Kate McMurray's Reviews > Outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
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Jan 29, 2013

bookshelves: romance-book-club
Read from January 15 to 28, 2013

Och, Outlander, I dinna ken how to rate ye.

I considered writing this whole review in Scottish dialect, but I will be charitable and spare you.

I liked the book on the whole and felt like it was compelling enough to keep reading. Here are some jumbled thoughts:

1. It takes a long time to get going. And it's too long in general. There are whole chapters that could have been cut without affecting how the book plays out. It ends up being kind of a kitchen sink of a book, with any bit of Scottish lore thrown in for good measure, and it's too much.

2. Frank and Captain Randall looking identical is a detail I found distracting. Any time it was mentioned, I thought to myself that the same actor would play both characters in the movie.

3. Jamie is a tremendously likable hero, but he does some things that almost make him unredeemable.

4. Then again, the narrative goes out of its way to acquit the two main characters of any wrongdoing. Jamie's long and very logical explanation of why it's totally okay to beat your wife and children, for example. I guess since Claire buys it, we're just supposed to be like, "Oh, okay, sure." But then at the end, a monk shows up to tell Claire that she didn't do anything wrong, nope, no polygamy or murder here, nope, conscious clear, hooray!

5. The conflict over Frank vs. Jamie felt... I don't know. Unnecessary. It means Claire is a morally troublesome character. Why did Frank have to be her husband? Couldn't he just be, like, a dude she was interested in? That was a deliberate choice Gabaldon made.

6. Also, Claire is not that smart. Sorry.

7. I think of this as kind of a chicken-and-egg book. There's a bunch of stuff here that I've seen before—time travel via henge, gay character as supervillain, more attempted rape than you can shake a stick at—but given the copyright date, I suspect that a lot of writers drew on Outlander as inspiration.

8. The portrayal of gay characters is really, really problematic. Claire reacts with revulsion whenever one is mentioned. Here we have two: one is the supervillain, the other is so ridiculous no one takes him seriously.

9. But the supervillain. He is 100% evil with no shades of good. He is responsible for every terrible thing that ever happened to Jamie. His apparent homosexuality is a part of his evil—like, he gets off on other people suffering and also wants to fuck Jamie and isn't that evil of him?—and he lacks anything that makes him really compelling. That is, he's clearly dangerous and keeps turning up with the stakes are high, but he's not interesting and it is never explained why he's got such a hard on for Jamie. They have kind of a Javert-Valjean thing going, but what is Randall's motivation? We never find out. (It's kind of implied that Jamie looks like Randall's little brother whom Randall is in love with, but, like... oh, right, just in case he wasn't evil enough, he's also into incest. Uck.)

10. This book is CRAZY. I like some crazy in my epic romance, so most of it I was totally cool with, but there are bits that seem over the top.

11. I did not understand the scene at the end when Claire forces Jamie to hallucinate and suddenly he's totally over his trauma. Wut?

12. Spelled-out dialect is a total pet peeve of mine. I got used to it at the end of the book, but I found it annoying at first.

13. I skimmed a lot of the fight and torture scenes because I'm somewhat averse to violence. But it's interesting (troubling) to me that the sex scenes are mostly fade to black but the big torture scene at the end is lovingly described. Twice!

14. I'm curious enough about what happens to these characters that I might someday read more of the series, but the description of the next book sounds even more insane and I don't know if I'm on board for that.

And yet I mostly enjoyed reading the book.
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Reading Progress

01/26 page 316
36.0% "Dear Jamie Fraser: I dinna think I would like ye as much as I do, but I daresay I wish your book were shorter." 2 comments
04/30 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Val (new)

Val Kovalin I hear you, especially on the wife-beating and points 1, 6, 11, and 13. Point 1 bears repeating, especially this: There are whole chapters that could have been cut without affecting how the book plays out.

This book was painful for me to read, and it only gets worse as the series continues (we're talking unnecessary italicized flashbacks that stop the action dead and stretch on for chapters).

Heidi Belleau I am a huge Outlander fan and even I would advise not reading past the second book LOL

I wish I'd stopped, but now that I haven't, I'm trapped, never to escape.

message 3: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate McMurray We had a very lively discussion at my book club meeting last night (which is why I read the book) and it seems no one has made it past Book 2 yet, so I will consider myself so advised. I'm glad I read it, but wow.

message 4: by Reggie (new)

Reggie Oh, good. I thought I was the only one who stopped at Book 2. In fact, I closed my eyes through much of Book 2. ;-P

Heidi Belleau I really loved Book 2, but after that with the travelling to America stuff etc. I just got bored and frustrated and annoyed, and the unnecessary info/chapters/characters and general bloatedness of the books only gets worse as the series progresses.

However, I will say I really like the Lord John mystery series, probably because they're much tighter stories.

Jenre I've read all the books but I do agree, they are very bloated at times and it gets worse as the series continues. Book 3, Voyager, is my favourite because we get to see a lot of Jamie without Claire. I really like Jamie, despite his many flaws :).

I agree with Heidi that the Lord John mysteries are much better, plus he is a sympathetic gay character.

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