Mandy Moody's Reviews > Outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
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's review
Dec 27, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction

I enjoyed outlander a lot more the second time around. It was a surprise. I don't know what's different about me, but clearly something is. A hair shy of 4 stars. Checking out the sequel :)

HATED this thing the first time why am I trying to again, 5 years later? Because the TV show is getting awesome reviews from sources I normally agree with. So we'll see what I think this time.

Original review, Feb 2009:
Outlander is the story of Claire, a young woman who magically steps through a portal to the past, ending up in 1743 Scotland, caught in a tug of war between the English (represented by the awful Captain Randall, who happens to be the ancestor - and spitting image of - Claire's 1945 husband, Frank) and the Scottish.
The first few chapters of this book were very slow and very tedious. The only thing that kept me going was the promise of some bodice-ripping romance. Gabaldon's writing is weak, her descriptions are repetitive, her dialog cumbersome.
Claire is supposed to be consumed with the desire to return to her own time and her husband, Frank. However, her thoughts of him seem forced, any mention of him seems to be an after thought. There's an odd detachment about it. Throughout much of the middle of the book she is supposedly on her way back to the stones of Craigh na Dun (the portal that she came through) so she can return to 1945. However, her desire to get back just isn't all that convincing - Claire seems to be enjoying herself - even before she is 'forced' to marry Jamie.
After learning that the English mean harm to poor Claire, the Laird's second in command, Dougal, determines that she must be protected. By marrying Jamie, she becomes Scottish, and is therefore safe.
Though they are well acquainted (and friendly) with each other, Claire professes to be unwilling to marry Jamie. Her protestations are entirely unconvincing.
Jamie is the most compelling character in the book. He's a great hero, even if much of his personality is unrealistic.
I'm still giggling about him being a virgin on their wedding night...yeah, right. I'm sure lots of guys made it to 23 in the 18th century without losing their virginity. And his learning about sex from farm animals...Gabaldon was really reaching. I can't figure out why she wanted him to be so innocent! He's so strong and protective of Claire - yet in the bedroom he's totally dependent on her. It's an interesting juxtaposition. I'm sure it was intentional, it's just not terribly believable, and I can't figure out what purpose it serves.
In chapter 20 Jamie leaves Claire in a meadow and goes to meet with a man who may be able to help clear his name of the charge the English have against him. But first he tells her to stay put - threatening he'll 'tan your bare arse wi' my sword belt' if she leaves before he comes back for her.
Claire wanders around, thinking about Jamie and the birds in the area, before she eventually realizes that this is the opportunity she's been waiting for - a chance to get back to the stones and to Frank.
So she takes off. And of course it ends badly, with her being captured by the English.
Jamie rescues her - AGAIN - and once she's safe he makes good on his promise to punish her.
The 'beating' was ridiculous. The whole thing. From Jamie's enjoyment of it to Claire's was just silly. I wouldn't say I found it offensive, I certainly didn't find it sexy...I just thought it ridiculous.
Obviously it was supposed to bring Jamie and Claire closer together, and I'm sure it did, but it just seemed like a joke to me.
Once they are back at the castle life is picturesque for a while. Jamie and Claire are happy together, and it's sweet.
When the Duke of Sandringham comes there's a lot of talk about how much he likes Jamie. I wonder why Jamie is so irresistible to these gay men who have power? It's another example of his vulnerability, I suppose.
This book has a very predictable pattern - Claire gets in trouble and Jamie saves her, then Jamie gets in trouble and Claire saves him.
The last chapter of this section was one of my favorite parts in the book - Claire and Geilie are 'arrested' and put in the thieves hole to await their trial for witchcraft. We find out just how evil Geilie is and another bit character, Solicitor Ned Gowan, comes to defend Claire in her trial. Of course (in keeping with the books established pattern) it's Jamie, not Ned, who saves Claire in the end.
After she's safe, Claire tells Jamie the truth about where she's from. He believes her story and takes her back to Craigh na Dun. She doesn't realize that's where they're headed until they're almost there, of course, and therefore has no time to think about what decision she'll make.
At the stones they realize that the portal is still open and operating, and she can get back.
Jamie is a great romantic character, and leaves her to herself. He tells her he'll wait in an abandoned cottage until evening, to make sure she's safe.
Claire stays on the hill for a long time - agonizing over her decision between 1945 and Frank, or 1743 and Jamie.
I was rooting for Jamie, of course - and I'll admit, I teared up when she went back to him.
But I was irritated that the decision wasn't more difficult for ME, the reader. Franks character wasn't well established in the beginning, I felt no attachment to him. Claire never seemed to miss him enough for me to consider him Jamie's rival. She never thought about him, never compared him to Jamie in any meaningful way. He had nothing to offer her, as far as I knew.
I felt like this could have been a really emotional part, it should have been harder.
After Claire makes the decision to stay with Jamie they return to his home at Lallybroch. Here we waste a bunch of time with the addition of some minor characters and dozens of tedious descriptions. We also get to hear the story of Alex MacGreggor here - a young man who Jamie never knew, but who shared his prison. Alex killed himself after being raped by the terribly captain Randall, and Jamie has his Bible. One day he's return it to his mother and tell her that her son was avenged.
The bit about poor Alex was very obvious foreshadowing - done in the cheesiest of ways. It's also just one more example of the over riding theme of this book - violent sex.
Eventually, the peace of Lallybroch is shattered, and the shit hits the fan yet again. Jamie is captured by the English - Claire takes off to rescue him, of course.
The number of things that go wrong for this woman is almost comical. She actually has to fight off a pack of wolves. How dramatic can you get?!
Jamie's time in prison was terrifying.
Jamie's recounting of his time in prison after he's rescued is terrifyingly disturbing. IMO, Gabaldon really overstepped the line between offering realistic description and being needlessly graphic.
The gay-rape/torture was over the top.
Claire's 'healing' of Jamie at the abbey in France was just as over the top. Using opium to help him reenact the whole thing (only this time, he can fight back) to break his fever and heal his mind and body?
And the fact that it works - that Jamie is suddenly good as new - sort of made me want to vomit.
The end scene in the mineral pools under the abbey was almost as disgusting - just because it was so gratuitous. Haven't we already been shown that Jamie is whole again? Wasn't his slipping into her bed (even though he wasn't sure he was ready) proof enough of that?
Outlander was a waste of time. I kept reading it only because it was a book of the month selection for a reading group that I really enjoy, and because I wanted to be sure that it wasn't going to get better. Though there were sections I enjoyed, the overall crappiness of the book never really improved. Too bad, because I think it was a cool idea, and if written differently (completely differently) it could have been a really good story. I wouldn't say it was the WORST book I ever read, but it's definitely at the bottom of the stack.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sara W Hahaha, I'm so glad I stopped reading this book! Someone just commented on my review and I wanted to see who else disliked this book. Love your review!

Mandy Moody Definitely sucked. I can't believe I finished it! LOL

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