Outlander - the book series

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  • (cont.)


    The main problem is I
    never have come across anything to indicate that the British military accepted
    women who were not trained nurses to work as military nurses in any capacity.
    Their nursing corps consisted of women who were already trained and qualified
    nurses, and there was no reason for them to accept women interested in becoming
    a nurse but needing the four years of training that would qualify them for that
    role. 


    (They did rely on VAD volunteers, too, but these women were not trained
    nurses and from what I understand not enlisted in the military. They did tasks
    that were not reliant on nursing training, and they tended to be held in
    disdain by the women who were qualified nurses. Also, from what I understand,
    they were usually kept out of field hospitals very close to the front because
    of this lack of experience. Based on what we know about Claire, I think it’s
    safe to assume she was not a VAD.)


    As I mentioned
    earlier, all British nurses, regardless of affiliation with the military, at
    this time were required to do a standard 3 years of training in a hospital,
    which included rotation through a variety of wards, and then they did a trial
    year at a hospital. I didn’t find any evidence of women receiving this initial
    training in military hospitals, either—they did the training at civilian
    hospitals.


    Only then could nurses
    take the exam that allowed them to become a SRN (state registered nurse).
    Claire would have needed to be an SRN before she enlisted in the military, and
    even then, I noticed in the memoirs/reminiscences I read that there was usually
    a bit of lag time (a couple of months or a few weeks) between enlisting and getting
    accepted, before undergoing an orientation period and being assigned to a
    medical unit.


    Because of these
    requirements, the earliest Claire would have enlisted in the military is not in
    the autumn of 1939, which is what the book/show strongly suggests, but rather
    autumn 1943 if she immediately decided to become a nurse when war broke out in
    September 1939. But that is assuming that she was accepted into a hospital
    program without delay, did her training with no missed weeks (if you were out
    sick, that time was not credited to you as being part of your training—you had
    to do the full time), took her exam with no delay as soon as she was eligible,
    and then was able to enlist immediately after receiving her qualifications, and
    was called up straight away.


    I think that timeline
    is generous, though, because I can’t think of any bureaucracy running that
    smoothly, so I think it is more likely for Claire to have finished her nurse
    training very late in 1943 or sometime early in 1944 and then she would have
    had another couple of months at least of enlisting, waiting to hear back from
    that, attending orientation, etc. This puts her actual military nursing career
    starting in spring 1944, give or take a couple of months.


    Now, there is a
    possibility she was already in the middle of nurse’s training when the war
    started, so that would condense her timeline. However, that was not the
    impression I got from the book or the show.


    In any event, rather
    than Claire having spent years working as a military nurse, I think it’s more
    likely that she would have spent about a year or a year and a few months as a
    military nurse at most and probably would have been first deployed in the
    summer of 1944 in the wake of D-Day.


    (cont.)

     

  • (cont.)

    This all leads to the second problem with Claire’s war timeline—I don’t have
    the book with me, but I’m pretty sure it’s suggested she achieves some level of
    seniority during her time in the military. I can’t remember what level of
    seniority Claire was supposed to be, but I know being a “ward sister” was a
    recognizable achievement, which involved overseeing more junior nurses. But it
    was also a difficult one to achieve and required some years of proven
    experience. I honestly don’t see how Claire would have achieved that or even
    maybe a lower rank of standing, given the amount of time she would have
    realistically served. The British military had its own standing nursing force,
    as well as reserve nurses. I find it hard to believe that Claire, fresh out of
    her training and new to the military, would leap-frog over so many other nurses
    with considerably more experience as nurses and military members to a position
    of authority.

     

    Her
    experience as a combat nurse also strikes me as a bit problematic, though I think
    it is more plausible, given again a more realistic timeline for her
    experiences. From what I understand, the nurses who served in field stations
    near the frontline—Claire would not have truly been a combat nurse who saw
    combat, though field stations were in danger of shelling and shifting
    frontlines—were specially picked and the doctors in charge reserved the right
    to pick their own nurses and also reject ones they didn’t think were up to the
    job. It was an honor to serve there (one reason why VADs weren’t allowed
    there.) Again, considering the many other nurses with more experience nursing
    and in the military, I find it a little hard to believe that Claire would have
    just vaulted into this position, new to the military and relatively new to
    nursing. But that being said, if she had proven herself competent and cool
    under fire, I could see her being snapped up for field hospital work for the
    last few months of the war as much more likely than her being promoted to ward
    sister or some other position of authority within a year of qualifying as a
    nurse.

     

    (cont.)

  • (cont.)

    The
    final problem I have with the timeline—and I know even Gabaldon herself has
    acknowledged this as a problem—is exactly when Claire was demobilized. I must
    confess when I read the book, I just couldn’t let go of the incongruity of
    Claire being out of the military and apparently having been for some time in
    May 1945 because the war was still very much in progress. Though Germany
    surrendered in May, Japan still held out for another couple of months. Everything
    I have ever read indicates that, for the most part, people weren’t being
    demobilized until the summer or later when it was clear the war was truly over.

     

    This
    was especially true of British nurses—I’ve found that a lot of them stayed in
    the military and overseas well into 1945 and even 1946 because their expertise
    was still needed. Not only were they needed for the men in uniform who still
    were in hospitals, but the Allied forces were also tasked with tending to
    millions of Holocaust survivors, displaced persons, German civilians, and also
    German prisoners-of-war, all while also contending with the fact that a lot of
    Germany’s infrastructure (like hospitals) was damaged.

     

    Another
    factor too is that people tended to be demobilized based on time of service, so
    those who had served longer (especially with extensive overseas postings) got
    to go home first, in theory. Well, the way the series depicts her war
    experiences, she probably would have been one of the first people home, but I
    think given the more realistic timeline for her experiences (about a year of
    nursing during the war), she probably would have still been serving in postwar
    Germany as more experienced nurses with longer service records got to go home.
    Actually, if Claire had stayed in Europe for several months longer than she did
    in the series, I think it would have been more likely for her to get a
    senior-ish nursing position, despite her relative newbie status, simply because
    the more experienced nurses would have the option to go home, which might lead
    to some openings.

     

     I
    know the show has Claire in Scotland in autumn 1945, which is a little more
    reasonable, but even then, I don’t know that she would have had been discharged
    for a while at that point.

     

     (I’m
    also not sure Frank would have been demobilized for very long at this point,
    either, or that his discharge would have so neatly coincided with hers. I don’t
    know anything about the intelligence service really, but the Allies were
    contending with pro-Nazi operatives and also growing tension with the Soviet
    Union in Germany after the war was over. Everything, for instance, I have read
    about Berlin at this time sounds like something out of the Wild West, times
    infinity, so I don’t know that he would have been out of a job yet, depending on
    whatever his specialty was.)


    (cont.)

  • (cont).

    So,
    those are my three problems with Claire’s military service, as presented in the
    book and show.

     

    Now in the midst of
    all of my critiquing, I should point out, in all fairness, a couple of things
    the book/show got right. One is that Claire’s basic background—early 20s,
    married, from a respectable social class—was exactly what the British military
    liked in its nurses.

     

    They didn’t want
    overly young women—I don’t know if there was an age requirement is for WWII,
    but I know in WWI, they only accepted women over a certain age, mid-twenties, I
    think —and they preferred married women and upper/middle class women, all
    because they thought it cut down on shenanigans with the patients. So, even
    though I don’t see how she would have enlisted right away, I do think whenever
    Claire did enlist, she would have been accepted pretty readily as a very
    desirable candidate.

     

    And also, though I
    just don’t buy her having so many years of military or nursing experience, I
    wouldn’t at all dismiss her experiences because she only would have seen about
    a year of overseas service. She still would have definitely seen/experienced
    some very disturbing stuff and worked with a lot of patients, not only during
    her war years but also during her pre-military training because she would have
    been doing that in the middle of the Blitz. And just living during the Blitz
    would have taken nerves of steel, let alone working in a hospital during it! I
    read some really harrowing—and also inspiring--stories about nurses during the
    Blitz in London. Even if she wasn’t in London, if she did her training in a
    city of any size, she probably experienced her fair share of aerial bombing
    long before she joined the military.

     

    So, I definitely don’t
    want to imply that a more realistic timeline for her military service make her
    somehow incompetent or inexperienced as a nurse. In fact, some of the nurses I
    read about who served longer were not initially posted in war zones for the
    first couple of years of their service, so the series’ proposed backstory for
    her doesn’t necessarily guarantee her seeing more combat postings than a more
    probable timeline does.

     

    In fact, that’s
    something else that always bothered me in the book—I felt like the idea of
    Claire as combat nurse was emphasized to the point that her basic
    qualifications as a nurse who was trained to deal with a wide variety of
    patients and cases was ignored, so it makes it seem, at least to me, that
    Claire is someone who, when not working in a military posting or a trauma situation,
    is not really as prepared for the job as a more general nurse would be, and
    that just seems very inaccurate to me. It really stood out to me with Claire
    claiming very little experience with patients in childbirth during Jenny’s
    labor, and I found that odd because, though she wouldn’t have been a
    specialized midwife trained to deal with complications and with lots and lots
    of experience, she wouldn’t have escaped some time working on maternity wards
    during her training period. In fact, I feel like it would be more likely that
    she would be nervous because her training/experiences were not something she
    had enjoyed or that they had occurred a few years in the past and were not of
    recent memory (or when Jenny’s labor manifested complications, which she might
    know of in theory but not have extensive experience in working with), rather
    than she was lacking in basic experience with childbirth.

     

    If you’re interested,
    I can recommend some of the websites and books I used when I was researching
    the subject! It’s not something I usually read/research, but it’s a fascinating
    topic! And if you’ve now read more than you ever want to know about it, that’s
    cool too. J

     

  • I love both the show and the books. My Husband asked me how I felt about the differences and so I have thought a lot about this. When I read the books I have my own versions of the characters in my head and they don't match the tv version, all though there is a little crossing over in their personalities. I'm ok with having both versions and I think it is a testament to the writers that it works. I love TLO but agree it's silly to apply today's political correctness to a piece of historical fiction. I find 'dating naked'and the other types of tv stupidity much more offensive.
  • I fell out of love with the series when I realised Diana Gabaldon adores her own writing, and sometimes it feels like she's writing so she can read it herself later on. Book 5 was horribly boring, could've used serious editing (like half the book), but I would like to know what happens to Jamie and Claire, so that bit she got right. I don't know if I'll be able to make it through the whole series.

    In terms of acting, I can see why Caitriona Balfe keeps on getting nominated and not Sam Heughan. He's eye candy, to be sure, but his acting skills seems a little, one dimensional? If you compare his acting skills to say, Tom Hardy's acting skills, you realise how mediocre of an actor he really is. And people are so enamoured with him in his role as Jamie (I daresay they're enamoured with Jamie more than Sam Heughan), that they cannot judge his acting skills objectively. He was very good in To Ransom a Man's Soul, but anything after that seemed a little trite?
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