Outlander by Diana Galbadon
With over 13,000 reviews on Amazon, it hardly seems likely that Ms. Galbadon needs my 2 cents. But, Outlander heralds one of the largest turning events in the history of book publishing. Consider this: not only was the book so incredibly popular and loved that it launched its own subgenre (kilt pron), it was also a harbinger of the move towards more intelligent writing in the romance genre and the concept of cross-genre marketing. Yes, it’s a bit of a bodice-ripper at heart, but thank goodness the original publisher gave it a little more respect and gave it more mysterious cover.
I first read Outlander right after it came out, when someone who claimed to know and love me gave it to me. They knew I liked books, and they had heard it was very popular, so somehow I ended up with a copy. What on earth do you get for someone who loves Isaac Asimov, Chaucer, and John Steinbeck? Apparently, “Outlander.”
At some point, I ran out of reading material and picked it up and gave it chance. It had time travel in it, which I guess might have been confusing. I have read a few Gothic romances and bodice rippers in the past, after I’d finished the backs of all the cereal boxes and was at a complete loss, so it’s not like I was losing my mass market cherry. It wasn’t bad. It was even enjoyable. It was even pretty well written. I couldn’t complain. I enjoyed it, admitted to it, and left it there. I not only didn’t read the sequels, I didn’t even know they existed.
Twenty years passes.
I decided to give it another read just recently to see if my memory served right that it was an unusually good example of the romance genre. With the TV show coming out and many of my book loving friends enjoying the resurgence in popularity, and having the $1.99 it cost me on Kindle, I thought I’d see if it stood up after all this time.
You don’t need me for a recap, so I’ll skip that part. It’s a fun, laid-back kind of read. It’s not life-changing. The history angle is rather engaging and I wish there had been more of it. I love time travel stories, and I wish there had been more focus on that. The sexy bits were okay if you like that sort of thing. The violent scenes were a bit too violent and creepy for me, but I guess the author had to make a point. The cultural comparisons were kind of interesting. The plot and subplots were sort of developed, and I wished I’d gotten more out of them.
But I’ve got to admit, and I hate to say it, but I really got sick of Jamie Fraser.
Every little detail about his childhood and the pages spent on them wore me down. Just TMI.
I suppose we had to fully understand how wonderful Jamie was in order to give the protagonist a pass for being an adulteress. But, you know, if that means I have to skim over pages and page and pages of Jamie’s stories, and stories about Jamie, and accolades of Jamie and his wonderful deeds in order to accept the protagonists situation, then I’d rather not be bothered.
It’s a well-written, relatively engaging book, purely entertainment. But the author spends so much time apolobizing and justifying her characters that it really kills the flow. Yes, Claire is sleeping with a man who is not her (original) husband. We get it. She’s stuck 200 years in the past, and quite frankly it looks like the best option. So, we have to spend way too many pages in order to justify why this is okay by making Jamie just a little too good to be true. It’s like having a drunk girlfriend hanging off of you , slobbering about how great the guy who won’t leave his wife is.
Along with that, she spends a lot of time justifying that the bad guy just happens to be gay. That’s not the point, subtext tells us. The problem isn’t that he’s gay, the problem is that he’s an unrepentant sadist (and an incestuous one, at that). In fact, she introduces a perfectly nice gay fellow just to show she doesn’t mean to seem homophobic. Of course, she has to qualify that via the opinions of these barbaric primitives of the past.
I can’t see myself reading the sequels. I’ve had enough Jamie Fraser for one lifetime.