Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

“You are safe,” he said firmly. “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well. The man willna lay hands on ye again, while I live.”
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

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Rating: 3/5 Stars


Synopsis:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient 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 that may 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.


Review:

If you read my March TBR then you know I wanted to read this book this month. I had picked it up previously. However, I stopped reading it about halfway through. Therefore, this month I was determined to reread the first half and then finish the book. After reading this book I feel…conflicted.

I cannot praise Gabaldon’s writing style enough. It is intricate and immersive. I found myself lost in the 18th century Scottish highlands. The way she weaved the plot, the politics, and the character development was a thing of beauty. I enjoyed reading Gabaldon’s writing throughout the novel. It kept me interested and reading despite coming across some major issues in the book.

Before I get into my issues with this book I must preface them. I know this book is set in a much different time. I know that different actions were more acceptable at that time. I get it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Were it not for these issues I probably would have given this book at least a 4.5/ 5 stars. But, that’s just not what happened.

My major issues in this story lain within the romantic relationship between our main characters Jamie and Claire. This supposed “swoon worthy” love was very problematic. James at one point “punishes” Claire. This action results in massive bruising so bad she could not sit the next day. He stated that it was how he as a husband must show her as the wife what was and was not acceptable. That is ludicrous. Listen, I know this may have been how it happened during this time. However, I didn’t feel it needed to be included in the story. I believe the story would have progressed just as well without this scene. It brought nothing to the story and the supposed “historical accuracy” was unnecessary.

In addition to this “punishment” James states numerous times that he may have sex with her whenever he wants to. She does not have a choice in the matter. Again, this was not necessary to the plotline. It did nothing but cause me to dislike James and the relationship as a whole. These moments of abuse are glossed over in the book. They are not even dwelled upon by Claire our victim (who is from 1945 not 1743).

I believe if these scenes were omitted I would have loved this book. I wanted to love the relationship. I often found myself giddy over the conversations between the two. The conversations between them often had me laughing. They were soft and caring a lot of the time. However, the thoughts of what James was capable of completely ruined that for me.

I’m not sure if I will continue on with this series. I have higher hopes for the next book. That being said I don’t know if I can handle another book that rationalizes abuse. If you’ve read the books in this series please let me know if I should continue. I appreciate any input!

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts?

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9 thoughts on “Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

  1. I’d been wanting to read this book for while (I actually read a chapter or so a few years ago, but haven’t picked it back up since) but it’s length always feels so intimidating to me. The premise of the book sounds intriguing (I’m always up for anything set in Scotland) but I can definitely see how the casual insertion of abuse into the story would be upsetting! It makes me a bit apprehensive about getting invested in this series. Hmm, maybe one day I’ll pick it up (though more likely than not, I’ll probably just watch the show haha).

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  2. I haven’t read the book, but it’s been on my “to read” list for a long time. I’m interested in your comments, because I find myself more and more uneasy about casual misogyny and racism in literature without there being some higher purpose to including it. Especially with a time travel conceit, the character reactions could point up the reasons why we as a society have decided some things are no longer okay.

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  3. I’m actually not fussed about Jamie’s – shall we say – shortcomings. I mean I don’t approve of it of course, but he’s a character in a story who has his issues and that’s fine by me. I’m not of the opinion that because something is written in a work of fiction the writer or we as readers implicitly condone the action/behaviour by not speaking out against it (not saying you Are of such an opinion, by the way..). I’m more bothered by the gratuitous torture and violence in other parts of the book, simply because I do not enjoy reading explicit descriptions of these things.

    Now, as to continuing the series.. Jamie’s proclivities are definitely toned down in books 2 and 3 (that’s as far as I got), but IMO the first book is definitely the best. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling too much by saying that a large part of the second book takes place in the French court. Courtly intrigue does not interest me. I want highlands and Scots dammit! I found book 2 and 3 quite dull at times and difficult to get through, but for entirely different reasons than your objections to the first.

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