Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review #28: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Book One of Seven)


Note: I am listening to TDKR's main theme right now so this review is very epic, indeed. Hans Zimmer never disappoints. 


Craigh na Dun where Claire time traveled. 

Whilst trying to revive her marriage in Scotland, an English nurse named Claire Randall passes through a rock and time travels from 1945 back to 1743. Finding herself in 18th century Scotland, she struggles between life, fidelity and desire when she was forced into another marriage.

Quite hilarious and ridiculous, I should think. I did think that. I am but mortal and against my better wishes, I judged something beforehand (sheepish).



Hardly a new kid on the block, this lauded and popular series has been around since 1991 (a little while before I existed!). Apparently, the publisher didn't know what to do with this book because it's historical romance and science fiction. So, to hell with it, it was marketed as a romance novel -- while the romance label is quite apt because the sci-fi element is minimal, it hardly does anything for the book.

Despite my initial reservations, this book didn't fit into my pre-made cookie cutters. Having read a lot of variations of romance novels, you should take it from me.




1. No false advertising. Well, research was definitely done to the point where I skip some lines sometimes (blasphemy!). A league away from its 500-paged (usually) shallow and insipid counterparts, Outlander is a bulky 850 pages long. The author had the capacity to fill the pages with lush and vivid historical details. The book opened with no rush (patience, my friend), offering us information on old Scotland. Even when in the heart of blood/suspense, the author squeezes in bits and bobs of the 18th century Scottish so fluidly. I did my fair share of Googling words I canna understand.  It's like the author was alive in the 18th century and now telling us about it through the eyes of Claire. Maybe the author time traveled. A-ha!


2. Details took the wheel: From helping a mare give birth (stick your arm, let mare's vagina crush your arms, feel the wee lassie, and pull!)... to boar hunting gone wrong... to having sex in mineral pools. The details of healing and medicine were impressive. It's all well and good but when it comes to details in violence and torture, it's not easy to stomach. Nailin' ears to a stake? Nailing hands on table? Flogging? Witches' trials? Sadistic, bisexual perverted officers who torture ye, lick yon blood and then man-rape ye? I ken tell ye how fucked up the end was. Oh wait, the F word wasn't created then! ;-)


3. Gary Stu? Mary Sue? There were some rather outrageous, corny and predictable lines but I dinna think that Jamie was a Gary or Claire was a Mary. For one, I COULDN'T believe that Jamie was younger than Claire by four years! I had problems with it because I can't imagine a younger man in my mind but as I progressed, Jamie is anything but immature. The author took such (I believe) painstaking effort to imbue little and big experiences encountered by the characters in the past. I don't mind not relating to characters, but I'd like to know what they're like. Because of this web Diana Gabaldon weaved, I felt like I knew Jamie. He's endearing and has this drive, honour and optimism to him which I adored. When he was repeatedly tortured, I was so disgusted. This is coming from me who can tolerate fictional gore and violence very well. And, no, Claire is not whiny, "unrealistically" strong and she doesn't faint all the time -- something I know everyone hates.


4. SPOILERS: Two most controversial events in the book: Claire is a whore for marrying Jamie and Jamie's an abusive bastard for spanking Claire. For the second event, the author wanted the story to be realistic and true to what husband-wife relationship was like in the 18th century Highlands (though I doubt anybody's as amorous as J and C back then). When I've read the author's POV and progressed further into the book, I managed to get past my fuming and angrier than thou mood.


I always think that people adopt several approaches when reading a book. I always, always adopt the open-minded but reasonable approach. So, give this a try if you're not opposed to this genre and feel like going on a violent adventure in the Scottish Highlands. I know I do. And no, decision was not made because I found out what Scotsmen wear under their kilts. ★★★★ (850 pages)





PS. I'm not this talkative in real life. ;-)
PPS. I'm from the 21st century and to live in the 18th century, bereft from my usual comforts and safety, seems impossible. If I met a man in that time period and we're incandescently in love (which is unlikely).. will I give up everything? Will you?


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