Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlanderReviewed by Jen

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years.  I knew it was one of those iconic books that almost every romance fan has read at some point, but I was a little unsettled by the idea of the heroine having two different husbands in two different times. I absolutely hate cheating in my romance and I wasn’t sure if Claire’s infidelity was something I could get over. Then I started seeing the trailers for the new Starz series.  I watched the first episode, then spent the next two days reading.

The verdict? I could, indeed, get over the idea of two husbands. It’s actually quite well done and I found myself empathizing with Claire almost from the beginning. 

For the uninitiated, the premise of the book is as follows: Claire is an English World War II nurse who is trying to reconnect with her husband after many years apart during the war. They are vacationing in Scotland, when she stumbles on some Stonehenge-like stones and is transported back 200 years into history. There, she crosses paths with two men who will change her life forever.  One is a young, beautiful Highlander named Jamie. The other is a dastardly English soldier Black Jack Randall, who just happens to be an ancestor of her present day husband, Frank.

Jamie is the eventual love interest. I say eventual because it takes us quite some time to get there.  I know for many readers, the book doesn’t really take off until the romance does, but for me, I was able to enjoy the story from the beginning.  I think the biggest reason for that is because I believed in Claire’s reactions and responses to the insanity she is faced with.  She’s not a perfect character, but she remains strong in the face of adversity and does a fairly good job balancing the emotions churning inside her while maintaining the outward appearances necessary to survive.  She marries Jamie, not because she is stepping out on her husband, but because it’s a matter of life and death.  And it’s only then that she allows herself to indulge in her attraction to him.

Of course, Jamie is the heart of the book. He is young and bold. He is pure and jaded, loyal and intelligent.  And he wears his heart on his sleeve.  He is also a virgin on his wedding night, giving him an exuberance and sense of wonder that is both sexy and utterly endearing.

I liked many things about this book.  In addition to the lead characters, I have to give Diana Gabaldon credit for the emotional resonance she has created here. This story made me feel.  It also managed to keep me interested through its epic 627 pages of tiny print.  These are the things, no doubt, that have led to the devoted following of the series.  But it’s not all sexy brogues and stunning scenery.

This book is stunningly violent.  I don’t mind a bit of bloodshed, but there are two really big things going on that can’t go unaddressed. First, there is a scene about halfway into the story, where Jamie uses a strap to punish Claire.  I almost put down the book right there.  I am sure some people actually DNF’d at this point. I’m glad I didn’t, but I was sorely tempted.  I want to warn you of this because it will likely raise your ire too, and to promise you that it never happens again.  I’m still not ok with that scene. But I thought I wouldn’t be able to forgive Jamie for it… and I was wrong about that. By the end, his love for Claire and his willingness to sacrifice for her made just about anything forgivable.

The second big thing is sexual violence.  This is not sexual violence between Jamie and Claire, but there are some pretty gnarly scene surrounding rape. It is not glossed over and it is wrenching. If this is a trigger for you, beware.  As an offshoot, there is a scene in the wake of that sexual violence that just left me as bothered and bewildered as the assault itself.  I guess it was supposed to be cathartic, but it was very disturbing to me.

All that being said, I am glad I read it. I will likely read the next one. This book has more than 18-thousand reviews on Goodreads… more than a quarter of a million ratings.  That is staggering.  With all of that feedback out there, I am amazed you have made it to the end of my review!  Thanks for reading. :)

Rating: B-ish?

 Click to purchase: Amazon

Outlander
by Diana Gabaldon
Release Date: June 1, 1991
Publisher: Delacorte Press

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for your review. I too have had this on my Kindle for years. I just can’t bring myself to read it. I know that you and I share similar tastes, so I’m pleased that you liked it. But still… over 600 pages… and how many books now? I just can’t bring myself to care enough to pick it up. I’ll just read your reviews, instead! :-)

  2. I read Outlander and was totally blown away, I was so invested in the story that those dark scenes you mentioned really got to me, in other words, I had quite a book-hangover and just couldn’t stop thinking about it, but I utterly loved it. I haven’t managed to read the second book, because of that time gap… I just I can’t get over it ;( I’m trying to though, because I really love Jamie, but it’s hard… :(

    • Jen at Red Hot Books says:

      I had serious, serious issues with the time gap. It’s such a waste of precious time they could have had.

  3. Thanks for sharing your impressions! I read the book (well, several of the books) many years ago and I’m excited about the series. The original story was what steered me to pursue publication. I wanted to affect readers the way Claire & Jamie (and all the others!) affected me.

  4. I agreed with your review of outlander. I wish I’d stopped too. Book 2, while I was not as put off by it as you indicated in goodreads, was really hard to push through. Book 3? I’m done. I’m still kind of pissed everyone told me to get to Voyager. I HATE two things she did with Jamie. HAAAAAATE.

  5. I grabbed this one a year or two ago when it was free for Nook. I still haven’t tried it. Not sure I will.

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