First of all, my sincere apologies for the long delays in my reviews. It seems like I was overly enthusiastic during the vacations, because I started them completely empty, with the consequences you might imagine: collapsing asleep and sleeping up to 14 hours per day. The rest of the time? I was making my “pupils scarves”, which I still haven’t finished.
I laughed. I learnt. Then I laughed some more. This is how I can summarise my reading and, most of all, listening to Sam Heughan’s and Graham McTavish’s Clanlands, the prelude to their show Men in Kilts, which will premiere on Starz (in the US) on 14 February. In Canada, the show will premiere on STARZ Canada the day after.
I pre-ordered the book the moment it was possible to do so in Canada. Although I did not receive it on release day (grrrrr…), I still got it a couple of days after and could not wait to delve into it. On release day (in November), I also got the audio book from Audible, and that is the best decision I made, because if the book itself is fun, great fun, amazing fun, listening to it from the mouths of its protagonists makes the experience much, much more entertaining. After all, some parts are written pieces of conversation between Sam and Graham, and listening to their voices, the inflection, everything, makes it even better.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t get the book? No!!! It means that you should listen to it while you read it. Because there are several tidbits of information, and photos, that you cannot get with an audio book. Plus, listening to Diana Gabaldon’s foreword in her own voice is, simply, fantastic.
What the book is about
The title speaks for itself. Clanlands is about “Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other”. In other words, we follow Sam and Graham on their journey throughout Scotland (in a camper allegedly poorly driven by Sam), where they are shooting the various segments of their upcoming show.
From their own point of view, complete with dialogues between the two, but also with quite a bit of the history of the various clans that the two visit (for those who don’t know, Graham McTavish is a massive History buff), we get to have a funny and anecdotal behind-the-scenes preview of how the show will have come to be.
Whetting the viewers’ appetites
In fact, Clandlands is whetting the viewers’ appetites in the most brilliant way. Heughan and McTavish are hilarious, as is the rest of the crew, and the frequent appearances by Outlander‘s Duncan LaCroix are sublime in their laugh-out-loud moments.
However, I don’t think that all of the historical parts mentioned will be as detailed on the show as they were in the book, which makes it a complete must for those who want to learn, in a more entertaining way, about some of the often violent aspects of Scottish History. And of Graham’s love of Hamlet.
Am I looking forward to the show? Heck, yes! It will be all sorts of amazing to see the places mentioned in the book with my own (far away) eyes, and see the banter between the two friends on the small screen, something that we could not really see on Outlander, visibly.
Do you need to have watched Outlander to read and enjoy the book? Not really. Of course, both authors sometimes mention things that happened during the show, but the way they describe everything is extremely vivid. A fan will see more behind-the-scenes details, but otherwise, it makes no difference whether someone has watched Outlander or not.
After all, Clanlands really is about two friends who took a long road trip inside their home country, thus furthering their own discovery of their land throughout its majestic scenery and its History while, at the same time, making us discover (for the first time for many) one of the most beautiful places in the world.
For the laughs, for the learning, for the location, for the chemistry and friendship between the authors, for everything, really, this book is a complete must read and must listen.
A deserved five stars (and a dram for each one)! ✰✰✰✰✰
Cover photo via the Men in Kilts Facebook page