My mother gave me the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series books for Christmas several years ago. I was intrigued by them, I loved them on my shelves, but quite honestly I was a bit intimidated by them. They were large, and heavy, and well, there are seven of them (at this time I believe an eighth installment has been released, but I don’t yet have a copy). At the time I received them, I only had one child & I thought I had a full plate then. Now that I have three, reading epic volumes just doesn’t happen anymore. But, my mother kept asking if I’d read them yet, they were calling out to me, and I really needed something for my eight hour plane ride. So, I decided to grab the first book in the series and give it a go. Ok, so right there on the front cover it reads; “Discover the New York Times best selling saga that has enthralled millions.” It’s a popular novel and well, everyone I know who has read it has loved it. To make things clear, I do not typically read NTB list books, nor do I participate in cult followings of books. This read was an exception, and sadly, not a pleasant one.
The novel is about a young English woman on a holiday in Scotland with her husband who inadvertently stumbled through some type of time portal at one of the stone henges and finds herself thrown back roughly two hundred years in an untamed Scottish countryside, on the run from Redcoats, and married to the gallant young Jamie Fraser. The story is fantastical, historical, inspiring, enrapturing. Truly, the story is great. The novel on the other hand; not so much.
First of all, NO ONE TOLD ME IT WAS A ROMANCE NOVEL! I do not read romance novels and would have never bothered with it had I known. The story it’s self is so great that I was honestly thrown for a loop when I got to the first sex scene. But, I figured it made some sense in context and moved on. It was when I had gotten to the third and fourth sex scenes that I became incredibly annoyed. These two characters engaged in awkward sexual relations at strange and awkward times. Their encounters are unbelievable and entirely unnecessary. Not to mention the repeated attempted rape. And why oh why is there a “passionate” sex scene immediately after the two escape & kill an attempted rapist?! I’m sorry, but if I had to fight off a rapist & then kill him, I would not then turn to my husband and get it on right then & there in the middle of the woods. It may simply be my prudish nature, but I also felt that the sex distracted from the story more than it helped it. Instead of moving the plot forward, I felt that it was temporarily halted so that the writer could blurt out some weird fantasy. Even the perverted sexual molestations and rapes aren’t really necessary to the over all plot. Jamie would still be a wanted man, Randall would still be a heinous bad guy, Clair would still be the savior without it all.
Like I said earlier, I found the story brilliant. Ms. Gabaldon is an excellent story teller with a knack for reeling in her reader and keeping them hooked. However, there are details through out her tale that bothered me as a reader. First of all there was the timeline. In one paragraph Clair has been married for three months, in another six months, then the next page she mentions that they’ve only been married a year. Then, even though the reader is following nearly every move she ever makes including eating, sleeping & not bathing, we are suddenly from six months to BAM, a year has gone by. And it’s Christmas time, even though the novel began in the Spring. So…yeah. It was confusing and annoying trying to figure out how much time had passed and not knowing if it was important or not. There are other slips in time in regards to a pregnancy. The pregnant woman says at one point she has only a few weeks left until the birth, but then several months later it is implied that when she goes into labour it’s early. There is also a gathering taking place and the October sunshine is mentioned at the beginning of the day before the event begins. However, at the end of the chapter, after the event and at the end of the same day the mid-November skies are mentioned.
A few other odd details threw me off here and there; a character is in the throws of labour with her second child, but it is not progressing and she is in pain. Clair, who knows nothing about pregnancy or babies suggests that the baby has not turned. Only then does the midwife turn the baby between contractions and it is born without further complication. Having had three children I have an issue with this. 1. Why didn’t the mother, let alone the midwife know before labour that the child hadn’t turned? When I was 36 weeks I knew my daughter (third child) was transverse and that I was running out of time to turn her. Luckily I was able to do it myself. 2. I honestly don’t believe it is as easy as simply pushing down on the abdomen to turn an unborn child, especially at term. There isn’t much room in there and contractions would have made it impossible. Sorry, but to this reader it was unnecessary drama that is just a wee bit unbelievable.
Another thing; if Clair is considered old at 28 in terms of not yet being married or having children yet, then why doesn’t Jamie’s sister Jenny, who is at least ten years older than him (making her at least 33) have more children, or at least older children? When we meet her she has a two year old son & is pregnant with her second.
At the end of the novel I became annoyed with the writer. Instead of SHOWING the reader or simply telling the action as it happened, she felt compelled to skirt around it and then retell it in a (rather boring) series of dialog. I was irritated at two things by this 1. I felt that the writer wanted to write about something riske, something “wrong” and obscene, but really didn’t have the guts to just do it. She couldn’t go that far and had to deliver the information in a softer way, and a recount is softer and less emotional than the actual action. I think she was wussing out. 2. I felt as if she were treating the readers as if they were dumb and couldn’t infer some of the information on their own. When she skipped over certain events, it was pretty evident what had happened by the REACTIONS of the characters, even out it being spelled out. However, she still felt the need to circle back, more than once mind you, to retell and drive home the details.
Yes, there are a lot of discrepancies that I could pull out of this novel, but I haven’t the time nor can I remember them all. And I don’t blame it all so much on the writer. On her Website she does state that the first novel, Outlander was written for herself and not meant to be seen. She called it a “practice novel” to see if she really could write a book and if it was a passion she really wanted to quit her job for and peruse. However, enough people were able to convince her to go for publication. I do have to say, not bad for her first novel! What is majorly lacking in this whole endeavor is a good editor. Or maybe some good old fashioned proof reading. I’m sure that a decent editor and a close read through would have picked up (and corrected) the numerous foibles throughout the novel. While I can forgive her for the story’s sake (I guess I should cut her some slack since it was her first), I just can’t help but feel that some other people who were involved in the making and publishing of this book seriously dropped the ball.
All in all, the story is great, but the telling of it could be much better. While I was annoyed and even angered at some points, I will read the next book in the series since Amazon reviews have insisted that it does get better. So, since I already have the books, I will try the next one. But I am going to go into it with a bad taste in my mouth.