'A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows' (Leaf) is more than a novella scion of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
It is a chisel.
A shiny new chisel that Diana is using to chip away at the fascinating block of marble that is Captain Frank Randall.
Up until now, we have known little of Frank, as he is given to us through Claire's thinly spread, and I believe, red herring riddled, POV (point of view), except for what most see as a rather shapeless, cold stone that looks boring, indifferent and self-involved with a cheating heart and graceless soul. Any warmth that exudes from this block has been lost in the shadow of the towering, statuesque erection (double entendre duly noted?) of The Flaming Jamie (now a popular panty-removing Liqueur Shot available in all respectable 50+ bars and bowling alley lounges) but he will be, hopefully, given his time to shine in the spotlight (as has been hinted about by Herself lately...God Bless her wee, calloused typing fingers!) and perhaps even be panegyrized.
Starz and Ron Moore moved the Real Frank out of the shadows and gave us a glimpse of the marvelous creation trapped in that marble prison (perhaps because they already know the end of the story and must bow to its hidden Truths?), and it is that discovery which drew thousands of us into the Frank Camp. And yes...I said thousands, not just 'one' as this cheeky meme depicts..
(I admit I did giggle at it)
...even though it feels that way at times when I read the fandom's dislike and even hatred of Frank's character.
I don't get it, but I don't get the fascination with kilts either, so whatever...
Diana laboriously chips away the outer shell of Frank to bring out the man inside as she has always seen him, and who may well be Outlander's Snape, as I had once named him back in a previous post (click here to read it): misunderstood, vilified, reviled and camouflaged in a cloak of pain, oaths, promises, and the gut-wrenching tragedy of losing one's Only and True Love through the careless and Care Less whims of an indifferent Fate. The red herrings have besmirched Frank's honor and name, to those who choose to see them as Gospel, and this novella has given me GREAT hope that I, and my fellow Frankettes may be right about him being the Tragic Hero of Outlander (and yes, I said Frankettes and no, we do not play Vegas).
It will be bittersweet to find out we are right. I almost wish that it turns out that Frank actually had wild jungle sex with half the army, a few of the enemy, and most of the university...it would mean he had SOME release and fun!
*sigh* Never mind...I take that back.
Leaf is, in brief, the story of Roger's father Jeremiah (Jerry) and his connection to Frank (Jerry flew off on a dangerous secret mission and Frank is the one who sent him), which supports, expands and begins to fill in the spaces of the Outlander story we already know. It is short, but chock full of gems for us to polish and shine.
The story is equally Frank AND Jerry's, but this is an exercise devoted solely to Frank. Sorry Jerry! You are a good, good man though and will probably get your own fan base someday...hugs!
Okay, so, it doesn't take long for Leaf to reveal its first nugget about Frank. The Introduction has this passage (pertinent lines highlighted in grey) which has Claire speaking with Roger about Jerry, who allegedly died in the war:
please click on all excerpts to enlarge them for reading
We learn 2 things right away:
1) Frank and Claire kept in touch during the war, writing often. An obviously loving thing to do that shows a need to stay connected
2) Frank confided in her about things at work, so he must have trusted her implicitly, and thought her intelligent and interested enough to engage in less frivolous topics, like how big is the cat now and have your defrosted the freezer, etc...; both good signs of a healthy mutually respectful marriage.
Next, we are given an astounding description of Frank: astounding in that it is from a man's POV (as this part of the story IS all from Jerry's POV, literally), and one who has no previous connection or prior opinion of him. There is no feminine take on things ...just one dude appraising another. Basic, brief and blunt:
But it is OH SO revealing! We see that physically, Frank is what we know of him already, tall with dark hair, but his being described as pleasant, with KINDLY eyes is very telling. An experienced soldier knows lying eyes. He knows shifty and mean, and he learns how a man's eyes can reveal much about their inner-self. Sometimes in war, one has to make quick, life-altering decisions based on the Truth one sees in a pair of eyes. And Jerry, a good kind man himself, from what we can tell, meets Frank and sees 'a pleasant but sharp look about him' with eyes 'like a good sheep dog...kindly, but won't miss much'.
If I let out my inner Darla (the bratty kid in Finding Nemo) I would jump up and Diss Dance every Frank Hater...
The next passage describes how sensitive and intuitive Frank is and how it is obvious he is a man who keeps secrets (important to remember when being fed Red Herring Soufflé). He is also defined as MI6 for certain and we get a firsthand look at the fear and excitement that knowledge evokes in a regular soldier. Frank was a powerful man. A man who could demand submission, command obedience and expect unconditional cooperation and the power could have gotten to his head...
But it didn't:
Frank took the time to be pleasant, complimentary and firm; confidant not arrogant. And as we see below, he was a humble and decent man who dismissed formalities and did not enjoy or demand the overt and traditional respect for the authority he held. He neither wanted subservience nor believed he was more important than anyone else. He did not insult easily nor was he in any way petty:
This next line, made me smile too, as I immediately thought how Black Jack Randall would have never smiled 'involuntarily' to anyone...but Frank, good-hearted, good-guy Frank easily did. Another personality indicator:
Further proof of Frank's inherent good-naturedness and kindness (tempered with practical professionalism, of course) and first proof of he very deep love for his wife, our lovely Claire...
The loving and subconscious touching of the ring got me right in the Feels. I am nothing if not a sucker for a sentimental man who is fixated on his Woman forever (even when he couldn't have her or her love anymore, and even when she bore other man's child. Snape and Frank: Kings of Unrequited Love)...
*sigh* *wipes away tears*
The following excerpt shows Frank's sense of humour, down-to-earthiness and his even temperament...and his command of other languages that makes one wonder how many he is fluent in. Not earth shattering information, but another intriguing piece of the Frank Puzzle set in place:
Now we see a different side of Frank emerge. The dangerous side. All great warriors have one. Even Jamie. Neither he nor Frank are men that should be taken lightly, or be crossed. This excerpt shows Frank's humanity and decency and what drives him...the goal in which he sacrifices everything for: to discover and record what the Nazi's are doing in their 'camps' and to find proof of the atrocities so he can direct and focus the war effort to save the souls that rumours and intel say are suffering there...
This next passage is short, but powerful. In it, Frank is telling Jerry that it is a very dangerous mission. The kind that he may not come home from. In it, we see Frank's inner soul and his humility, his deep gratitude and respect for his fellow warrior's bravery and courage:
The story is all Jerry's for a while, then we skip to 2 years later to where Frank is personally visiting Jerry's wife, Marjorie Mackenzie, to inform her of her husband's death. This is not part of his job. Lesser ranked soldiers perform this heartbreaking, awful duty, but Frank takes it upon himself. That says a lot about the man. This part is in Marjorie's POV and she is rattled and terrified about what Frank's visit means. We see that although he is being professional in his duty, he misses Claire and has hopes of their having children:
The unhappy visit continues with Frank passing on a box to Marjorie that holds an award for Jerry, given posthumously. This next excerpt is long, but it shows a gentle, patient, considerate and thoughtful side of Frank we never got to see before:
That Frank is a good man cannot be denied any further, and the love he shows for the memory of a beloved wife he longs to get home to, should wipe the notions of infidelity off of every doubting Red Herring Chewer's lips. Do I sound bitter? No...just plain old happy...
Happy dancing with a cart of wine...SO me!
And this section of the book ends with Frank weathering the wrath of a broken-hearted widow who flings accusations and bitterness at him like daggers to the heart. He bears it stoically, even though you come to see that he too is a broken man who takes the burden willingly, hoping his being the target for the rage helps ease their pain somehow. His endless guilt and sorrow is palatable:
....then after she falls completely apart into hysterics, her mother, embarrassed and at a loss how to save face, Frank saves the day by remaining a calming force...
...and then we see a layer of Frank he rarely lets slip into view. The Big Reveal. The inner torment he silently lives with every day...
This made me sad. Oprah sad.
The book then goes back to Jerry and his trials and tribulations and it is a GREAT story, all of it. Not just because I feel Frank has been exposed as the great man and possibly the Tragic Hero of the Outlander series I believe him to be, but also that so many exciting tidbits are being revealed about the story as a whole.
Bloody good read. Thank you Diana.
I mentioned earlier how Frank sacrifices everything to direct the war effort towards identifying and outing the concentration camps, but I want to explain exactly what he sacrificed and what his efforts did: Frank didn't have to join the MI6 brank of the British Intelligence. He could have just been a desk jockey and watched the war from afar, using his position to make himself a soft, safe, comfy place to wait it out, but he rose to the occasion. And had Frank not concentrated on getting photos of the 'alleged' death camps, nobody would have known about them or believed they were real. Knowledge of the Death Camps fuelled the Allies desire to stop Hitler and the cruelty and inhumanity of the Third Reich, or as Diana wrote, finding out about them helped boost anti-Nazi sentiment.
But Frank's passionate commitment to ending the war came at a price...a price we are only now learning about. For certain, he came back from the war a changed man...one that Claire loved, but had to re-acquaint herself with, and one who I believe suffered PTSD (post traumatic shock disorder) from doing things, things we will learn about I hope, besides sending men he liked and respected like Jerry into certain death, knowing he was not only risking their lives, but destroying the lives of their families and loved ones. That burden had to scar Frank deeply, being the decent, kind, empathic man we now know that he was. It brings tears to my eyes to think what he might have gone through and his devastating guilt. And this disorder would explain his odd behaviour when he came home: the aloofness, inability to show much emotion, his distraction... everything.
Let me tell you a little secret. It is a little indelicate, but hear me out. I cannot go to the bathroom without thinking about Schindler's List. Sounds weird, right? but listen...the thing is, watching the part in the movie where the people, shoved into the boxcars like cattle, suffering gut-clenching fear, are on the rail to Auschwitz and my thoughts are stuck on one thing: 'there is no bathroom'. They are jammed shoulder to shoulder, with one small bucket on the corner to do their business in. The elderly, sick, or children especially, must have soiled themselves and the shame, embarrassment and stench must have been nauseating. Suffocating. The shock, tangible.
So, ONE movie, seen ONE time, has rendered me unable to go to the bathroom for the last 23 years without feeling, at the very least, a fleeting sadness for the victims of the Holocaust. Can you imagine the things Frank saw firsthand, and what he had to force himself to do in the YEARS of war...and what it rendered him unable to do...or say...or feel forever afterwards? My heart bleeds for him, and even though this part in Diana's story is all speculation on my part, I think I am safe in saying that any agent and soldier in the war had to do and see things that were imbedded in their minds eye and inescapable in their hearts, their entire lives. PTSD is not a modern or new disorder. We just KNOW about it now.
And we don't know if Frank was perpetually in danger because of his covert and treacherous war duties, or if he was still involved with British Intelligence after the war was over....and what they discovered about Time Travel (Jerry DID return remember? Chances are good that he enlightened Frank and a new TT division was created, even in secret) or how Frank may or may not have spent his life protecting Claire and Bree from forces they knew nothing about. Their being able to TT makes them valuable, no? That would explain any secrecy in their life together with Bree, any of the 'obvious' infidelities and 'obvious' proof of his being a bad husband. Regardless of the reasons, Claire is the only one in their marriage who we know for sure cheated. And we know Frank loved her despite the betrayal, and raised and loved another man's child. THAT sounds like the Frank we see in Hallows. THAT is a the man in the marble I want to see released and THAT is the love story I want to read about...
This does not interfere with the 'Jamie and Claire Love Story', and nor would I want it to. Although I am firmly TeamTVFrank, I have always been TeamBookJamie, and until BookFrank is sculpted complete, I remain so. There is no love like Jamie and Claire's...but I believe there was a similar love between Frank and Claire as well, proven by her need to cherish and always wear both wedding rings. And I want to know it.
So. That is my interpretation/review of Leaf and all it MAY mean to our beloved story of Outlander. Agree or disagree, but one thing is indisputably true..
...Diana certainly knows how to keep us away from doing the laundry.
...more fun Outlander memes: click here