Rating: 3.5 Stars
Age Recommendation: Adult (16/17+, depending on the reader’s discretion)
Warnings: Adult themes including violence, language, and suggestions of sexual activities (not all consensual)
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
The screaming stones were the last thing I could truly say I remembered. And even that I had doubts about. The screaming had kept up, all the time. It was possible, I thought, that the noise came not from the stones themselves but from… whatever… I had stepped into.
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is the first book in a series of six, and introduces the reader to Claire Randall, a woman who worked as a nurse during World War II. Her interest in botany and her husband, Frank’s, interest in his family history leads the two to Inverness, Scotland, for their second honeymoon. While there, he learns about an ancestor of his named Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall and dives into learning about him while Claire goes off on her own adventure. When she stumbles across the standing stones upon a nearby hill, she, of course, has no idea that the circle will transport her back in time.
Claire finds herself in the middle of British soldiers as they fight clansmen, gets caught up in a web of lies about who she is and where she has come from and decides that – until she can get back home to Frank – what really matters is that she manages to stay alive.
The plot of Outlander is what drew me in, initially. I have heard so many rave reviews, although I’ll point out that most of them include a great deal of love for the male lead, Jamie, rather than any intensive look at other characters or writing style. I do not believe that Diana Gabaldon is a bad writer, in any sense. I will say, however, that her main character is not particularly likable in my opinion. I did watch the television show (an HBO series) before picking up the book, mainly because my best friend is rather in love with the novels as well as the show.
Obviously, my reaction to the written story was not the same as hers, so you may wish to take it with a grain of salt, but I found Claire to be indecisive and frustrating, as the goals she sets for herself are not met and she doesn’t seem particularly invested in trying to accomplish them. It does feel a bit like Gabaldon may have tried to ensure that the romance would happen, and that makes sense. It’s the main reason the plot works at all. But I find it difficult to enjoy the novel I’m reading if I do not feel I can connect with the main character.
The descriptions, however, are beautiful – even if sometimes they do go on for quite some time. For this reason, among others (mainly to do with exposition and setting the scene), the beginning feels very slow. The way Gabaldon explains action sequences, however, is quite something. I always understood exactly where each character was and what was happening to them. The portion where Claire is transported back in time is kept vague purposefully, I believe, and in that instance, I do think it works. Later scenes, I feel, are granted more explanation.
The plot does not seem to be like any other I have come across, which is a reason that means quite a lot to me these days, as many books seem to all have some element in common. This series is original, and actually rather funny, and I do recommend that people read Outlander before watching the show if they wish to enjoy the book. The adaptation is absolutely phenomenal in how closely it sticks to the book, but I think that, after watching that version of Claire, I was disappointed by the written one.
As ever, I feel that my opinion may or may not be similar to yours, but I do think that it is worth giving the series a go – particularly if you have yet to start the television show. I wouldn’t recommend that young readers try this one out, as there are some potentially upsetting themes. The television show, on that note, is something that parents may wish to be wary of as well, just as a heads up.
If I could rate Outlander on plot alone, I would give it a good 4.5 stars, but some of the descriptions along with my issues with Claire brought the rating down.