Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, and finally got around to it. My mother and mother-in-law read the books and watch the show and have been telling me I need to read it, so we can all talk about it. Well, I finally read the first book in the series and immediately fell in love with Claire and Jamie’s story. Claire Randall and her husband Frank are on holiday in Scotland in 1945, finally reunited after six years of separation due to the war. Claire was a nurse on the front lines, while Frank worked as an intelligence officer in London. One morning Claire is out exploring and somehow goes through the rocks at a minor henge and ends up in the Scottish Highlands in the 1740s.
As soon as Claire goes back in time, she meets Frank’s great-great-grandfather (or something like that) Jonathan ‘Black Jack’ Randall, who Frank has described as a standup soldier and possibly a Jacobite. Well, he does not give off a particularly gentlemanly vibe when Claire interacts with him. Immediately after Randall assaults and kisses her, she is saved by some Highlander men, where she meets Dougal MacKenzie and Jamie MacTavish. Jamie is severely injured, and Claire nurses him back to health. The gang heads to Castle Leoch, the MacKenzie clan’s palace. Jamie is Dougal and the Laird Colum’s nephew. Claire is attracted to Jamie, but is still trying to figure out how to get back to Frank. But as Claire spends more and more time with Jamie, she finds herself liking him. When she needs to be saved from Randall again, Dougal MacKenzie convinces her that she needs to marry Jamie.
Once Claire and Jamie marry, they start getting to know each other (she finds out his surname is actually Fraser) and have some pretty amazing sex. Claire finds out that Randall also has ties to Jamie, and Jamie is actually wanted for murder (which he did not commit) and must avoid any and all English soldiers. When Jamie was in prison the first time, Randall personally beat him with switches, and he still has the scars on his back from the torture. As Claire and Jamie get to know one another and start to fall in love, other forces strive to keep them apart. But will Claire choose to stay with Jamie or try and find her way back to Frank?
I was fully engrossed in Claire and Jamie’s epic love story. And I was glad she didn’t go back to Frank. In the very brief scenes with Frank and Claire, I didn’t really particularly care for Frank. He seemed nice enough, but always seemed too busy to really care about Claire and even acknowledge her presence. So when she chose to stay with Jamie, I was glad, but I do think it would have been interesting for her to go back to Frank in the first book. There are 9 books in the Outlander series, which just seems excessive. I could maybe see 3 or 4, but 9 is way too many. Each book in the series is at least 600 pages long, sometimes even closer to 900 pages. While I appreciate Gabaldon's intense research and details, I feel like there was about 100 pages too many in Outlander.
There was one scene in the book that really rubbed me the wrong way (and other people have had issues with it too). Claire does something that Jamie forbid her to do, and he feels he has to punish her. I get that it was a different time and it was acceptable and the cultural norm (yada yada yada), but I was not okay with how Jamie decided to punish her. And he seemed to enjoy it. Thankfully, Claire was not having it and was pissed at Jamie. But she also seemed to forgive Jamie much too soon. They discuss the situation, and Jamie says that he will not ever hurt her again. Even with that compromise, I just had a hard time getting past any kind of physical violence. And there is another violent scene at the end of the book that also bothered me. Again, I know why Gabaldon includes these scenes, but I just could not get past them.
I fell in love with Jamie (despite that one scene) almost immediately, and Claire was such a great strong character. Though I loved their story, I don’t ever want them to be separated, and since Frank is kind of a pitiful love interest compared to Jamie, I may just stop with this book and not continue the series. I liked the way Outlander ended, but I definitely want to watch the tv show. Though it is weird that Frank and Black Jack Randall are played by the guy who is going to be the new Prince Philip in The Crown.
If you are looking for a fun and interesting historical fiction read, definitely pick up Outlander. And if you really like it, you’re in luck because you have 8 more books and a tv show! But I will stick with this one and bask in the happiness of Claire and Jamie’s love. I give it 4 stars!
What are your thoughts on Outlander? Are you Team Jamie or Team Frank? Is the tv show better than the books?