Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Book Genre: Time Travel Historical Drama
Romance Heat Level: Cayenne.
I admit, I ignored Outlander for quite a while because I don’t really care for time-travel stories, and the entire premise of Outlander is… time-travel. Hooray. But two or three of my persistent friends of the readerly persuasion insisted that the book was good and that I should at least give it a chance. Hence, here I am, review in hand.
18th-century Scotland is now a place I want to visit, thanks to Diana Gabaldon. I was impressed with the detail and extensive research evident in her writing. She illustrated her work with careful nuances shown in a hundred different ways with her tales of Scottish lore and tradition, her lists of various medicinal herbs in use before modern medicine, and her vividly portrayed historic landscapes. I find that when an author takes the trouble to incorporate research into story form, the book gets exponentially better in only few simple phrases. In other words: Know what you’re talking about. Ms. Gabaldon appears to know what she is talking about.
Enter Jaime Fraser. I’m a social media bot, so I’d have been blind not to notice Sam Heughan’s charming grin, adorable red wig, and muscular musculature plastered all over Starz’ advertisements. Even more than I enjoyed watching the actor in his kilts on Facebook, though, I relished Gabaldon’s spinning of Jaime’s character across the pages of Outlander. The author somehow managed to strike that difficult balance among rough-and-tumble rebel-with-a-cause, tortured-and-angsty hero-with-a-past, and charming-kind-and-handsome man we all dream of.
Ms. Gabaldon introduced a love triangle among Frank Randall, Claire Randall, and Jaime Fraser, and I’m not sure I’m altogether satisfied with the play-out of that particular difficulty. I see the reasoning behind it, I think: it served as a very necessary “magnet” to pull Claire back to her own time and place in history, offering a pretty rock-solid reason to return to the 1900’s. But—SPOILER ALERT—once Claire made the decision to remain with Jaime and put Frank behind her, Frank disappeared from the narrative almost completely.
Considering Frank’s much greater time spent with Claire, no matter any discussion of whether he or Jaime was her true love, I wanted to see more emotional struggle after Claire’s decision to remain in the 1700’s. Don’t get me wrong; I’m Team Jaime all the way, but I wanted the agony, and the ecstasy of defeating the agony to be much greater. As it was, I felt that Frank could have hit the cutting floor in edits, and Claire (and I) would scarcely have missed him.
My only other quibble with the story was the melodramatic ending that centered around two threatened acts of sexual violence, which—in this beautifully written historical drama—seemed to be over the top (this is not Game of Thrones, just so we’re clear). It distracted me from the story and the historical setting. While it certainly made for high stakes, it felt forced to me, not to mention unpleasant to read.
Overall, I discovered that I liked Outlander-the-beginning more than I liked Outlander-the-ending, but I enjoyed the book as a whole and will at least consider reading the others in the series. Or maybe I’ll just sign up for the Starz app and enjoy watching Sam Heughan in the role.
Three stars for this one.