What with the visibility of this series lately, I don’t feel that I need to do a lengthy plot recap here — anyone reading this review probably has already read Outlander, or they have a good idea of what it’s about. I’ve had the intention to read it for some time, but spurred by the TV series, I finally dug in and — wow. I completely understand the obsession.
Briefest of summaries JUST IN CASE: Claire Randall is a married woman of the 1940’s who accidentally gets transported back in time to 18th century Scotland, and for reasons of convenience — “legal protection” — finds herself in a second marriage to Jamie Fraser, the hottest piece of Scottish highlander arse in either of their respective centuries. She’s understandably conflicted, but finds herself in love and adjusting to her new life.
Reductive? Definitely. The romance between Jamie and Claire is one for the ages, but it’s certainly not the only focus of Outlander. In addition to their totally addictive love story, Gabaldon fits together a suspenseful, irreverently funny, and well-researched narrative that offers both love and critiques of the regional and period culture, a resonant emotional experience, and a detailed character piece of our heroine and her new husband. It’s evident that though both characters are pretty people, their mutual attraction is not the substantive element that keeps their love growing and their marriage intact. Among other complementary traits, for instance, Claire brings out the levity in Jamie, and he helps focus her ferocity into productive efforts instead of impotent frustration.
Literally the only thing that I didn’t love about the book, which made me knock my all-important star rating from five down to 4.5, is Diana Gabaldon’s apparent fixation on sexual violence, of which there is a LOT in the book. Both Claire and Jamie find themselves in abhorrent abusive situations, and while they’re probably documented in the interest of “historical accuracy,” the sheer number of them and the very graphic depictions of more than one situation tended –in my opinion — toward salacious plot device at the expense of authorial respect for the characters. And SPOILER …
the scene where Claire “helps” Jamie recover from his rape by Black Jack Randall was, to me, a really appalling treatment of his condition. I can’t imagine any person in real life not becoming MORE traumatized by Gabaldon’s solution via Claire’s administrations here, but what do I know?
… Anyway, the sexual violence thing is something that I am hyper-critical about in principle, so I couldn’t help but mention it. But I really did love the rest of the book and can’t wait to start Dragonfly in Amber. I am also finally caught up on the show (just in time for its six month hiatus. WHY!?!?) and fully on the Outlander train!