A Must Read – Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

All copy editors and writers should read as much as possible. Reading is said to be the foundation of writing. One of the key qualities of a good copy editor or writer is that he or she is also a reader.

There are varying schools of thought on this subject. Some believe that reading someone else’s work can be detrimental to your own as a writer. Of course, there is that possibility – even Shakespeare ‘borrowed’ a few ideas from other writers of his era. It is a risk that all writers take, but as your ability grows, you’ll be able to identify the difference between straight forward imitation and indirect inspiration.

Here is one of my favourite books – I have read it so many times that I have lost count! As you can probably tell by the picture above, this is the well-loved copy that my mother bought me in the mid-1990s.

“People disappear all the time. Ask any policeman. Better yet, ask a journalist. Disappearances are bread and butter to journalists.

Young girls run away from home. Young children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives reach the end of their tether and take the grocery money and a taxi to the station. International financiers change their names and vanish into the smoke of imported cigars,

Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations.

Usually.” (Cross Stitich, 1994, page 9, Diana Gabaldon)

Cross Stitch begins with an English army nurse and her husband in post-WW2 Scotland on a second honeymoon. While Frank is busy researching his family history, Claire indulges her interest in medicinal plants. Her search takes her to the picturesque standing stones of Craigh na Dun, where she stumbles into 1743. “I could say that my field of vision contracted to a single dark spot, then disappeared altogether, leaving not darkness but a bright void. I could say that I felt as though I were spinning, or as though I were being pulled inside out. All these things are true, yet none of them conveys the sense I had of complete disruption, of being slammed very hard against something that wasn’t there.” (Cross Stitch, 1994, page 60, Diana Gabaldon)

And so begins Claire’s adventures. While her husband searches for her in 1946, Claire must face the reality that she is now in the tumultuous times leading up to the Battle of Culloden, the final confrontation between the Jacobites and the English. She is almost attacked by one of Frank’s ancestors – Captain ‘Black’ Jack Randall. The Scottish highlanders who save her from the attack suspect her of being an English spy, and ‘Black’ Jack wants to learn more about her. All this while trying to get home to Frank. She doesn’t count on falling in love with the highlander Jamie whom she has been forced to marry to keep her out of the English captain’s hands.

Can we change history? Should we try if given the opportunity? These are questions that Claire must tackle, amongst others.

Diana has mastered the art of engaging readers, and her characters come alive. She manages to successfully convey life in both post-war Great Britain and in the 18th century. You are pulled in to the story and have trouble putting the book down.

Cross Stitch is the first novel published by Diana Gabaldon. It was first published in the UK in 1991. The name was changed to Outlander for release in other countries, except Australia.

Diana’s previous writing experience was mainly non-fiction works including scientific articles and textbooks. At the beginning of her career, the only fiction work she had done was comic-book scripts for the Walt Disney Scrooge McDuck comics. (Diana Gabaldon n.d.)

Diana originally started writing a historical novel ‘for practice’. But she says the character Claire “promptly took over the story and began telling it herself…”

Cross Stitch became the first in the Outlander series which includes eight titles so far, with the much anticipated ninth currently being written (possibly due to be published in 2020). These books are a multi-genre series, including elements of historical fiction, romance, adventure and science fiction/fantasy. (Wikipedia n.d.) The series has also been produced as a television series on the Starz network.

If you enjoy any of the genre’s mentioned above, you should give Cross Stitch a read. I give this book 5/5 stars.

Note from Jenni: I hope you found this review helpful in deciding your next book to read. Next week, I am was lucky enought to get permission from Scott McConnell (AKA ‘The Story Guy’) to share a post of his titled ‘How to be Original in Your Story‘. Click HERE to read. Please follow my blog so you don’t miss out on any upcoming posts.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me via my Contact Me page or leave a comment below. To find out more about my services, visit My Services page. You can also find me on Facebook by clicking the ‘F’ icon at the bottom of any page on my website.

(Image: My own)

Jenni Wade is a fiction copyeditor, line editor and proofreader who specialises in helping self-publishing and first-time authors. She can also help businesses with their documentation. She is an Associate Member of the Institute of Professional Editors Limited (IPEd) Australia.

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