I read this book you may have heard of and…
I liked it!
A lot of people have come to Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, via the Starz TV series. I came to it because I saw the paperback sitting in my apartment building’s common room lending library and decided to pick it up.
I read a lot of YA, because I write YA, but it’s essential to read outside of your genre, something I hadn’t done in a little while. It’s also good for writers to read bestsellers (within reason) and figure out why they’re bestsellers. And I do like time travel, though I’m not generally a huge fan of straight historical fiction or straight romance–but I was pleased to find that Outlander doesn’t fall neatly into either category.
The summary, from Goodreads:
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.
So why did I like this book? (Warning: some spoilers below.)
1. The Setting is just so richly drawn. I started reading the book, the rest of the world fell away. I was 100% in the highlands of Scotland. From the dialogue to the description, it was just so, so well done.
2. Claire Hooray for strong female protagonists! I loved how non-damsel-in-distress-y she was, how smart she was, and how resourceful. I took notes for my own writing
3. The Slow-Burn Romance I despise insta-love; I love slow-burn romance. And this one took its sweet-ass time. But I love that. Jamie and Claire are friends for a long, long time before anything happens, so that when they finally do get together, it’s totally believable and so satisfying.
4. The History Gabaldon clearly did a tremendous amount of research for this book and managed to write it in a way that was fresh. From the castles to the politics, it was just so well drawn. Also, I adore a good rebellion story; I feel a certain amount of kinship with countries who have had to rise up against the British (because I’m American? Because I have Irish ancestors? I’m not sure). Go Scotland! (And yes, I know how this is going to go, but it’s fiction, so maybe not?)
The Less Good (SPOILERS here):
1. The Length I have no problem with long books, as long as they have a reason to be so long. This book had a great pace at the beginning, which was mostly maintained through the middle, and then at the end it all kind of fell apart. The last few chapters were something of a chore to get through, and I was very happy when it was all over.
2. The (SPOILER) Beating Scene I really hated it. I understand “things were different back then” but what I couldn’t understand is a character as strong and stubborn as Claire forgiving Jamie, who is himself such a sweet, kind person, for BEATING HER WITH A BELT AGAINST HER WILL. I nearly stopped reading then, not necessarily because it happened; but because it seemed a break in character for both of them.
3. Rape and Torture It was too graphic for me. I understand that that stuff went on in eighteenth century Europe and some people like it described, but I much prefer these sorts of things to be hinted at rather than described outright. Ugh.
4. Wolf wrestling Why? Just … why?
Did I watch the show?
Yes, I watched the first season as I was reading the book, making sure I didn’t spoil myself with the show before I got to that part in the book. Then I started listening to this podcast along with everything else, so things were very Outlander-heavy in my home for a couple of weeks. I liked the show very much! The podcast was a little too in-depth for me, and didn’t end up finishing the whole thing.
Will I read the sequels?
Definitely not anytime soon. But I do want to continue with the TV series, so most likely at some point.
7/10 stars for me.
Have you read or watched or listened to Outlander? What did you think?