So I did that thing again where I hear all kinds of hype about a book and its based-on-the-book TV series and it makes me think I should actually read that book when I really really shouldn’t. Even worse I paid an actual five dollars for this book. And promised to read it with a friend. So I felt all sorts of obligation to finish this book, when really I wanted to DNF by about 30%. But if I’d done that I would have missed sooooooo much crazy.
If you don’t know the plot of Outlander, let me sum it up. Married nurse, Claire, is on vacation in the Scottish Highlands with her professor husband right after World War II and then gets magically transported to the 18th century where she meets the real love of her life, Jamie, and a whole lot of sex and violence happen.
Where do I start with my love-hate for this book? First of all, I didn’t really love it, just more… couldn’t look away from it. The writing was decent and while the book was far too long, there was plenty of action. But dear lord. The number of outrageous things that happen in this book, is well, outrageous. Let’s start with the sex. There was loads of sex in this book. And you know, normally, I’m all for that, but the sex scenes in this book were weird. Some faded to black, especially the early ones. If you read romance novels at all, the first sex scene is typically the most graphic. I mean, I know Gabaldon likes to brag about flaunting genres, but I don’t care. There are conventions for a reason. The sex scenes did get more detailed, but then I got to a scene in which the phrase “testicles contracted” was used and well, it made me appreciate heaving bosoms and throbbing members. Because clinical terms are really not sexy. So. Lots of sex scenes that weren’t really sexy.
And then there’s
some a whole freaking lot of violence. And it’s not just there’s a war brewing sort of violence. There’s domestic violence. And child abuse. And corporal punishment. And sexual violence. And sadistic rape and torture violence. I’m sure life was more violent in 18th century Scotland. But, well, I can’t say I enjoyed reading about it. And I think the point was to enjoy some of the violence. Or at least to draw some distinction between good violence and bad violence. I don’t know. Repeated episodes of graphic violence is not something I really want to read. Especially not Jamie’s endless waxing on about how great it was to be spanked as a child. It all got to be too much.
And then this book has all sorts of random weird stuff in it. Claire sees the Loch Ness Monster. Claire is put on trial for witchcraft. Claire gets spanked by Jamie for disobeying him. Claire has all sorts of esoteric knowledge and interests that appear when it’s convenient to the plot. Claire somehow thinks you discourage wolf attacks by looking the wolf in the eye (which is the exact opposite of what you should do, as eye contact=aggression in the canine world). In a book that is over 800 pages some of this nonsense could surely have been cut out.
All that said, I clearly did not enjoy this book. I can see that other people might like it, as gratuitous sex and violence always sells. I can even see how a TV show would work out of if (it’s very episodic, also, see gratuitous sex and violence). But it was very much not the book for me.