Reviews

Outlander (Review)

People disappear all the time… Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Dissappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.

Claire Randall’s life was just returning to normal. Reunited with her husband, Frank, after serving as a combat nurse, the duo are embarking on a second honeymoon in Scotland. But what starts out as a romantic vacation becomes an adventure Claire could never imagine. She is suddenly transported back almost 200 years to a war-torn Scotland 1745. She finds lairds, spies, witches, and a new love. Torn between the past and the present, Claire puts her knowledge of herbal remedies and medicine to use in an effort to survive Scotland in the 1700s and find her way back to her own time.


First, this book is not for the faint of heart, the squeamish, the easily shocked, or those not willing to commit to an 800+ page novel. It contains graphic sex scenes, painfully honest descriptions of battle injuries and detailed descriptions of torture. It is also not for those that are unable to keep track of a large list of characters.

Now, if you are able to read scenes with blood, vomit and other bodily fluids… read away!

Despite the author’s not-so-nice remarks about English majors (hint hint I’m an English major), I enjoyed Outlander. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, which was surprising. The summary had caught my attention before and the show on Starz has been on my list of shows to watch, but I wasn’t sure if I would like the book. It is, after all, a large book and series to commit to if you are unsure you are going to like it.

But, book club to the rescue. I have a hard time turning down a book that is picked by fellow book club members because: 1- I love reading and 2 – I want to be able to contribute to nerdy book discussions. This novel also ended up being one I wanted to tackle because of the fact that there is a rather large following of fans, hence the TV series.

So, here we go for the pros and cons. Let’s start with the cons this time.

CONS:

  • It is LONG! I have read large novels before, like some of the Harry Potter books are 700+ pages, but this one seemed a little daunting, to be honest. I think because it was considered historical fiction, I thought that it was going to contain 400-ish pages of historical detail that read like a textbook (I was wrong). I would read for what felt like hours only to find the status bar on my kindle moved only 1-2%.
  • One of the characters almost dies several times. How many times can someone have a near death experience?! When you read it, you will know exactly who I am talking about almost immediately.
  • A LOT OF SEX! I am all for some steamy romance, but my goodness, there were chapters that were nothing but sex scenes it seemed. Apparently, 18th century Scots did a lot of hanky panky. Sometimes, I understand why the sex scenes were there. Two of the characters were in the early stages of a relationship and as the sex increased, so did their intimacy and overall relationship. Other times, it felt like filler. I know some people love books filled to the brim with sex, but just not my particular cup of tea.
  • Diana Gabaldon is a little snooty (Yea, I said it). This has nothing to do with the novel, but her comments about English majors, while they may have not been intended to do so, offended me a little bit. This emphasis on STEM degrees over Humanities degrees, like English, bothers me, because I feel like English majors are misunderstood and underappreciated. What I have learned over the last 4 years as an English major can be translated to a variety of careers. Not all English majors are teachers, okay, and working in fast food is nothing to be ashamed of regardless of your educational background.

PROS:

  • I was able to always pick up where I left off. I had a few days where I didn’t read at all because of papers I had to write and another book I was reading for book club. Despite that, I was always able to pick up the book and jump right back into the story. It was interesting and engaging enough to always be at the forefront of my mind and the action was steady enough to keep me interested for the long haul.
  • The story has a steady pace. Sometimes historical fiction moves rather slowly, but this book moved at a steady pace. There was always something going on and a steady progression from event to event.
  • Claire. Despite some moments where I wanted to scream at the book, “What are you doing!” Claire is a great character. She is a strong woman that stands her ground and isn’t afraid to get dirty or swear “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Makes me laugh every single time.
  • Interesting characters. From Jamie to Dougal and let’s not forget Murtagh, the character list is big and full of a variety of individuals. The family tree is a little confusing to understand at times, but it all starts to make sense bit by bit and the family relations are repeated on more than one occasion to remind readers which characters are related (they are all pretty much related in some way). I can only imagine how this character list will grow as the series goes on.
  • There is a sequel! The ending left me going, “Really!?” (you’ll understand when you get there). I was not exactly surprised but the book just stopped! What happens next! I gave in to my impulses and immediately downloaded Dragonfly in Amber at midnight and started to dig in (and OMG on that opening chapter).
  • The sequel isn’t a necessity. While I could not resist reading on, the book could be left alone as it is. I have read plenty of books that end in a similar fashion with questions still looming and sequels never to follow. This could be read alone, but as of now I don’t think the series could be read out of order, at least Dragonfly in Amber wouldn’t make sense if you hadn’t read Outlander. 
  • There are multiple elements constantly at play. There is deceit among family, folklore, witch trials (and “real” witches), and love stories. Something is always going on and there are very few dull moments. Even the dull parts are simply the calm before the storm.
  • There are a lot of questions left to answer, but it’s okay. So, normally, being left with a lot of questions bothers the daylights out of me. This book, there are a lot of questions and some get answered along the way. Some don’t but they aren’t “important” enough to get in the way with the story. I am hoping, since I am reading the next in the series, that some of the unanswered questions from this book will be answered in the next, but if not, no big deal.
  • I think I was way too into the book at times. I have a feeling that there were moments where “OMG!” was written all over my face. I know I smiled and probably frowned a few times as well, but there were definite parts that gave me that shocked look of “What just happened,” “Oh no!,” “Why!?!?!”

So, as you can see there are a lot of elements that are enjoyable. My favorite part is that I can put the book down and pick it back up without being lost or confused. I often have to put personal reading to the side for a few days at a time because of texts that I have to read each week for school and sometimes I pick up a book and have to backtrack a few pages to get back into the story. That was not the case with Outlander and so far the same can be said for Dragonfly in Amber. The story was engaging and I am sure that if anyone watched me while I was reading they saw some funny expressions go across my face on several occasions, but that is usually a sign that I am enjoying what I am reading and it is a good book.

Hopefully it won’t take me too long to read the next in the series, but I do have a course on Shakespeare coming up that will most likely require lots of reading.

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