Sunday, July 6, 2014

#36 [2014/CBR6] "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon

"One never stops to think what underlies romance. Tragedy and terror, transmuted by time. Add a little art in the telling, and voila! a stirring romance, to make the blood run fast and maidens sigh." (470)

I wasn't sure I wanted to read Outlander (1992) by Diana Gabaldon. I first heard of it through a Cannonball review. Although I believe Mrs. Julien called it a classic, there appeared to be some mixed feelings. The novel was reported as an amalgam of time travel, history, and romance, along with some healthy servings of violence, beatings, and rape. It was also very long. I was thinking of skipping it, but my interest was piqued, so it stayed in the back of my head. Then I heard they were adapting it for television, and I figured I better read it before the show comes out. Even so, I began reading with some trepidation...and got sucked immediately into the story.

Claire, a nurse, and her husband Frank travel to Scotland for a second honeymoon and to reconnect after the end of World War II. While they're up there, Claire falls through time and ends up in 1743 with Highlanders and English soldiers running amok across the countryside. Claire is lucky enough to fall in with a small group of Highlanders who take her up to their castle, suspecting that she might be an English spy. Along the way she meets a Highlander outlaw..and the rest is history. There is the historical aspect of 18th Century Scotland and even comparison with post-World War II. There is also adventure, danger, and stirring romance. If you haven't read this book yet, I'd recommend that you do before the television show comes out. I'll definitely be getting around to reading the rest of this series, although I need a little break from Gabaldon's world to come back to reality for a bit.

The rest of this review is probably better for those already familiar with the plot, since I plan on talking about it freely. First, I loved the romance between Claire and Jamie. I knew so little about this book going into it, that I didn't know who the love interest was. Every man Claire met, I assumed was the love interest--until she started interacting with Jamie. A roguish highlander and a forced marriage: it had all the trappings of a typical bodice ripper, but the historical detail, the care taken for the characters to get to know each other, Claire's experience and Jamie's lack thereof, made this one incredibly unique. And unlike many romances I read, I can remember almost every detail of their relationship, despite the fact that I raced through this book at record speed.

The more troublesome aspects that I was anticipating included when Jamie beat Claire. For whatever reason this didn't bother me as much as I was expecting. I think it helped that I was prepared. It also helped that he didn't hit her when he was angry, and he promised that he would never do it again. Taken together with the circumstances, the time period, and how he'd treated her since he'd met her, I could forgive him. I was actually more bothered by their completely consensual sex scene after that--the one where he's really aggressive and says things like, "I'm your master." That made me more uncomfortable.

When I was about 3/4 of the way done with the book, my curiosity got the better of me and I went looking for the trailer for the Starz version of Outlander. The scene with Jamie and Claire on the horse almost had me swooning, and that's when I learned about Sam Heughan--the new Jamie Fraser.
Sigh...I am very, very satisfied with the casting for this show. [He had me as soon as I heard him say 'Sassenach.' If I can remember how to spell his name, I'm putting him on my Pajiba 5 list.] Not only did this increase my anticipation for the show, but it put a real person into the character of Jamie Fraser, who I was liking more and more, the more I read about him. So, I really didn't want anything bad to happen to him. And that's what sucks about the end of the book. It's still well written, and I'm impressed how Gabaldon was able to articulate how Jamie's torture and rape were more than just physical wounds. However, I hated reading about it. Why would I want anyone, but especially someone so charismatic and likable to go through that? I also didn't really understand the whole scene where he's almost dying and Claire gets through to him and somehow he gets better. I kept hoping all of his pain was over, but it went on forever. And even though I'm dying to see the show, I'm dreading all the violence: the whippings, the beating in the hall, and the rape and torture. Ugh, that's something I don't need to see.

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