Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a novel written nearly fifteen years ago, has made a huge hit as a television series. The question is, should you read the book? (I will review the later books in the series as well, as I finish them).
First of all, this book took me a very long time to read. I read maybe five books at once, and this one went on longer for me than A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin (which is a huge book that I was reading at the same time as this one). There are a few things that made this book a long read. Before actually reviewing the text, I need to say that the genre is historical fiction/romance, and women’s fiction. So if these are not your genres, I would not suggest even trying this book.
Outlander features twenty-seven year old Claire who is on a sort of second honeymoon with her husband after they found each other in the end of World War II. They decided Scotland would be a great place to visit. In Scotland, Claire finds herself rather interested in a circle of standing stones, Craigh na Dun. Said stones take her back to around 1743 Scotland. If you know your history, this is around the time they are trying restore a Stuart to Scotland’s rule, the Jacobite’s are looking for funding, and the British and Scots are at ends. There is a lot of things that happen in the book: Claire’s husband’s far distant British relative is alive in that time, Claire gets married…again…while she is still married to her husband in 1945, Claire gets tried as a witch with someone else who likewise traveled back in time (from the 1960’s), and there’s lots of injuries and fun things going on.
Here is what makes Outlander a rather hard read (to any general audience): the novel is in first person, so the reader goes through the mind of a twenty-seven year old woman in the various events. This isn’t exactly the issue, but the author has made Claire a character of many words. There is a GREAT AMOUNT of exposition in the novel, things that are there that we may not really need as the reader, things that make the reading tedious, yet interesting. For example, Claire will be picking various herbs because she was a nurse in the war and knows what plants make for good medicines. There will be maybe five pages about what plants they are that she is collecting and what they can be used for. That is a lot of information that really drags out the novel. While interesting, it takes away from the action. Something else that may slow the reader down is the historical element. If the reader is unfamiliar with Scottish/British history, then the political aspects of the novel will feel far too informative.
On the other hand, here’s some of the things that make the novel a great read: it’s a romance, it has a great title, and there’s a lot of action (despite the previously mentioned exposition). The target audience for this novel is quite obviously women over probably twenty years old, and any woman from 20-120 years would enjoy this book. The romance targets that thing in our human nature that we all long for: companionship. Also, the action sequences keep the romance complicated and keeps the reader asking questions, which is a good thing to keep us reading! This novel is NOT necessarily just for women; men can enjoy Outlander too. The action in the novel mostly revolves around the historical events of the time period, which can easily be researched to see if there is a potential reading interest there. Also, the title is rather clever. An outlander is what the Scottish would call the British that may be in their highlands as more of a derogatory term. And Claire is from a completely different time period, putting the term to a whole new level.
The thing that kept me reading the most was, when is she going to tell Jamie she’s from the future? After that reveal is when the novel really seemed to slow down for me. That is what kept me reading. After that reveal, what kept me going (I guess) was the question of, what are they going to do now?
After a great many pages, I finally made it to book two, Dragonfly in Amber, which starts off very differently than Outlander. Back to the question, should you read Outlander? If you are a history buff, romantic, literature major, or avid reader of all books, then I would say yes, this book is for you. If you would not classify yourself as one of the four above listed types of people, then I would say no, you should not read this book. If it’s not your thing, you don’t want to try and read something that will take you five years to finish (heh).