Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Outlander by Diana Gabaldone #review

Author: Diana Gabaldone
Title: Outlander
Publisher: Dell, 2005

I must state from the get go that I read this book mainly because many of my friends and fellow authors have – so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. (And this is very much like that time all those years ago when I inflicted the Twilight* books on myself.)

First off, Outlander wasn’t horrible. Far from it. Gabaldone has done a really good job bringing the past to life, and the sheer amount of detail goes a long way to making me feel that the setting is authentic. The characters are fun, and many of the interactions between them provided me with sufficient entertainment.

But… and I’m sorry, there are going to be several buts (and not the Kardashian kind, either).

The protest I hear the most often from Outlander fans is: “B-b-but… Jamie…” (Followed by lip-trembling.)

Here’s my take on it. It’s a pure case of BBFS (book boyfriend syndrome). The same way female readers gush and get moist panties over the Edwards, Jacobs, Wraths and Christians out there. They’re not the kind of guy we’d date, but we’d like to fool ourselves into thinking they’d make good life partners because they’re soooo not like the men we ended up with. Oh, and washboard abs.

So, I suppose if you’re only looking for an unlikely hawt twenty-three-year-old virgin, be my guest. And nope, I didn’t buy that shtick about Jamie waiting one day until he got married…

One of the initial problems I had with the story was its pacing. About halfway through the book I was still waiting to find out what was going to happen – was it going to be a massive showdown involving Randall  or was it all going to be about Claire trying to go home to her own time. Both are equally good premises that, by the time we reached the end, felt to me as if they could have been executed with a bit more oomph and focus in order to heighten a sense of urgency, which I felt was lacking throughout.

Perhaps my biggest gripe was Claire herself. Okay, so we suspend disbelief that she’s somehow fallen back in time – but she takes her changed circumstances way too calmly. No panic. No freaking out. More like, “Oh, look, this is Scotland during the 1700s, now ooh, look, pretty red-haired man in kilt… Washboard abs...”

I get that things between her and her husband of seven years back in post-WWII England weren’t that exciting, but not once throughout the book did I gain the impression that she was overly concerned about being separated from him. In addition, the effortlessness in her getting married to Jamie on a relatively flimsy pretext irked me. Washboard abs much?

The whole vibe with Claire nearly getting raped numerous times didn’t bother me nearly as much as how she dealt with the Very Bad Thing that happens near the end. A lot of what goes on with her seems too convenient – like how she’s apparently unable to conceive, which is just peachy keen for a woman of modern social mores in an environment that lacks adequate birth control. Added to that, she’s a nurse too. Wow. Clan of the Cave Bear much? (For anyone who remembers Ayla’s doings back in the Palaeolithic.) Super, super convenient.

And possibly a case of washboard abs.

But, jawellnofine. Don’t mind me. I finished the book. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t want to throw my iPad at the wall (okay, well, that’s just stupid but I’m sure you get what I mean). But I spent a large portion of my time reading muttering, “Oh, really?” under my breath. I’ll also most likely watch the TV series because I admit I have a thing for men in kilts. And washboard abs. ** And, yes, I have a passing fondness for Scotsmen. Some things are unavoidable, like the need to rubberneck when driving past road accidents.

* And in case you were wondering, no, I did not read the Fifty Shades of Grey books. That’s a bridge too far, IMO.
** And yes, I’m a sad, sad puppy.


  1. One thing I am curious about - although not curious enough to actually read the book -- is the author's insistence to the point of being really annoying that this is NOT a romance book. Yet every review I ever read talks about washboard abs and hot Jamie and all the sex. So it is not romance because...??? Would you consider this a romance or is something else entirely and people are sidetracked by the abs because that's the way readers are skewed these days thanks to Twilight and 50 Shades books?

    1. This ones awkward, because I think it sits in the grey area between genres.