed about. Because the whole Outlander franchise is continually lauded as a feminist’s dream, I’d have liked for more people to see this part of the story as Gabaldon insisted on telling it. There’s a lot about the story that has nothing feminist about it.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Sonya Heaney

For example, the show’s producers removed the part where Jamie shook Claire so hard she had bruises all over her arms. In the show, they have Claire slapping Jamie instead. I was horrified to see a lot of men commenting on this episode, saying what a ‘stupid bitch’ Claire was. The show is making Claire out to be annoying rather than an abuse victim.

In the book, there are some sex scenes with very dubious consent – which many say constitutes the rape of Claire. In the show, that’s all gone. Show Claire is practically a dominatrix!

What viewers should stop and remember is that the show badly screwed up the timeline so it is very condensed. In the space of twenty-four hours, Claire has been sexually assaulted by two different men, had to kill someone in self-defence, been abducted by Black Jack, physically assaulted, generally traumatised. And then her husband – and the other men – thinks she deserves to be physically punished for nearly getting raped twice.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse 1 Sonya Heaney

All on the same freaking day!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney - Copy

However, even with attempting to add a feminist bend to a misogynistic theme, they DID keep the wife-beating in. And it pissed me off that it was presented as the episode’s comedic relief, complete with clichéd Scottish music blasting through the entire scene. Even with them leaving in Jamie’s line about enjoying beating her with a leather sword belt, it was clearly supposed to be funny.

This is the best reaction to this sexist scene I have read:

The theater went fucking wild when they realized what this scene was—apparently it’s a fan favorite from the books. I of course had no idea what was coming. I listened to the disturbingly upbeat musical score underlying the scene and assumed Jamie was intentionally riling up Claire to protest loudly, so as to make the men downstairs think he had beaten her when he actually hadn’t.

Jamie eventually corners his new bride, rails on her ass with his leather belt, and grins his head off as she screams and writhes in pain. “I said I was going to punish you, I didn’t say I wasn’t going to enjoy it,” he says.

…It was a fascinating moment of cognitive dissonance: we both knew the show had crossed a line, but no one else seemed to. Violence against women in the media is disappointing but never surprising. A theater full of women delighted by violence against women is the height of disturbing.

The way this was dealt with in the show, it made the beating seem even less necessary than it did in the book.

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Snow Sonya Heaney

Following this they really departed from the book and things got turned around. The episode segues into a lot of scenes involving Scottish politics, which I’m just not in it for. I know some people are happy for a break from the Claire and Jamie soap opera, but I’m seriously not at all interested in the secondary characters!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Laoghaire and Jamie 1 Sonya Heaney

They’ve (probably wisely, because this is a bit of a loose end in the book) done a bit more with the Jamie/Laoghaire relationship, but I’m not sure I like what it does to his connection with his wife!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Laoghaire and Jamie 2 Sonya Heaney

Now, we have a mega sex scene at the end. Done well, but I NEVER need to see the lead actor sucking on the breasts of the lead actress. This is not porn!! Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Sex Sonya Heaney

The tamest screenshot you’ll find!

Will I keep watching? I’ll finish the season. Some things were better than I expected, but I just don’t know if I plan to invest in this any further. It’s a gorgeous-looking show, but I never much cared for the books beyond the first one, either. The level of sexual sadism Gabaldon revels in is unnecessary and upsets me.

Outlander

So, what are people thinking of the television adaptation of Outlander?

For me, it has been good and bad, but I’m certainly not looking forward to a certain scene coming up immediately after the mid-year break.

I’m undecided whether I’ll subscribe to the second season (but seeing as it won’t be out until 2016, I have plenty of time to change my mind!).

However, the trailer for the second half of season one looks really good:

The Week: 19th – 25th January

Canberra Australia Sunset 22nd January 2015

Canberra sunset on Thursday.

My father’s birthday today! And Australia Day tomorrow. This time of year is a never-ending mess for us. Two Christmases. Two New Years. My grandmother’s, aunt’s, father’s, mother’s and my birthdays. The amount of money that goes into the start of the year…

For Ukraine, what a horrible, horrible week this was. Some 300 Ukrainians were killed by Russian terrorists. CafePress is now selling merchandise with the symbol of the Russian terrorist organisation responsible for the war. Many of us have reported their products. MORE people should report this. It’s sickening to see.

It’s no different to selling Nazi-themed merchandise. Or Al Qaeda t-shirts. Or ISIS-pride things!

Also, I was offered a review copy of Kresley Cole’s latest Russian mafia romance. Because that’s totally something to romanticise.

Shame on you, Kresley Cole. Shame on you.

It has been hot and muggy in Canberra this week. And our cat – that isn’t actually our cat – just keeps coming for visits!

What I want to see in 2015: Historical Romance

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

Defending the Indefensible

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Book Sale Stuff

Customers in the Book Department at Selfridge's department store in London during 1942.

My review of The Rogue’s Folly by Donna Lea Simpson

The Rogue's Folly by Donna Lea Simpson

My review of The Midnight Rake by Anabelle Bryant

The Midnight Rake by Anabelle Bryant

My review of A Touch of Midnight by Lara Adrian

A Touch of Midnight (Midnight Breed #0.5) by Lara Adrian

My review of Ace’s Wild by Sarah McCarty

Ace's Wild by Sarah McCarty

Defending the Indefensible

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Look. I get it. Sometimes we enjoy a book that we really shouldn’t. It has horrible themes or the so-called romantic hero does something that in real life we’d want to see him in prison for. Stormfire is one of the most revolting books I’ve ever read, and yet I can see why it’s so popular.

Stormfire by Christine Monson

I. Get. It.

But can we not say: ‘Sure, it’s terrible, but I enjoy the book DESPITE those horrible things’??

Is that really so very hard to say?

I say this now because the Outlander television show has put the wife-beating and marital rape in the book back in the spotlight. And so many women that I despair of my gender are scrambling to come up with a million new excuses for it.

I’m not going to rehash the whole thing. If you haven’t heard of Outlander, here’s the plot in a nutshell:

  • 1940s Englishwoman is accidentally transported back to the 1740s in Scotland.
  • She’s forced to marry a (conveniently sexy) man for her own protection.
  • She tries to get back to her own time and her husband there, and gets captured by those “evil” Englishmen along the way.
  • Her new husband rescues her and “has to” punish her (for being captured and nearly raped!) by putting a knee in her back and beating her with his sword belt.
  • This turns him on, and he congratulates himself for not raping her then and there.
  • But not to worry: he has sex with her soon after, even though she’s begging him to stop because he’s hurting her.

That is absolutely not the whole plot, and I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the book, and I have subscribed to the show – despite the subpar lead actress. I occasionally reread my favourite parts of the book.

Outlander Starz Jamie and Claire Episode One Sonya Heaney -

But please go HERE and HERE and HERE.

Because too many romance readers are falling over themselves to excuse a wife-beater because they’re worried they can’t enjoy the book unless they do. The people who prompted this particular post are contributors to a major romance blog, and their defence of it all… well. Anybody who says we don’t need feminism needs to ask why we still live in a world where women will excuse violence against women as long as the man doing it is hot.

I’m not really saying anything new here. But I’d just like to remind people that sure, read what you like. But you don’t need to become a rape apologist while you do it.

How about some misogyny with that review?

Outlander 1x06 The Garrison Commander Claire Ending Sonya Heaney Sceenshot

I have a question: if Joanne Rowling had published a book with a young witch name Hermione Granger as her protagonist, would it have been the massive global success J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was?

I’m going to take a guess and say NO.

The reason I got to thinking about this recently was because of Diana Gabaldon’s book, Outlander. Now a popular television adaptation exists of course more people are hearing about the story and picking up the book.

Now, I’m not the series’ biggest fan, nor do I think much of Herself (as the obsessive fans refer to the author). In fact, the reason I was reading Outlander reviews was because I was interested to see what new readers thought of the spousal abuse – which will be coming up in the television version right after the mid-year break.

Fans will defend the abuse in this book to the death, and – yes – it infuriates me.

However, there’s a difference between picking at the major flaws in Gabaldon’s work, and being a misogynist because you think it makes you look smarter than those silly women.

I’m not sure why so many men (and some women) think it’s okay to pick up something written by a woman and/or with a female protagonist with the intention of insulting it. You can dislike Outlander all you want, but to review the book by saying, “This is the most stupid thing I’ve ever read! I think I lost IQ points reading it! It’s the kind of thing women will like!”…

…You see my problem?

Just before the television version started, I read an article that essentially said men are conditioned to expect to see themselves as the star and hero of every story. They’re conditioned to think something isn’t interesting unless a man is at the star of it, and they’re conditioned to immediately dislike something if a woman wrote it (unless they’re tricked into it a la Harry Potter).

And you know what? I’m so, so tired of it. I’m so tired of anything a woman does being, “It’s just chick lit! Why didn’t anybody tell me this was a woman’s thing! It’s so stupid!”

I’m sorry guys, but misogyny doesn’t cut it in the 21st century. Or at least it shouldn’t.

The Week: 27th October – 2nd November

Sunset Canberra Australia Halloween 31st October 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

Our gorgeous Canberra Halloween sunset.

When I started typing this, I was going to say: Nothing particularly out of the ordinary happened this week. And then Russian hackers made an appearance in my life again. GRRR!!!!

The weather has been insane. Hot, hot, hot, then windy, windy, windy! Friday was the anniversary of my father’s father’s death, and Saturday was the anniversary of my mother’s father’s death. A trip to the cemetery in Queanbeyan was so windy all our lovely lilies blew over multiple times, and my grandmother was nearly blown away!

 Halloween Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 2014

Nobody turned up for Halloween, so I’ve been eating a lot of lollies myself! I’m jealous of my aunt who had dozens of people come by! Some miserable joy-killing Australians are still harping on about, ‘We don’t do that American garbage!’ to which I say: what’s wrong with celebrating so-called “American” things when we celebrate everyone else’s things? I also say: Halloween IS NOT American! And I also say: why do you celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, then??!!

Ronda Spain September 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

Our rooftop in Ronda, Spain.

Still only one of ten postcards I sent (from three or four different cities) from Spain has arrived, after more than a month, and even that one came really late because the Spanish postal service sent it to MALTA instead of Australia! And Spain has more post offices than anywhere I’ve ever been. I love you to death, Spain, but what the hell?? I ordered something from Latvia and it arrived in only a week!

I should have read more this week. I should have typed more this week. It wasn’t a complete waste of a week, but I’m feeling a little unproductive…

My thoughts on Outlander 1×08

Outlander 1x08 Claire and Jamie after the attack Sonya Heaney

My review of Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

My review of The Healer by Allison Butler

The Healer by Allison Butler

My review of Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet by Anne Fortier

My review of Her Holiday Family by Winnie Griggs

Her Holiday Family by Winnie Griggs

My review of The Rake’s Handbook by Sally Orr

The Rake’s Handbook by Sally Orr

The Healer by Allison Butler

The Healer by Allison Butler

Curb your Outlander cravings with Allison Butler’s seriously sexy Scottish novel about an English woman, a Scottish Laird, a case of mistaken identity and a love that will surpass all barriers.

An outcast in her own home for as long as she can remember, Lynelle Fenwick will do anything to earn her father’s approval. Including exaggerating her healing skills, and setting off alone to rescue her step-brother from a band of raiding Scots.

Living under a curse that has haunted the Closeburn Clan for years, Laird William Kirkpatrick, will do anything to save his sole surviving brother. He may not believe in curses, but his clan does, and the growing number of graves seems to support their side.

Having banished all healers from the clan for trickery, he has no choice but to allow an Englishwoman, claiming to be a skilled healer, into his home and into the room of his wounded brother.

Enemies by birth and circumstance, they can only succeed together. But blood runs deep, and tensions high. What matters the desires of a heart?

The Healer by Allison Butler

As you would expect, this book is being marketed as being like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I get that it’s a good time to latch onto that franchise, and I can see why they’re making the comparison (English healer being held by a Scottish laird etc., etc.) but it’s not really the same thing.

On the plus side, (unlike Gabaldon’s) this hero doesn’t feel the need to take a leather strap to the heroine to teach her a lesson about good behaviour! On the other hand, while the cover is misleading (this is not all about the sex!) it does tell you a thing or two about the level of history to expect from the story.

The Healer has some interesting ideas. There’s high drama for our (slightly Mary Sue-ish) heroine, and as it’s set in the Middle Ages, there’s plenty of danger and disease to be had. I can see why some readers enjoyed it so much.

On the other hand, the prose is mostly telling without much showing. One thing happens, and then another, and then another, and then – BAM – hero and heroine are in love even though they’ve not really even had a conversation. There’s a lot of mental lusting, and the characters’ dialogue and behaviour could just as easily be from 2014 as the era in which the book is set. It wasn’t until the Black Death made an appearance towards the end that any particular time period really turned up in my mind.

The Healer is a very easy read, something I picked up for the weekend. However, no matter what you think of Diana Gabaldon’s writing, Outlander this is not.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.