Thursday, February 17, 2011
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
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 randomhouse.com)
My Review: Outlander 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.