Thursday, February 17, 2011

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Summary:  The year is 1945.  Claire Randall, a former combat nurse is back from the war and reunited with her hsuband on a second honeymoon -- when she innocently atouches 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 is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies tha tmay threaten her life...and shatter her heart.  For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. (Summary from book - Image from

My ReviewOutlander is one of those books that has been on my “must read” list for a very long time. Until a week ago I’d never even read the back cover; I’d just heard how amazing it was and thrown it on the list right next to The Poisonwood Bible. When a close friend started singing its praises, I finally opened Outlander expecting to be blown away.

Outlander didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It is billed as a “spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages”, but I’d say that’s stretching it a bit. Although the binding simply reads “fiction” this book is not much more than a glorified romance novel. Sure, there is extensive historical detail and more plot and character development than in found in the average romance novel, but I didn’t find anything extraordinary, unless you consider the book’s whopping 850-page count (mass market).

The character of Claire was a bit of a conundrum. Most of the time she was a feisty, intelligent, and capable female character, but there were times when she seemed to give up the fight. I was bothered that she could dismiss her husband so easily. While I understand the “technicality” of her not being married, it still felt like a betrayal when she only made a token effort to return to her own time before deciding to get her flirt on.

My biggest problem with Outlander was the incredible amount of sex and sexual dialogue that was needlessly incorporated into the story. To be perfectly honest, it was completely unrealistic and took place with such frequency that any normal woman would start to chafe. I’m a huge fan of the whole Highland romance genre, but I prefer my reads with a little more romantic tension and a lot less, um, release. There were also a few sections that I found highly disturbing in terms of domestic violence, rape, and other sexually explicit and abusive scenes.

In the end, I forced myself to finish this book, simply to say that I had finished it. For most of the book I was interested in how everything would turn out for the characters (the story is left resolved but open to more books), but eventually ended up skimming because I was incredibly tired and just didn’t care anymore. The last few sections of the book became very dark and disturbing before taking on a strangely religious tone that was entirely unexpected. It was all a bit weird.

That having been said, I think that a person who likes romance novels of this variety (time travel) and isn’t bothered by the sexual content, will probably enjoy this book. Gabaldon definitely delivers a historical romance novel with an impressive page count but, ultimately, I expected something epic and got something only slightly more than ordinary. I’m glad I finished, if for no other reason that I can cross it (and the entire series) off my list.

My Rating: 2.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There was a LOT of sex and it was not the close-the-door-fade-to-black-wake-up-next-to-each-other-the-following-morning kind. There were also a quite a few f-words, moments of sexual dialogue, a disturbing amount of domestic violence, and a character with some fairly twisted and sadistic sexual proclivities.

Sum it up: A glorified romance novel masquerading as historical fiction.


Teresa said...

There seems to be two distinct camps when it comes to the series, either love it or hate it. I'm sorry that you didn't like it as it is one of my favorites.

At first I was also surprised by the amount of sex throughout the story. I later attributed it as a demonstration of not only the physical intensity of the relationship, but the emotional intensity as well. Jamie and Claire have a connection that I haven't seen very often in other novels. I think that is what sets it apart from your standard bodice ripper.

Even though you didn't care for the novel I think you've written a great review.

MindySue said...


Anne Bennion said...

I felt exactly the same as you did while reading this book. I was all excited to read it - and was ready for a "Brigadoonish" novel and found myself severly disappointed. So many things that this book left wanting for me. And many things that I didn't care to ever know about.

Jocelyn said...

I agree with your review-- WAY too much sex in the book, and the ending wasn't worth it. I think the worst part was that she ropes you into the story line with some 200 pages or so before they start ripping off the clothing whole-heartedly. The book was recommended to me with the warning that it was a bit R-rated, but I kept reading along thinking "This isn't so bad."
. . . and then the sex begins. Whoa!
I thought that if you could remove the literary porn and keep the villian from going quite so far with his villiany, it would have been a really good book. Oh well. It was the last book I read in the series also.

MindySue said...

When I write a review that goes against popular opinion I am always afraid that I will be the only voice of opposition. It's nice to know I'm not alone in thinking that this book left something to be desired...and a few more things that SHOULD have been left to be desired.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

HA! Hilarious. yes, there was a lot of sex. As a young single gal when I read it (Oh, over ten years ago now) it was good enough for me.

Amy said...

Mindy--I felt the same way. Couldn't even get through the whole thing. And I felt like her husband giving her permission to cheat at the beginning was stretching it a bit. Just wasn't my thing. But I have friends who love the whole series like crazy, so who knows? A lid for every pot, I guess.


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