Genre confusion

It’s finally happened — Facebook is “timelining” me. (Yes, I just used timeline as a verb. I expect a bolt of lightning any minute now.)

One interesting side effect is the random voyage through my personal history that it’s providing. Movies, TV shows, odd things I said that I’m sure I thought were quite witty at the time… it’s all there. A quick scan through my recent Facebook past revealed this forgotten nugget, dated September 16, 2010:

Dawning realization that the book I’m reading may in fact be a romance novel. Bodices have been ripped.

Any idea what I’m talking about? Only one of my all time favorite novels, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon! Of course, at the time, I didn’t yet realize how very much in love I’d fall with this series (and with the main character, Jamie Fraser, but that’s a different topic).

I can be forgiven for my genre confusion, having just read this passage:

Randall slowly drew the knife in a semicircle under one breast. The homespun came free and fell away with a flutter of white chemise, and my breast sprang out. Randall seemed to have been holding his breath; he exhaled slowly now, his eyes fixed on mine.

Followed on the next page by – ta-dum – our hero’s arrival:

“I’ll thank ye,” said a cool, level voice, “to take your hands off my wife.”

By the end of the book, I was hooked, so much so that by October 16, 2010, my status update read:

Have finished four books of a seven-book (so far) series in the past month. Page count: 3926 read, 3740 to go.

What can I say — other than, I’m glad I stuck with it! Despite the ripped bodice and the occasional heaving breast, what I found myself reading was not a romance novel, but a remarkable piece of historical fiction that includes a lovely romance, as well as a crash course in the history of the Jacobite rebellion, battlefield medicine, Scottish culture, and speculative time travel.

So what shelf does Outlander belong on? According to the author (on her website, here):

In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction, ala James Clavell and James Michener.  However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…

history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships,
the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses,
gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…

you know, the usual stuff of literature.

Thanks, Diana G., that clears that up!

So, has this ever happened to you? Have you ever started a book expecting one thing, and found yourself someplace completely different? And if so, were you glad for the detour?

I know I originally picked up my battered, used edition of Outlander because I remembered seeing the title listed in reference to time travel. I’m sure, though, that if the original context had been about romance, I probably never would have thought to give it a try.

So, here’s to trying new genres! Stepping out of our reading comfort zones! Crossing the book store aisles and browsing a new shelf! You just never know where your next new favorite might be lurking.

And thank you, Facebook, for this strange trip down my book-addicted memory lane.

One thought on “Genre confusion

  1. I’d never read a “romance” until Outlander, and now, I’ve read four in a futile search for another Jamie Fraser! Maybe it’s just highland romance, but they are surprisingly bad. I’m trying not to be a book snob, but but but….people give them four and five star reviews! I should probably save myself the eye-rolling and just read Outlander again. Either that or get back to ABOSAA so I’m ready when the newest installment hits the bookshelves. 🙂

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