July 28, 2014

Through the Ancient Stone

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Release Date: January 1991
Publisher: Random House | Dell
Pages: 896 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the way and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon - when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach - an "outlander" - in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord... 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intriuges and dangers that may threaten her life... and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire... and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Thoughts on Outlander
Oh, Outlander. The book that has a thousand fans and that sparks a thousand opinions. I started this book with Kelly from Belle of the Literati because we've decided to tackle some chunky books together after reading our experience with Paullina Simon's books earlier this year. I ended up devouring this book in two days, and I think Kelly had to set it down for a while. So, alas, we didn't get to have ALL THE EPIC DISCUSSIONS.

There were things I loved about this book, and a few things that I absolutely loathed. It's not often that a book inspires such intense feelings for me on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

Let's start with what I loved:

The Premise / Plot
It's 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is going on her second honeymoon with her husband, Frank. And then, the unexplainable happens. Claire touches one of the ancient stones circles found throughout the British Isles, and she's transported back in time to 1743. Believing at first that she's stumbled upon a movie set, Claire is in for a rude awakening when she finally realizes just what's going on. She's come to Scotland at a terrible time - the country is torn by war and fraught with danger.

I've only read a few time travel books, and I really enjoyed the idea that a woman from 1945 could suddenly find herself in 1743. As a huge historical fiction lover, it was fun to imagine what it might be like if I was able to actually visit the past. Claire has to make a lot of adjustments and learn quickly how to disguise herself so that it's not obvious she's from the future.

The Characters
While Claire can occasionally make some really stupid decisions, I did really enjoy her. She's not the most emotional character, which I thought was nice. I sometimes like the stubborn, stoic ones! That being said, she certainly has her moments. I wanted her to stop getting herself into trouble, but I found her sass refreshing.

JAMIE. I would read this book over and over again for Jamie alone. Everyone talks about him, but I had no idea just how great of a character he was going to turn out to be! He's strong but sensitive, and he was such a great hero in the book. I loved his humor and fierce loyalty, as well as the way he protected Claire (sometimes from her own stupidity).

Then, what I liked (for the most part):

The Romance
This is obviously a love story, and I was certainly rooting for these characters. I loved the way their relationship really started out of necessity and then blossomed into something more as they got to know one another. That aspect was really enjoyable! As for what I didn't like, there were too many sex scenes in here for me. I wanted it to be more historical fiction and less romance at times, but that's my personal preference. I assume most readers liked that component, but I'm not a fan of lots of sex in my reading.

Finally, what I loathed:

The Beating
I won't say what sparks this or who it involves, but I was definitely frustrated by this scene. I tried to tell myself that it was probably historically accurate, but this was one element that's hard to stomach from a modern perspective. I particularly hated it because I liked the character who was doing it, so it was something I had to mentally "get over" in order to continue to enjoy said character.

The Rape
Oh my gosh. This absolutely ruined the ending of the book for me. I was really loving it up to this point, and then everything kind of fell apart. It would have been right at 4.5 stars if not for this storyline. I honest to goodness did not need the amount of detail that was shared, and I totally skimmed quite a few pages. The aftermath of this storyline was also so frustrating and just ended the book on a downer. I understand that seeing someone brought to their lowest point can make for an interesting character study, but this felt gratuitous. It wasn't just the fact that it happened - it was more the amount of detail shared about it.

In summary:

Outlander really was an epic read! From the time travel to the love story, I was hooked and couldn't put it down. The first 75% of the book would probably get a So Loved It rating from me, but the last 25% really dropped it to more of a So Over It. I really hate that the ending soured the rest of the book for me! That being said, I'm giving it a rating that's about a 4 since the majority of the book worked for me. I am unsure, however, if I want to continue the series. Gabaldon kind of worries me, y'all!

So Quotable
"For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough."

5 comments:

  1. Great review! I've had a copy of this on my shelves for YEARS and have heard nothing but rave reviews. It's actually refreshing to read your balanced review because it'll give me more realistic expectations heading into the storyline. The Song of Ice & Fire series is my chunkster read of the year, but I do plan to give this series a try at some point. I heard they're making a TV series too? Maybe that'll be the toned down version ;)

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  2. This is one of my all-time favorite books, but I do completely understand your conflicted feelings. I hated the beating as well, but had to make myself understand that it was realistic for the time period and the circumstances (and was never to be repeated). And the rape is not easy to stomach by any means, but I didn't personally find it gratuitous -- it was an awful thing to happen, but I don't think glossing over it would have been the answer either. Not that everyone needs all the gory details, but male rape is such a taboo subject I thought it did the characters and story justice to see the emotions, aftermath, etc.

    I do recommend continuing with the series and I must say, I'm itching for a re-read because I haven't read the most recent two and it's been so long that I'm too fuzzy on the details to just jump right back in. What has always stood out for me though is how this saga follows the story of Jamie and Claire's marriage and their life together though countless adventures and obstacles. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly for sure, but I think that made them more real to me. Lots of books follow characters over the course of a lifetime, but none I have read have been quite on this scale.

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  3. I still haven't decided whether or not I want to even try to tackle Outlander! I've heard plenty about it from so many different people, and the historical aspect of it really appeals to me. I might have to discuss more details with you just so I can make an even more informed decision! Glad you enjoyed it for the most part :)

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  4. To say I had to put this book down for awhile is a massive understatement and you know it :)

    "Why is everyone always getting raped?"--almost verbatim text to you while reading.

    What else? Oh, maybe if Claire wasn't such a dumbass she wouldn't have gotten her ass literally beat. Just sayin.

    But for real, it pains me this book didn't agree with me, however, I will continue to be behind the idea of the story because let's be serious, this is like your and my dream come true :) I still think the show will be pretty legit so as long as we have some mutual emotions from the characters I think it's gonna be good.

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  5. All you need to do is read the first 20 pages of the second book and you will be hooked. While I fully agree with loving and loathing parts of this book, the second has hooked me completely.

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