Series: Outlander #1
Published by Bantam Dell on June 2, 1992
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Add to Goodreads
Purchase @ Amazon • Purchase @ The Book Depository • Purchase @ Chapters Indigo • Purchase @ Kobo
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...
In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon - when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone 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's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning 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 passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire... and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Outlander is a book I have known about for so long I can’t even remember when I first heard of it. I have had Outlander in the back of my mind for years as a book I thought I would like. I love Scotland and especially the highlands, and since that is the main setting of this book I was immediately endeared to it. When my aunt offered to lend me her copies of the series, I was so excited to dive into these massive books – especially with the TV series starting soon!
Well. Frankly, I was disappointed. Unfortunately, there was so much in this book that didn’t work for me:
1. The Rape
The book starts with an “almost” rape scene, and it just keeps going from there. Gabaldon frequently uses rape to indicate the “bad guys”, which I find problematic. It’s also completely excessive: reading about rape constantly and with such explicit detail left me with an icky feeling throughout my entire reading experience. I understand and enjoy historical accuracy but Gabaldon’s use of rape just felt superfluous. (This article from Bibliodaze talks about the issue intelligently with Game of Thrones and Outlander as examples.) In particular, there was one rape incident at the end of the book that I felt was extremely overdone; leaving the book with that fresh in my mind was not a pleasant experience.
2. The Beating
Again, I appreciate that Gabaldon was trying to be historically accurate (at least I assume that’s what she was doing…), but her use of beating hurt my stomach. There is one violent scene that I felt was sexist and repulsive. One of my favourite characters was the offender in this scenario, and I never really got over it. To make matters worse, several characters continue to bring up corporal punishment as a discussion point throughout the rest of the book – even laughing about it at times – and each time, it just brought my memory back to that one horrible scene.
3. The Adultery
In general I don’t like books that involve cheating because it’s not something I’m morally comfortable with. In Outlander, I was able to get past it to a certain extent because the little we see of Claire and Frank’s relationship at the beginning of the book did not feel convincing to me. That being said, I never felt like Claire made a conscious choice and I was frustrated with the way she handled her two relationships.
4. The Romance
This is mostly my fault, but I had NO idea that the Outlander series is a romance series, until I got to all the sex. I’m not a prude (and I have read romance novels before!), but I just felt that it was WAY over-the-top. I really enjoyed Claire and Jamie’s romance, but I didn’t like how explicit Gabaldon was with her frequent sex scenes. I also find it frustrating (after doing a little research) that apparently Gabaldon refuses to call this series a romance.
5. The Writing
For me, I felt 50/50 on this – while I loved Gabaldon’s writing in parts, and felt that her knack for description and humour was completely on point, at other times it felt very blah. I would read passages, then think that a whole five pages had been useless in terms of plot advancement, characterization, etc. While I don’t think this is a reason to not read the book – especially since Gabaldon has some real gems in Outlander - her writing style didn’t make the reading experience particularly pleasurable for me. I think if I had loved her writing more, some of my other issues with the book would have been more easily overlooked.
While I certainly have some complaints, I also really did love some things about Outlander. Here’s what I did like:
1. The Setting
As I said before, I love the Scottish highlands. I visited about a year ago, in June 2013, and it was the best trip I have ever been on. There’s something that I find so appealing – the climate, the landscape, the culture… in general, it’s almost a guarantee that if something involves the Scottish highlands, I will love it.
2. The Characters
Claire I found a bit annoying, stupid, and frustrating at times, but I loved her all the same and her difficult journey through time is fascinating. She really weathers it admirably considering how difficult such an experience would be. But Jamie is the real charmer of this book, and he’s what really drew me in. There’s not much to dislike about him, and I can’t imagine a better hero of such an epic story.
3. The Premise
Time travel is something that has always fascinated me, and some of my favourite books (My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares, Pilgrim by Timothy Findley, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson) involve time travel in one way or another. It’s interesting to consider the moral, ethical, and of course, practical implications of time travel, and I love to see how different authors explore this difficult topic. No exception here – Gabaldon’s theory of time travel was completely absorbing!
All in all, this was not an immediate favourite; the bad outweighed the good for me. I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up book two. For one thing, the synopsis of Dragonfly in Amber sounds so different from Outlander that it has me intrigued (but also wary in other ways). I think I will return to the Outlander series, but after a long break. As for the TV show, I’m definitely going to give it a try – I can see Outlander working so well in a visual form and perhaps some of my issues with the book will be alleviated in cinematic form.
“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”
Join the Convo!
Have you read Outlander? Is it on your TBR list? What did you think about the beating, the rape, and the adultery? Did you love the premise but ended up being disappointed by the content, like me? How did the second book compare to the first, if you have read both? Please leave your thoughts below… I really want to discuss this one as I’m still conflicted!