I. HAVE. BEEN. OBSESSED with Outlander the tv show as of late and when I went to the bookstore a couple of weeks ago and saw the book staring up at me from the shelf I knew that I had to read it right away. Here are my thoughts:
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Adult historical romance
Paperback: 864 pages
Published: Delacorte Books, June 1st 1991
Series: Outlander Book #1
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
I feel like I just read a marathon. This was 864 monster pages full of gruesome violence, intense action, steamy scenes and just an all-around view of the Highlander way of life. And it was all epic!
Something that surprised me was how accurate the TV show is to the book. In certain parts, there are more details in the book but likewise, sometimes the TV show adds more to the book which I thought complimented the story so well. So I recommend watching and reading this series to get a full view of the world and characters.
Speaking of which, I thought the characters were the strongest part of this book by far. It’s hard not to be when a book is 864 pages long and tells someone’s whole journey. We are brought along from Claire’s first person point of view and I love how much of a grasp we get of her character. She is flawed, there’s no doubt about that, but it makes her struggle in a new time that much more believable. I loved her fearlessness and her feminism in a time when women didn’t really speak out against men.
I also adored Jamie Fraser. He was the classic strong Scottish warrior but it was his caring and loving side that really made him so loveable and dynamic. He is also flawed and yes, the controversial beating scene was difficult to read but I don’t wish that Gabaldon didn’t include it because as much as we may like to erase it, those were the times and Jamie and Claire come to reconcile healthily.
Here’s a gif of his perfection!:
Another aspect of the book that I loved was the history and world building. Gabaldon made this a key focus when writing Outlander and I appreciated the enormous amount of research and effort that must have gone into creating one description. From the architecture to the running of a house or business and to the rolling green hills and lochs of Scotland it was all included to give the audience a vivid view of the world and times. I really enjoyed the inclusion of folklore and magic in the story too. I loved hearing about Scotland’s old tales and the way fear crippled society when it came to the dark arts. It made the reading experience so immersive and realistic. I want to visit Scotland so bad right now!!
While of course there is an overarching plot of Claire coming to grips with the new world and time and adjusting to life, there isn’t really a subplot, more like mini storylines that arise and get resolved. I actually found this way of storytelling both new and well-handled. It would be easy for the audience to become bored this way but there was never a time when I felt that way. However at times I found the pacing to be a bit sporadic. Sometimes you’d be flipping the pages, begging to know what happens next and other times you’d read four pages and feel as though that was enough because not much was happening. But the plot was definitely enough to keep me entertained and interested in Claire’s adventures.
The time travel facet of this book was so awesome and it made me want to touch some random stones to see if the same thing will happen to me. It was interesting the way Gabaldon decided to make it so that time was a continuum rather than just two separate times which, in my opinion, will be harder to flesh out and explain but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to me to see how it’s done.
One thing that did bother me was how much rape was used as a plot device. Once or twice I could handle, but it seemed as though all conflict and action in the book was a result of sexual violence. I mean, there’s no quota on how much an author can use it and yes, sadly rape was all too common in those times but perhaps I felt it was a bit of a cop-out to just use rape constantly as a means of creating intensity in the story.
The writing was suitably well executed. Nothing spectacular, but it solidly covered all bases in terms of description, dialogue and development of the story and ensured that the audience remained hooked in what was happening.
The only other thing I can say is that this book is not for everyone. Even at times I found myself cringing or wishing a certain scene was over because of how absorbed you are, even if reading parts was difficult. There’s rape, torture, child abuse, domestic violence, homophobia and gender inequality. What I can attest to was that this book handled all delicate topics with respect, whether you agree with their execution is solely up to the individual reader.
I gave Outlander:
If any of you have read this book, let me know what you thought. Do you agree with me or not? Or have I convinced any of you to give this series a go? Let me know!
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll talk to you in my next post!