I’ve got a mostly spoiler-free review of this 800 page monster, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Yes I read an adult novel and I enjoyed it! Now let’s dive into it…
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander (#1)
Genres: Historical fiction, Romance
Publication: June 1st 1991 by 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.
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 got through this faster than I thought I would. Despite some problematic scenes, I enjoyed most of the book. It wasn’t as graphic as the impression I got from a lot of readers and I’m pleased about that. My thoughts on this book and the characters in particular may be unconsciously influenced by the TV show adaptation as I have watched the first season of it and those thoughts may merge with my experience reading this novel.
Nonetheless, this was a truly emotional read with the many close encounters of torture, assault, rape and a whole lot of violence. I know this turned a lot of people off the book but I believe it helped illustrate the harshness of Claire’s situation. However, it did get to a point where it was a tad too much and its prevalence became repetitive.
Most of the brutal scenes were told with dialogue in retrospect reflecting on the human psyche and reactions which were hard enough to read. I don’t think I could handle reading the real time events.
There were so many twists and turns throughout the story which made the story so dramatic and intense.
Now I have to talk about the “most controversial” scene which made a lot of people drop the book and walk away. It’s going to spoil the book but I think it’s important to mention the beating scene. There’s a lot more to that but if you can’t stand that at all, you should probably turn away from this book. If you’re still curious you can take a peek in this spoiler section:
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I was absolutely dreading the scene where Jamie beats Claire because no matter the time period, it’s horrible and unpleasant. From all its hype, I thought the actual scene would be longer and more graphic (thank goodness it wasn’t). The reasoning behind the beating is something that although I don’t condone, there is historical relativity. I don’t think I would have mattered whether Claire was a man or woman in that situation. It was the fact that her actions put the clan in danger and that was to be punished. It was more of an obligation.
What actually angered me the most was the fact that afterwards, Jamie said that he enjoyed it and continues to make fun of her. I can in no way justify that taunting and it really conflicted with what he initially called a “duty”. The romanticism – that’s definitely NOT okay. At all.
Even with all the stories Jamie told about his numerous beatings for discipline and such, I can’t accept this behaviour no matter the historical relevance. He found pleasure in it. Nope nope nope nope. Nope.
And then what frustrated me even more was how soon Claire forgave him. A 20th century, headstrong woman “got over” this way too quickly. Ummm no.
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The worldbuilding is absolutely amazing and it really helps immerse yourself into the story. I can’t really comment on the accuracy of 18th century Scotland because I don’t know much myself. However, the author has been extremely thorough in showing the lifestyle and customs of the times. VERY thorough. There so many details, even the most minuscule things that added to the story but made parts really tedious. I definitely think this book could be condensed and still produce a similar experience with this world and characters.
The characters are so dimensional and crafted so complexly. There were aspects of the main characters that I didn’t necessarily agree with but I think they were well-rounded characters. I think it’s good when an author can still make you care for the characters and be concerned about their outcomes until the very end considering all their flaws. Both Claire and Jamie are extremely stubborn characters so I loved seeing their fierce and passionate relationship grow. I enjoyed how the friendship built to a romantic relationship and continued to blossom as they continued to get to know one another. This ain’t your typical love story.
Claire: I liked her for the majority of the book and I think she did well thinking of how to get out of the most preposterous situations and difficult circumstances. She has enough adventure to last her 2 lifetimes. She adapts very well to the time and place especially in her bizarre position. Also I really loved the fact that she continues to use her brain (at least for the first half) to beat possibly tackle every situation. Her dialogue peppered with colourful language (basically swearing) was a joy to read.
Now she’s in a bit of a pickle from the start and I understood her conflicting feelings love, devotion, guilt and betrayal but I didn’t understand the many times that she did more than what was necessary. Hopefully some part of that makes sense. Claire’s nickname; Sassenach. I know it was used as an insult in the beginning and I don’t know if I’m being nitpicky, but Jamie continued to use it as a form of endearment and I found that so irritating. Is that just me?
Jamie: I find most people love him or hate but I find myself rather conflicted. Most of the time, he acted in a more patient and gentlemanly especially in comparison to the other clan members. I just found it rather odd that he showed such high respect to women especially Claire (although it was probably because he was falling in love with her) when she was a stranger and there was a chance that she was an English spy. He put so much trust in her that I didn’t make sense.
Nonetheless, there are many admirable qualities that Jamie possesses, always sensitive and trying to the best for people. His strength, both mentally and physically is amazing, alongside his devotion and loyalty. I will say that I am fond of him and this mostly grew from his adventures, sacrifices and fierce protection of Claire and his family – rather than those scenes of physical intimacy. But he still didn’t reach the swoon level that many people place him.
Jonathan (AKA Black Jack): officially the worst villain I have ever read, seen, heard about in my entire existence. He is the most disgusting and vile fictional character I have EVER come across *deep breath*. He’s also a foul, loathsome cockroach (I realise that I’ve just quoted Hermione who always comes to me in times of need) who has no redeemable qualities whatsoever, and deserves a painful and torturous death. Yes I hate him. Just when you think he can’t get worse, he does. Even mentioning him enrages me. The way he tortured Jamie was horrific and sometimes I needed to stop reading because it was so bad – being flogged, branded, raped, beaten… there aren’t to describe how awful that experience is.
An aspect of the book that really bothered me were the sex scenes where Jamie acted in a dominant manner – that definitely irritated me. I also found it rather odd as he held Claire in a high regard, almost as an equal most of the time (another thing I thought was out of place for the time but I greatly appreciated).
I really appreciated that the dialogue was written the way it was to be spoken and I even mentally adapted a Scottish accent whilst reading it. This book is so eventful, however there were many points in the novel where it was super slow and I will repeat myself; there was too much detail.
Outlander is crazy from start to finish which makes it an epic story and an entertaining read. This is such a unique book and I have never read anything remotely like this. A truly emotional read.
How often do you read adult fiction? Are you a fan of time travelling plots? Share ALL your thoughts on this book. Comment below!
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