Sam Heughan is a busy man. Not even a pandemic could slow him down! While the rest of us were noshing on chips watching Netflix and becoming a permanent fixture on our couch this guy was writing a book. When I first heard I thought oh god I hope he’s not becoming that celebrity who thinks they should write a memoir <intense roll of the eye>. Turns out he was! Kinda.
Along with Graham McTavish (aka Dougal McKenzie), these two go on an adventure in a camper van, along with a few other unique modes of transport, exploring Scotland’s land, history, and culture. The book is in both of their voices — all the banter, wit, snide comments — creating a feeling that you are stuck in the van between the both of them; Grumpy Graham on one side and Impish Sam on the other. Overall it’s a fun ride.
“Clanlands” was definitely written (and maybe only) for the Outlander fan. All of the “behind the scenes” of filming the show, how these two cads met, and the inside jokes that weave themselves throughout the book make it very clear that the only people who could appreciate, understand, and maybe laugh at the jokes…are Outlander fans. Aside from all of the references to the show, the history is more interesting albeit this is not supposed to be a thorough academic treatise. Graham is mostly the arbiter of historical information only based on his avid interest in Scottish history and that’s ok. You get the gist of the clan feuds (there are a lot of feuds) and what happened at the Battle of Culloden (again outside of Scotland only Outlander fans will know that reference) among other anecdotes. If you’re looking for a thorough and vetted history book then you’ll have to find it elsewhere.
Because Outlander is the springboard of how these two Scottish friends formed a relationship that then inspired them to take a road trip through a country in which the story is based, fans enjoy their discoveries and banter. Additionally, author of the book series Diana Gabaldon gives her seal of approval by writing the foreword (of course she would) but I think that’s where the book ends.
Now for my unbiased fan review:
This book works better as a TV show which–surprise surprise–they have! If there was no Droughtlander and pandemic I wonder if this book would even be necessary other than fulfilling their itch (and ego) to be authors. It definitely functions more as an accompaniment to Starz’s Men in Kilts. I am writing this after seeing the show’s first episode and it’s really enjoyable. Their verbal barbs and shenanigans against the backdrop of Scotland really works well. On the page? Meh not as successful (no I haven’t listened to the audiobook. Perhaps it’s better?). The shtick of Graham’s grumpiness and penchant for lattes while Sam’s childish eagerness to poke at Grampa Bear had an expiration date for me that ran out after a few chapters. Although Graham is the funnier of the two in my opinion neither one are exactly writing gold here. Also, I don’t really need to know about the details of what play Graham performed in thirty years ago or the action sequence Sam did with Vin Diesel (but I’ll take any anecdotes about Tobias Menzies thank you). The only other element of the book I didn’t like, actually it drove me crazy, was the inconsistent structure in how their voices intercepted each other. Denoting their opinion about what the other was saying was sometimes italicized and bracketed while other times it was indented with their name and a colon. That oversight made the reading a little confusing at times.
Yet thanks to a pandemic and extended Droughtlander, “Clanlands” has appeared at a time when many of us would happily “travel” with Outlander’s Laurel and Hardy to Scotland via a book (maybe that reference should be reserved for Rupert and Angus). For fans, it’s a fun adventure with historical trivia (until the late 1800s most travel in the Highlands was by sea) and behind the scenes tidbits (Graham practically saving Sam’s life from a runaway crane on set) from two well known actors from our favorite TV show. If for some reason you have read this review and don’t know a stitch about Outlander then you may find the book funny but annoying with all of its references and inside jokes. Does it work as a helpful travel guide while planning a trip to Scotland? Maybe but there are better guides. These two are just here for the adventure, friendship, whisky, and wine.
Finally, the release of this book along with Men in Kilts brings me back to how busy Sam is. Graham jokes that he’ll find any opportunity to hawk his whisky (or underwear if he made any) and funnily enough Sam does sneak in an image of his Sassenach whisky as a chapter title picture. I’m glad that he’s maximizing this time in his career to be an entrepreneur whether it’s creating a whisky, writing a book that ties into his new TV show, in between his action films and whatever else he’s planning. I think his smartest venture has been the whisky because he already has an audience who will buy that $90 bottle even if they never tried a dram of whisky before in their lives! Heck some of them have bought multiple bottles. That’s the power of Sam Heughan right now. It’s the Sam Sparkle. The Magic of the Heughan. Call it what you will but the hunk who has a great ass and can’t get a serious acting award nomination to save his life who names his whisky a derogatory Gaelic name that fellow Scots probably scoff at but fans love is laughing his way to the bank. Good for him.
I’m still not buying that whisky until I taste it. For now I’ll place his book on my shelf then watch Men In Kilts and mentally revisit Scotland.
But let me know when Tobias Menzies creates a men’s cologne cause I’ll buy that!*
*This is a doubly hilarious thought because TM would never do that but if he did I’d buy it even though I’m a woman…who’s single. Every day I’d just take a whiff of it imagining I was smelling him ok this has gone too far.