Book Review: Outlander
ashley | Everywhere I look, people are reading or talking about Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Even more so now that the tv series based on the books has premiered. I’ve given up on trying to avoid the mainstream book buzz and am finally jumping on the Outlander bandwagon. I mean, there are men in kilts, so why fight it, right?
While I’ve been reading a lot of reviews that speak highly of the book, the one thing I was told directly was to make sure I give the book a good 100 pages or so to pull me in. I’m glad this was the disclaimer, as I definitely found the first little bit rather tedious to get into. But the interest and intrigue was there, so it wasn’t hard to keep pushing through until things started to transform into the magical lore that is common of Scotland.
I love time slip stories; they are one of my favourite elements in sci-fi or fantasy or whatever you want to categorize books by. But I’ve come across a lot of attempts where the process wasn’t really handled well and it came across as annoying or loosely crafted. Gabaldon handles this perfectly. Claire handles this perfectly. Obviously she’s confused and thrown for a loop but she is smart enough to realize something is up, her survival instincts are strong enough for her to realize she has to fit in, she’s self aware enough to handle the situation delicately without drawing too much attention to herself. This is honestly one of the best time travel scenarios I have read.
I also really enjoyed the little twist of Claire not being much of a historian herself. Her husband had the interest and she picked up enough for her to get by rather well in the eighteenth century, but I think a lot of authors would have taken advantage of that and filled Claire to the brim with a historical knowledge. I thought it was a nice change that she wasn’t overly taken by being thrust into the middle of history.
I have no doubt that Claire missed her husband and her life, but we weren’t reminded of this every other page either. It wasn’t repeated endlessly, like I find a lot of books tend to do when dealing with matters of the heart. Claire was also able to maintain a loyalty to her husband and not be swept up with the strapping young Scotsmen. I mean, obviously things eventually lead in that direction, but there’s a healthy distance from the beginning to when this happens which is also appreciated.
I liked the dynamic between Claire and Jamie a lot. He was made out to be a brute of man, but as you got to know him through Claire, he was much more than that. But it wasn’t overdone; he wasn’t the flawless piece of perfection lots of novels make their heroes, he was well rounded and flawed but still that kind of dreamy man you want to whisk you away. Their relationship grew naturally and slowly and it’s not an immediate infatuation where she just completely disregards her previous life and jumps his bones. All of this makes the story far more realistic, time travel or not. It’s believable and the kind of story you want to stick with.
As I often wonder with most books that are lengthy, was all the text necessary? There were moments that felt like things were dragging, that things weren’t really moving forward and it kind of disrupted the flow for me. Sometimes I lost track of what the story was and just seemed like I was reading about people lusting for each other. Because there is a lot of lust. And violence. And sometimes a mix of the two, which has stirred up controversy and different opinions, especially as of late with the regained popularity. But thankfully those moments were mostly short lived and as soon as I start to feel a bit bored or take the book for granted, Gabaldon threw me another curve ball, some other mythical lore or sci-fi element that I never saw coming and I was thrust right back into it all.
Outlander has a lot of the elements and creativity that I love about Young Adult novels, but it’s written and handled in a much more mature way, a mixture that I just can’t get enough of. Every time I turned the page, there was something else I loved about the book. It may not be an overly unique story, but Gabaldon smashes clichés and stays away from predictable plot points making this a refreshing and much needed read. Apparently all the hype was worth it, I can see why everyone I know is reading this series.