Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
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.Goodreads
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 gotta say, despite all the hype around this series, this book in particular, and having seen part of the first season of the TV show, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I knew that it was a historical fiction with a twist but I wish I had been aware of some things, such as all the rape and violence towards women and men, before I started.
As with most books, there were some things I really enjoyed in the book, and other things that I feel either didn’t make sense or that I just didn’t really like.
The Female Characters
All of the characters we meet throughout the story are well developed and they all have their own motivations driving them that we discover throughout the book. That alone is amazing. I mostly read YA books and I feel like at times individual motivations can become lost or completely ignored in YA. In Outlander, the different motivations of the characters are made very clear through their actions, which I think is very good storytelling. The female characters though, were absolutely amazing. Based on their age, station in life, and other things, their actions and motivations made a lot of sense and I really enjoyed reading about their interactions. Especially between Claire and Laoghaire or Claire and Geillis.
In my opinion, the best character in the book is Geillis. She was so interesting and was the definition of a woman who kicks ass and takes names. She is significantly younger than her husband and is one of the few woman in the village who essentially has a career. I’m not going to say any more to avoid spoilers, but she is just such a fun character.
The Accuracy? I suppose
When reading a historical fiction something I like to focus on is how accurately the author sticks to the time period they are writing in. This means clothing, social status of women vs men, social status based on wealth, religion, you get the point.
Something that really stuck out to me was how well Diana Gabaldon stuck to the authenticity of the two time periods she wrote in. Especially when it came to injuries and how those injuries were dealt with. People die in war and people get seriously injured in war. It makes complete sense for a main or secondary character were to either die or get seriously injured. And guess what, that happens, and it stays true to the time period as well.
The Descriptions of the Setting
Ooooooh girl (or boi). This was hands down the best part of the writing. Lemme just:
“We came down from the braes near Loch Madoch, pressing through the chilly dawn mist to the edge of a still sheet of grey. Wild ducks began to rise from the reeds in untidy flocks that circled the marshes, quacking and calling to rouse late sleepers below.553
Isn’t that nice??? The descriptions of the settings in this book are just so transportive and vivid. That quote above makes me feel like I’m in Scotland again walking around a park freezing my ass off, wishing I could go somewhere and get a cup of tea, while still having a great time. I love it.
Holy shit Randall is vile. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever hated an antagonist as much as I hate him. Which, to be completely honest, I feel like is a good sign of an antagonist for the most part. This book is incredibly graphic in its depictions if violence and abuse, sexual or otherwise, and most of it was caused by Randall. It was very hard to read about the mental and physical breaking of a character, and it was just as hard to read about the recovery of the character as well. Characters like Randall thrive in wartime, military situations, especially when they are high ranking officers just like Randall. His character makes complete sense and I wanted him to die every time he was in a scene. Reading about what he did wasn’t fun. But hating him was fun.
This isn’t exactly BAD I would say. However, it’s definitely not for everyone and can be very triggering for some people. I was genuinely surprised at 1- the lack of discussion about all the violence, sexual and otherwise, in the book, and 2- there was no trigger warning at the beginning of the book! The graphic portrayals of some of the violence was so gruesome that I had to put the book down and walk around to shake it off.
Specifically, there’s a lot of rape/attempted rape. And violence. And physical abuse (towards men and women). Which I can be fine reading about in books so long as there is a purpose for it being there. There were some scenes that I feel went over the top with the violence or that were unnecessary to the plot or to the portrayal of a character. Some of it did make sense though, due to the time period and the rampant violence and rape that happened during that time. I don’t really know how I feel about it all still. It’s a very touchy subject for many people and I think that at the very least people deserve to know what they’re getting into when reading a book.
Pacing was a little weird
I wrote this down while I was reading the book and I think it pretty much says it all: Where is the plot going? I get this is a character driven book but I’m almost halfway through the book and I’m not entirely sure where it’s going.
As you can see, I feel like the plot lost its way a bit in the middle of the book. Towards the middle I genuinely didn’t know what the end goal of the plot was or where it was going. In some parts of the book the pacing was relatively fast, especially towards the beginning and the end, but the middle of the book was so damn slow. I don’t know if authors get paid per page, I doubt it, but that’s honestly what it felt like throughout the middle portion of Outlander.
What About Frank??
Also how has she not felt guilty about all the sex she’s been having with Jamie???? I mean seriously they’ve had a ridiculous amount of sex and maybe once has she been like “oh shit, I’m cheating on Frank”. I mean, I got weird vibes from him anyway but still! She had very little remorse about having loads of sex with Jamie and not even sparing a thought to Frank and how he was coping with her just disappearing in the middle of the Scottish Highlands.
Fantasy or Nah? Make up your damn mind
**This part is slightly spoiler-y – not plot wise but it does spoil something**
I was very confused about the “waterhorse” scene… like is this fantasy or not? Are we actually supposed to believe that it’s a solitary dinosaur from the Jurassic period?!?! Then it was slightly touched on in with the witch hunt but after that it’s not mentioned and no other “fantasy” type stuff happens. If Diana Gabaldon wanted this to be slight fantasy or magical realism she could have included other Scottish mythology. It was just so out of place from the rest of the story that I don’t really understand the point of it.
**Ok spoiler over**
In my opinion, Outlander is much more than a historical romance. Especially considering the heavy topics covered in the book. The relationship between Claire and Jamie is definitely the focus of the story, as we watch them grow and bond over the various trials they face throughout the book. However I feel like it’s more than just that, though I can’t really place it well anywhere else. I just know that I don’t understand why, when everyone reads this book, they come out of it swooning over Jamie when so much shit happens in it. Don’t get me wrong, I do really like Jamie, I’m just not over here dreaming about him because I’m too disgusted with some of the things that happened in the book. Especially toward the end.
All in all I did enjoy reading the book. I’ll probably read the next book in the series to see if I want to continue. However, this book is definitely not for people who have triggers including rape, sexual abuse, regular abuse, sexual and regular torture.
Have you read Outlander? What did you think of it?