Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander (Outlander series #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Paperback: 850 pages
Publisher: Dell/Random House
Published date: 1991
FTC: bought at library book sale

Over the years I've heard a lot of buzz about Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.  Sometimes it sounds so appealing: set in the 1700's during Scotland Jacobite Risings  (wanting to return the "rightful" king James II to the throne -- it failed).  That sounds like something I'd love.  Then there's the time travel thing: a WWII nurse gets thrown back in time.  Ok, a bit odd but still sounds intriguing.  But THEN - it's listed as a romance as well.  Hmm.  Not as much up my alley.  But when I saw it listed #89 on NPR's Top Sci-Fi/Fantasy list I thought, ok.  Let's give it a whirl.  I needed something light, fun, and absorbing during my Christmas vacation.  Little did I know I'd be stuck in a massive 850 page book.

Back of the book:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon -- when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British  Isles.  Suddenly she is a Sassenach -- an "outlander" -- in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart.  For here James Fraser, a gallant young 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.

My thoughts:

Honestly, for much of the book I kept just wanting to get to the end.  I think I was 400-ish pages into and thinking - really, I have ANOTHER 400 pages to go??  Well, I had already invested so much time that I figured I'd just ride it out.

To be fair though, there were a lot of aspects of the book I enjoyed.  I am so intrigued by the setting.  I've always loved this part of history where, probably had I lived back then and there I too would be part of the Jacobite movement.  Does anyone know of any other books set during this period that they would recommend?

I also enjoyed Claire's medical background and her knowledge and use of herbal remedies.  I am currently reading a non-fiction book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, which is also about a woman (disguising as a man) who was knowledgeable of herbs and medicines set in 1765.  So I loved digging more into this aspect of history.

And to be even more fair, when there was action and adventure in the book, it was a fun absorbing tale.  Diana Gabaldon is a good descriptive writer and the story is fun.

My main problems though are 1) the length and 2) the way too many bedroom scenes. While she is great at writing description and setting the scene and making the reader really care about the characters -- it's no great feat when packing it into a huge ol' tome.  Seriously.  I really don't want to read the rest of the books because I just don't think I can spare the time.  Which comes to romps in the hay. (Which there really was one in the book -- which is so unrealistic.  Hay is NOT comfortable.)  Goodness.  I get mentioning their first time or so but I really started skimming the book when every. single. time. they did it was mentioned.  In detail.  Sheesh.

I also thought that it was highly "coincidental" that Claire's loving husband from 1945 just happens to have an ancestor who looks exactly like him and is the most horrible villain in 1743.  Hmm.  And the whole end of the book (I'm talking about what happens to Jaime - no spoilers here) is quite disturbing.

So -- to sum it up:

I get the attraction to the book.  I do like the characters of Claire and Jamie.  I love the Scottish Jacobite setting, and the time travel thing is kind of cool.  BUT -- the length and the amount of skimming I ended up having to do is just not worth my time.

That said, I would totally love to see it made into a movie.  Staring, say, this guy (I know Jamie is a red-head but whatever...)
Photo taken from Fly High's hilarious post

Have you read this book or more of the series?  What are your thoughts?

Also Reviewed by:

Fly High
Literate Housewife
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Historical Tapestry
Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books (on the first three in the series)
Outlandish Dreaming (on visiting Scotland: Loch Ness: Culloden)

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