Emily May's Reviews > Outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, 2011

I wanted to write a better review for this book to coincide with the release of the new TV series, where Jamie actually does look pretty hot...

Back when I read this as a wee lass (okay, like, three years ago), there weren't quite as many interesting interpretations of the novel going on. I remember reading a bunch of reviews that either sold it as sophisticated, well-researched historical fiction, or a trashy kilt-wearing romance full of sex, violence and violent sex. In my opinion, neither is too far from the truth.

I'm going to be honest: I never finished the series. And I'm starting to think that it's likely I never will. But this means nothing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first four books, which equates to several thousand pages of enjoyment. They are huge, time-consuming volumes, which is why starting one is such a huge commitment and why I think the remaining books may stay forever unread. But I still think Outlander, at least, is worth reading.

This book is an entertaining, fast-paced romp through 1783 and has numerous close encounters with torture, sexual assault, witch trials and a whole lot of bloodshed. I'm not going to sell you some spiel about historical accuracy - I don't have a damn clue what Scotland was really like in the 18th century - but I can promise that it's hard to avoid being dragged in and devoured by this novel that is as gruesomely violent as it is exquisitely romantic.

Oh, and about that... this book tells the story of Claire Randall who finds herself suddenly transported back a couple hundred years and lands amid the warfare and dangers of Scottish clan life. In these strange circumstances, she meets Jamie. Readers often end up completely divided over Jamie because, although he is sweet and lovable for the majority of the novel, there is one disturbing scene that saddens and enrages any sane 21st-Century reader, including me (though not sure about the sane).

So I will spoil that one thing for you if you like (it's not a major spoiler)... (view spoiler)

I always found Gabaldon's characters delightfully complex and well-developed. Maybe not everyone feels the same about Claire and Jamie, but I think one of the signs of a great writer is when they can really test my love for their characters, make them do the worst kind of things and still have me angsting over whether or not they would be okay in the end. And I cared for Claire and Jamie. They're one of the few literary couples that I have completely fallen in love with and cared about.

I only hope the TV series is just as good.

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Reading Progress

March 4, 2011 – Shelved
March 25, 2011 – Started Reading
March 27, 2011 –
page 85
March 28, 2011 –
page 85
9.49% "Experienced a boring first two chapters and then... wow. I'm really liking it."
April 2, 2011 –
page 153
April 2, 2011 –
page 213
April 3, 2011 –
page 267
April 4, 2011 –
page 363
April 4, 2011 –
page 363
40.51% "This is such an interesting and well-written novel... but did it really have to be 850 pages?? And did it have to be one of seven, all equally enormous installments?? Aah!"
April 5, 2011 –
page 426
April 8, 2011 –
page 525
April 8, 2011 –
page 645
April 8, 2011 –
page 744
April 8, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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Jennifer Lane Yes, the first two chapters are a bit slow but I'm glad you stuck with the story because it really takes off from there. Thanks for the friendship!

message 2: by Lyndsey (new)

Lyndsey Oh man, Ewan McGregor in a kilt!! Classic. :-) Great review.

Emily May Lyndsey wrote: "Oh man, Ewan McGregor in a kilt!! Classic. :-) Great review."

I know :D had to include that picture!

Catie 800+ pages per book does seem excessive, but it never fails that at the end of every one, I wish there was more.

Jennifer Lane Great review! I too was shocked by that bedroom scene but Jamie did redeem himself. And I totally agree that the novels could be shorter, but I still enjoy the series very much. My friends and I think of Jamie as the actor Kevin McKidd from Grey's Anatomy.

Too bad I don't have a photo with him in a kilt! Ha ha.

Catie Ask and ye shall receive...


Jennifer Lane LOL! Well done. :)

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I just read the Domestic Violence part and was SEETHING...so I'm glad I read your review and that he redeems himself. I guess I can continue reading now.

Emily May I heard about it before reading and I had to mentally prepare myself... it's a very disturbing and angering scene. But yes, I believe he does.

I also believe it's explained well in historical context (shortly after, I believe) because if Claire had been a man and pulled the stunt she did, she'd have been flogged within an inch of her life. But, because they didn't believe in doing that to women, she had to be punished but in a milder way. It still pisses me off, but when you consider it as preferable to the alternative it is easier to stomach, IMO.

I hope you're able to get back into it :)

Lucia Great review! I am planning to read one soon and I am glad I read your review now so I can mentally prepare for some sort of domestic violence...

Emily May Thanks Lucia! I'm glad I was able to prepare myself too :)

message 12: by Kitty (new)

Kitty So this is like Game of Thrones?

Emily May No, nothing like Game of Thrones. It's set in our world (though a few centuries earlier) and involves time travel. Plus, there's only two main characters.

Sadie Emily, this is what I'm always looking for. So well said: "...I think one of the signs of a great writer is when they can really test my love for their characters, make them do the worst kind of things and still have me angsting over whether or not they would be okay in the end."

message 15: by Elle (new) - added it

Elle One of my favorite books. Gabaldon has a way with words, even if she is a bit long winded. I'm still holding off on reading book 6 as I know it takes her years just to write one. Finishing up this series is a lifelong undertaking. LOL! Love the review!

Vanessa Great review! I really enjoyed reading Outlander but had never felt interested in reading the second book. I probably never will. The first book was enough for me. I guess I feel discouraged by how thick each book is.

I wasn't prepared for that disturbing scene. I couldn't believe Jamie could do something like that. And I thought Claire was too forgiving. Unlike some readers, that scene didn't ruin the whole book for me.

I look forward to the show too. First episode is on Aug 24th (For Canadians). Can't wait!

message 17: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike I'm looking forward to finally digging into this multi-genre series now that I've filled in the holes for the first five books. Those are indeed some hefty tomes but from all accounts well worth the time commitment. Give that YA a break and take that fifth book out for a spin!!!!

message 18: by Dee Jaee (new)

Dee Jaee McLean Awesome review, I picked it up and tried to read it earlier this year but it was such a daunting commitment... after reading your review I think I'll give it another go. So thanks!

message 19: by Patrycja (new)

Patrycja Great review xx

Katerina Great Review once again Emily. I am almost finished with the 1st book but i couldn't resist and saw the first 2 episodes of the series. So far their very good and very close to the story.

message 21: by Esther (new) - added it

Esther Now you make me want to read it.

message 23: by Megan (new)

Megan I think, I'll give it a go. Thanks for the great review.

Dichotomy Girl Don't feel bad for having no desire to finish. I originally read the first 3 books over 15 years ago, long before the others existed. And somehow in my head, this series is a trilogy, and complete in those first 3 books.

And I reread those first three every, to every other year because I love them.

I have actually read the 4th and 5th book, and though I enjoyed them on some level, it's like my mind doesn't recognize them as official "canon".

Graciela Tineo I am so glad someone else understands the importance of reading a book within it's historical context. I've read a lot of 1 star reviews that talk about the beating scene, which of course to us contemporary women is completely unjust. However, one must remember that Claire is living in the 1740s. Things were most certainly dealt with differently then and that's just the fact. All we can do is acknowledge how far we've come and get on with the story. Also, some other reviews talked about how they thought it was disturbing that Jamie always talked about getting beat by his dad and laughing about it. Seriously, all over the world kids get disciplined with a spanking. Also, I've never met anyone who didn't laugh while telling a story about a time they got whooped as a kid. Thankfully in the book Jamie does acknowledge the difference between how he got disciplined and how someone else really abused their kid.

message 26: by Ainhoareadsbooks (new)

Ainhoareadsbooks I rly want to read this but what age do you think it is for?

Sophie Wolff-Wigley Unicorn Clary, I'd say wait till fifteenish to read this book.

Jessica I read the first book when I was twelve or thirteen. I don't think the subject matter is that extreme for the average (especially American) kid of that age who has been exposed to considerably worse on public access television. I will say that rereading them as an adult, I noticed a whole lot that had gone completely over my head as a kid. The cultural literacy just isn't there yet.

Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ I've been scrolling through reviews of this book for an hour and it's pretty fascinating to read different reactions towards it. Truth is, I've never read it because I wasn't sure I could handle the (view spoiler). BUT I started the series with my bf last week and now I'm divided lol. On the one hand I'd love to see how everything unfolds on page, and on the other hand... Well, I *know* that I can handle stuff in series that I cannot in books (for example, I can't read GoT & esp. the way Daenarys' raped by her husband ; I could follow & love the series still, but I'm not sure how I would have reacted if I had read that :/). It's so weird to realize that I have different expectations/triggers depending on the media, and it makes me question the way I'm dealing with rape culture : why am I more lenient with series & movies when I wouldn't stand it in books? I know many fellow reviewers accept stuff in books that I cannot, and I'm not sure I would stand that scene here... It was pretty tame in the TV show (I had prepared myself for the worst, too) - is it the same in the book? Lol, sorry, I'm ranting under your review XD I just love reading way more than watching shows and I'm willing to try this one now but... I'm scared *hides* Anyway, thanks for your very thoughtful review.

Sunny ✨wordslikefury✨ As a person whose read the first few books, would you think it would be okay to watch the first season after only reading the first book? And then start the second season after reading the second book? I guess I’m asking whether each season strictly corresponds to each book. Or does the show mix it up and include scenes from book 2 in season 1? I just don’t want the show to ruin anything.

Sarah I like your comment that it’s not too far from the truth to say the book is a well-researched historical fiction or a trashy romance. It seems most people either loved it or hated it — I gave it three stars, and mine is one of the only middling reviews that I see. It seems some readers, yourself included, think the husband belts wife scene is necessary to judge, but not the issue of marital rape. I actually agree with your reasons for saying that it’s understandable that Claire would forgive Jamie for beating her under the circumstances, but I don’t think I would ever forgive a man for raping me. By my count Jamie forced himself on her sexually four times (disregarded her verbal refusal). I am sensitive about this issue. I guess not all women are. I admit I enjoyed the book, but not that part. I have noticed, and think it should be noticed, that many people who hated the book objected to the treatment of sexual violence.

Emily May Sarah wrote: "I like your comment that it’s not too far from the truth to say the book is a well-researched historical fiction or a trashy romance. It seems most people either loved it or hated it — I gave it th..."

I am usually sensitive to rape in books and I take it very seriously, but I didn't pick up on it between Claire and Jamie. It's been a long time since I read this, though. Where did you feel Jamie raped Claire?

Dichotomy Girl Sarah wrote: "I like your comment that it’s not too far from the truth to say the book is a well-researched historical fiction or a trashy romance. It seems most people either loved it or hated it — I gave it th..."

In Jamie's time and even still in Claire's time, it wouldn't have been thought of as rape, it would have been a man rightfully taking what was "his" and a woman performing her wifely duties. Is it disturbing? Yes. But one of my biggest pet peeves in historical fiction is when they try to give the characters "modern" sensibilities. I mean, history was horrible, and humans as a whole are an ugly race. Don't try and sugarcoat it.

Emily May @Dichotomy Girl This is also an interesting point, but I'd still really like to know where people thought Jamie raped Claire. There's a lot of rape in this series - arguably, a gratuitous amount - but I genuinely missed any point when it was Jamie raping Claire. Google was unhelpful.

Veronica (Ronni) Burns If I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, will I enjoy the second one as much? I loved the review but I am on the fence about reading the next one...

Emily May Veronica (Ronni) wrote: "If I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, will I enjoy the second one as much? I loved the review but I am on the fence about reading the next one..."

I think so! I remember the first three books all being very good.

message 38: by Michael (new)

Michael After debating whether or not I should read this due to some of the negatives people said about it, I'm going to give it a shot! I looked at the spoiler you put up and I do have a better understanding of that scene now that you clarified it! I now feel comfortable picking up this book sometime!

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