narfna’s #CBR5 Review #104: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlanderWell . . . that was certainly an experience. Parts of it I LOVED and parts of it were SO WEIRD I didn’t even know what to do with myself.

It’s clear that Gabaldon pretty much wrote whatever the hell she wanted to, ignoring a lot of steadfast  “rules” in the process. The result of this is a book that could fit into dozens of different genres, and that contains dozens of scenes that make you go “wait, did she just write that?”

For those of you not familiar (and I’m betting there are still some of you out there), Outlander is the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s titular series about a nurse from World War II-era England who travels back in time two hundred years to Scotland, and among other things, is accused of being a witch, becomes a healer, is forced to marry a handsome young Scot, and deal with a psychopathic Englishman, all the while dealing with her reduced freedoms as a woman and navigating both the smaller and larger political and historical issues that she alone knows are coming.

It’s a long book, and it’s hard to describe. Even if you think you have a pretty good idea of what to expect, I guarantee there will be at least once scene you won’t see coming at all, and more than one that will make you need to put the book down, like under your pillow or in a freezer or somewhere else that is safe and away from you while you alternatively cool down/stop being weirded out/insert overextended emotion here. It’s a romance, and an extremely well-researched historical novel. And it’s speculative, and a bunch of other shit as well.

And I enjoyed it. And I was weirded out by it. And it made me need to go take a cold shower.

The most notable thing about it, of course, is the central romance between our time-traveling heroine Claire and young Scottish virgin, Jamie Fraser, which was extremely swoonworthy, excepting one notable scene involving corporal punishment. I realize Gabaldon needed to have Jamie conform to time-specific ideas about male/female relationships, but I really think I needed to see Claire be more vocal about refusing to be subjected to anything like that in the future, and I needed to see Jamie agree. The scene at the end with Jamie and Randall was . . . interesting. And I’m still not entirely sure what the point of all of it was.

Also, there was probably more sex in this book than in any other book I’ve ever read. Just . . . there’s so much of it. So, so much of it. I kind of wish she’d been a little more spare with it, because after the first three or four times so close together, the scenes sort of began to lose their spark.

Anyway, I’ll definitely be continuing with this series, but probably not until after the first season of the TV show airs on Starz next year. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Ron Moore can do with this story (and with it being on Starz, I’m sure the sex scenes will get their due as well).

And with that, I have finished my Double Cannonball goal for the year, and so now I shall go collapse into my bed and not wake up until Thursday.

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21 thoughts on “narfna’s #CBR5 Review #104: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

  1. *applauds* What a spectacular way to end your double Cannonball! Amazing review (and I’m normally a huge fan of your reviews), this is probably one of the best reviews I’ve ever read for this book. You summarise the plot so neatly, and capture the emotional rollercoaster of reading the book, all the while being articulate and funny and entertaining. Bravo! Take a well deserved rest.

    • Ha, glad you liked the review I spit out while still half-drunk from New Year’s. I was going to try to go to town on this one but I was just so tired it ended up being a lot shorter and less thorough than I had planned. I guess that worked out to its benefit? Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing your take on some of the stuff I had issues with, since you’re such a superfan of this book. I’m thinking specifically of two scenes, and you probably already know which ones I’m referring to, but just in case: the scene where Jamie has to “punish” Claire, and the rape scene(s) at the end. I especially wasn’t sure what to make of the latter one.

      • I honestly think that some of the gratuitous and rather unpleasant violence of the latter scene is to really bring home what a sick puppy Black Jack Randall really is.

        I’m not a fan of the spanking scene, what with being a modern, liberated woman of the 21st Century, but Claire really did act very foolishly, endangering a lot of people, and as a for of punishment, it happened the one time, with Jamie not exactly keen to repeat it either. Hence I tend to let that bit slide.

  2. CANNONCANNONBALLBALL! Congratulations!

    As a romance reader, I find it hilarious when people say there is a lot of sex in this book. My standards are clearly skewed.

    My understanding is that Gabaldon wrote Outlander to see if she could and didn’t care about anything but the writing process. Her writing and structure become clearer and more refined as the books progress. Maybe you could start CBR6 with reading the rest of the books in the series, after you wake up Thursday.

    • I don’t read that many romance books anymore, unless I hear it’s great from a lot of people, but I used to, and I don’t remember ANY of them having nearly the amount of sex this book has. In the middle part, they are seriously jumping each other every other paragraph. The beginning and end of the book are pretty standard, though. But man, that middle.

      I definitely plan to read the rest of the series, and have already purchased the second one. I probably won’t have time to get past that one this year because I have about six other long series that all have books coming out or that I need to catch up on. Of course, those plans could always go out the window if I get sucked into the story, so we’ll see.

      Also, same thing I said to Malin, since you’re a fan of this book. What’s your take on those two scenes? I really genuinely need to know.

      • I think the corporal punishment scene is indeed problematic, if period appropriate. The lead up (since the happenings are reported after and not really shown) was one of the audition pieces for the show. Remember, Claire does pull a knife on Jamie later AND he sells his soul for her in the end. I had some problems with the Black Jack stuff because of the raging homophobia. There are elements that will definitely be addressed in the TV show.

        The next book, Dragonfly, is my favourite, along with the 6th book.

      • Yeah, I totally buy how things turn out, I just think Gabaldon should have spent a little more time on it to makes sure her audience was in the right place.

        The homophobia was part of my discomfort with the Black Jack scenes, for sure, but I’m also just puzzled about why it needed to happen in the plot in the first place. Does it significantly affect Jamie’s character in the following books? Because we’re not given much time with him afterwards to see if it does. Mostly, it just has the effect of making Claire realize she really does want to stay back in time with Jamie, but I feel like that same goal could have been accomplished without subjecting Jamie to all the violent weirdness.

  3. Congrats on the double cannonball!!!!!! I love this series and have reread it several times. As far as the corporal punishment scene, you also have to remember that while Claire’s voice seems very forthright, she’s actually not a modern woman. She’s a woman of the 1940’s, so while she’s very outspoken by nature, she’s also 70 years behind us. Just how vocal would she really have been – in any era?

    • Yeah, the CP scene wasn’t as bothersome to me as the rape scene. And I think it totally works within the logic of the storyworld. My issue was that I wished Gabaldon had just taken the time to lay it out a little more, how each of the characters were feeling about it. And when I say ‘characters,’ I mostly just mean Claire. Claire just kind of moves on from it, and I had *such* an intense reaction to it that I needed a little more from the text. I felt like I was left hanging a little bit.

      I feel bad because I’m focusing on the negatives, but I really did like it!

      Jamie <3

  4. I just downloaded this (it was $1.99 on B&N) and I’m rereading it, so this review is timely. It’s probably been ten years (I think?) since I read it the first time. I devoured the first three or four books and then just sort of lost intersest, so I’m hoping this will renew my love for the series and I’ll get to read the whole thing.

    I’m only about 200 or 300 pages in, but already I’m seeing things a little differently than I did the first time. I’m not remembering a rape scene, but I’m also not there yet. I do remember the spanking scene, and you’re right – it’s a little squicky, but it sort of makes sense in context.

    And spanking scene or not, Jamie Fraser is on my laminated list of fictional characters. I wish I was British so he could call me Sassenach!

    • The rape is at the end of the book. Is that a spoiler if you’ve already read it?
      And yes, Jamie . . . just yes. There were times I just had to put the book down and walk away because he was so delicious my head was going to explode.

    • I daresay that since it means you qualify as a Sassenach simply be virtue of not being Scottish. I’m of Scottish descent and I think I qualify, too. Whatever it takes to get called “Sassenach”.

      Also, re: rape. There is a rough sex scene between Jamie and Claire. There is a rape scene between Jamie and Jack Randall. It is really (gratuitously) extreme.

  5. Congratulations! Wow, I remember reading this when I was 15 or so? It obviously spoke to my id, even though it’s so purple.

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