OUTLANDER – Diana Gabaldon

Unpopular opinion – I’ve tried watching Outlander since Netflix picked it up, but it just doesn’t hold my attention.  Maybe I’ll try again.  I don’t know.
But my attempts to watch it did result in me snagging a used copy of Outlander, the first in the series, during the times I could venture into a used bookstore worry free.  It jumped to the head of my TBR pile because its bright blue cover grabbed my attention when I was looking for my next selection.  I’ve never read anything by Diana Gabaldon.  Truth be told, I was too young for this book when it was published in 1991.  While I do think it is something my grandmother would have enjoyed and she is who often slipped me books that were perhaps a little too sexy for my age (Flowers in the Attic ring any bells?!?), I was wholly unaware of this series until Starz picked it up in 2014.  Even then, it wasn’t something that grabbed ahold of me.  Probably because I didn’t (and still don’t) get those fancy cable channels.  Flash forward a few years to when Netflix starts streaming the first few seasons and the unpopular opinion I opened this post with – I’m not that keen on the TV series.

My thoughts on the book are likely also going to fall along unpopular lines. 

  • I do not like Claire.  In particular, I do not like how Claire treats Frank at the beginning of the book – before Jamie even enters the scene.
  • I adored Frank.
  •  I understand that Claire loving sex is a big part of who Claire is – that was spelled out quite clearly in Mrs. Graham’s kitchen on page 23 – but the absolute worst parts of this novel are whenever Jamie and Claire are clawing at each other in the throes of passion.  There are many missed opportunities in their developing relationship, in their connection to each other, that were cheated by being cut short only to have the pages filled with sex.   It was a pity that sex became such a crutch as this is a pretty solid plot.  (Don’t get me wrong – I love Claire’s sexual awareness.)
  • Half-way through the novel, I decided I wouldn’t continue reading the rest of the series.  I wasn’t invested.
  •  Geillis Duncan, the “witch” from 1968, deserved more pages.  It’s my understanding she eventually gets them – just not in the first book.
  • Jamie’s continued and repeated abuse at the hands of the man that looks like Frank and is of Frank’s blood seemed more devastating to me, the reader, than to Claire.  We get a line here or there about seeing Frank’s smile on Randall’s face and how she almost willingly opened herself up to him when he was attempting to rape her, but these are flashes of the trauma she must have been going through.  Quite a missed opportunity for a well-developed internal struggle.  Pity.
  • Her “struggle” about returning to Frank was never a struggle and it annoyed me.  She never *really* wanted to go back.  And her half-assed attempted was really just a plot device to get her back to Randall to be rescued by Jamie so they could have hot sex.  Again.
  • My favorite parts of the novel are when Claire and Jamie visit Jenny and Ian, when Jamie is imprisoned and Claire is seeking to rescue him, and at the monastery.   (The wolf scene is what made me like her a little.)  The best writing shows up in those sections and it was only because of them that I decided I might need to read Dragonfly in Amber.
  • For someone who repeatedly said she was super disinterested in whatever her husband had to say and his passions, Claire sure enough remembered enough of what Frank told her to benefit herself in the world she found herself in.
  •  The descriptions of the Jamie’s rape are horrific.  What Claire does to him to “break him” out of death spiral is even more difficult to read.
I      In short, I never would have been allowed to read this in 1991.  In 2020, I find myself more interested in the meat of the matter, not the meat of the character; I may have waited too late in life to fully enjoy this historical romance with a splash of sci-fi.

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