Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
WARNING: This book contains rape, domestic and child abuse.
It’s always a bit hard for me when I pick up a book that promises a decently strong female lead that inevitably disappoints. I wouldn’t say I had extremely high hopes for Outlander given the year it was published and the time period the actual story takes place, but I can’t deny that I was simply hoping for better. At least better than a feeble woman whose worth is broken down to weather or not she can produce a child.
The character I refer to of course is Claire Randall, a WWII nurse on second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, after the end of the war.
Traveling through the Scottish Highlands we learn that her husband doesn’t really pay attention to her, tells her in no uncertain terms she is unwelcome as an “Outlander” (if I could roll credits on a book I would) because she’s English, and accuses her of cheating on him during the war. We also learn some things about his heritage because apparently that is the bulk of what is planned for their honeymoon, well that and pumping out a kid with the blandest sex ever. (I feel like this was purposeful for what happens later)
GOOD POINT: I enjoyed learning some things in regards to the Scottish Highlands. It really is a fascinating history and I appreciate the research that must have gone into completing this book and commend Diana Gabaldon. However, I still think some of it could have been trimmed, not everything was necessary to get the story across.
During this trip Claire falls through some magic stones, think discount Stonehenge, and falls back into the 1700’s. She is quickly accosted by her husband’s ancestor, Jack Randall, who tries to rape her only to be knocked out by a Scott who takes her to Clan McKenzie.
They ask her who she is and where she’s from, rightfully assuming her to be an English spy. I have to say I feel like she could have done more to not seem so suspicious. She does alright initially, but let’s a lot of things slip that I’m quite shocked didn’t get her killed long before the story’s end. She stays as a guest/prisoner at Clan McKenzie’s castle only daring to try and escape once. This plan is foiled by Jaime, a young Scott and nephew of Clan McKenzie whom she has gotten to know through taking care of him. See, she earns her keep by being their physician.
Because she is such a flight risk they decide that the best thing is to have her travel with some of the clansmen to collect the rents off the land. I didn’t understand this at all, because in point of fact they have no idea where she wants to run off to and if they get anywhere close to the stones she will take off to return to her time. As she says she’d do plenty of times.
Of course while out and about they are caught once again by Jack Randall who demands that Claire be turned over to his custody. Not wanting to just give them back a spy, the Clan McKenzie come up with the plan to have her marry one of them in order to protect her. This of course happens to be Jaime. He is close in age, handsome, and has never married so even though she fights it, it isn’t much of a fight.
GOOD POINT: I actually thought the marriage plan was smart, for the time period of the book it was probably the best outcome she could have hoped for. Still it would have been nice of her to put up a little more fight and maybe try to escape again, but she doesn’t and her and Jaime end up married.
At this point we can skip a lot of story in lieu of Claire and Jaime having ravenous ungodly rounds of sex. Honestly not much story happens here aside from the fact that you learn he was a virgin and she means to teach him how to best please a woman many times over. I get it works for the story, but I was really hoping for more an historical fiction not a sleazy sexcapade, which unfortunately is what it turns into.
She tries to escape once more when she is married and gets caught by Jack Randall, because the Scottish Highlands are so infinitesimally small he manages to be everywhere. Jaime ends up saving her before Jack can rape her again, but he is not happy about her disobedience. Thus resulting in an awkward cringe inducing scene where he spanks her like a child. Again, I get this is meant to represent the time period, but it was a bit ridiculous. It especially doesn’t help that Jaime seems to have a fetish for beatings, both giving and receiving them. Standing this book up to the likes of 50 Shades of Gray does nothing to help it.
From there we have a weird witch trail that results in another girl being burned, but not before Claire realizes she has the same immunization mark that she does indicating that she was also from the future. It’s disappointing again that this wasn’t more heavily explored, but I also am aware that this is the first of a long series of books, so I can’t expect it all to be in the first one. However, I would rather have had that then what I got.
GOOD POINT: I like that Claire shares her secret with Jaime and he agrees to help her. It was probably one of the sweeter moments. It was also nice on some level that she chooses to stay with Jaime not really knowing what will happen when she touches the stones again. I just wish that once she had made her choice she had dropped Frank from her mind. It was pointless and distracting.
Jaime and Claire make their way back to his home only to have him kidnapped by Jack Randall who holds him in his chambers, rapes him and beats him repeatedly, and demands that he say he loves him. Now at this point I would say Claire is lucky to have avoided continuing that genetic line, but nope, Claire still misses Frank a bit, because god forbid we have her just move on like a normal human.
They go to an abbey in France where they are both touched by God, or something, I’m not sure because I was skimming at this point. This leaves Jaime cured of his abuse and Claire pregnant with his child. I’m only guessing at that last bit because it was heavily implied.
This book is a solid 600+ pages in length depending on the version you get, so when I say there is some fat that could have been trimmed I’m being serious. The research was top notch as I said, but the writing wasn’t any better or worse than I have seen before. It definitely falls more into the sleazy romance category than anything else.
I don’t have much of a want to continue the series and so I most likely won’t. This also seems a book doomed to never be picked up again by me so I may end up donating it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it on some level, but it doesn’t feel like it would hold for a second read through. I might get too annoyed at Claire and the length of it.
BAD POINT: Lots of sex with no showers. Yuck!
3 Out of 5 Stars
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