“There’s no place on earth with more of the old superstitions and magic mixed into its daily life than the Scottish Highlands…”
I’ll be honest, I honestly didn’t expect to like this, but I very, very much did. Also, all the credit and thanks to one of my best friends, Paloma, for encouraging me to read her favorite book! I was a complete Outlander virgin; I’ve never read the books, I’ve never watched the show, and somehow none of my friends had spoiled me for any of the events in any of these books. But I really loved the writing, the atmosphere, and the characters. Plus, someone told me Diana Gabaldon came up with the premise for this book because of Dr. Who, and that’s pretty badass if I do say so myself.
But I know most of you aren’t Outlander virgins, but I should probably give a brief synopsis for the few, like me, that were living under a rock. A woman named Claire, who lives in the year 1945 and is a combat nurse who just got home from World War II. Her and her husband are finally together and happy and trying to conceive a child.
Then, one day, Claire finds an ancient circle of stones and she instantly teleports to the year 1743, where there is war in Scotland. Her healing skills make her a huge asset to a group she meets. She is forced to adapt to the time period, while everyone believes her to be a spy, and she is also trying to figure out if she will ever be able to go back home to her time period and to her husband.
For one, no one told me this story was pretty much about two people traveling through the Scottish Highlands, going to tons of different taverns, pubs, and castles. Like, that is something I will always enjoy in my Fantasy, so this book was already set up for me to like it.
Then, I found out very quickly, that this was so intelligently crafted. Like, Diana Gabaldon did some research while writing this novel and it shows. This book is smart and the story is expertly woven. Plus, this entire book is over twenty years old, and still holds up in 2017. I am so impressed with how well developed and researched this book is. And I was actually blown away by the writing in this.
Next, you guys were all right: I now love Jamie Fraser and he probably is the perfect man. Dammit all. I never thought I’d be a part of the Highlander craze, but here my thirsty self is. *looks at picture of Sam Heughan and entire body shivers* Like, God took some extra time on that man, true?
“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?”
And do I even need to talk about the Romance? Jamie Fraser isn’t so many girls’ favorite fantasy because of the way he looks (I mean, Sam Heughan definitely helps. Are you looking at the gif above this?) It’s because Jamie is so, so, so, very romantic. Him, and his wanting, and his two hands. Ah, the things he says are truly perfection and had me feeling some type of way.
Also, no one has ever mentioned this to me before, but I loved the fact that Claire was older than Jamie! We so rarely get to see that dynamic in romance, and I never thought I’d see it in a series as popular as Outlander! It was just a nice change of pace, and I really enjoyed that minor element.
Plus, and this is a very minor spoiler, I was living for the fact that Claire was not a virgin, but that the male love interest was! This is a dynamic we really never get to see in the romance world, still, almost thirty years since this book was published! Like, Diana Gabaldon really switched up some common tropes, and I was so happy for them all.
And I just really want to stress the point that Claire is a strong female protagonist that is constantly saving the day. I could write essays on Jamie and how he is one of the most romantic male love interests I’ve read about, but Claire and her intelligence and bravery are truly the heart of this book. Claire is sex positive, smart, empathetic, crafty, and so damn fearless. I loved reading about her and her journey.
Okay, for the bad, and I mean really bad. First off, I will say that 80% of Outlander is honestly a five star book for me. I really loved it, the writing, the atmosphere, and the characters. But, for the bad, I personally feel like this book demonizes/villainizes a queer character and uses rape as a constant ploy to move the plot forward. It reads and feels just plain bad, and that has nothing to do with any triggers I have towards rape. It reads and feels bad because the villain of this story, who is male, likes to rape men. It’s discussed so much in the book that I actually hate even discussing it in my review, but it’s important, and we shouldn’t ignore this problematic aspect. It’s gross, and I hope the author does better with the rest of the series.
And obviously content/trigger warnings for violence, gore, torture, assault, and rape that is very detailed. Also, this book has a lot of sex in it, so use caution if that’s something you’re not really into.
But I will say that this book does open up a good and important discussion about male rape, and how it does exist. And how we need to talk about it, instead of hiding it as a shameful thing towards the victim. Sexual assault doesn’t just happen to women and weak and fragile men; it can happen to anyone at any time, and we need to normalize that concept and not keep making it taboo. It was obviously taboo in this book that is set in 1743, and in Claire’s year of 1954, and back when this book was originally published in 1991, and guess what? It’s still taboo in 2017. So, I will say that books that open discussion like this are very important and I’m very appreciative of that.
Also, there is also another scene that bothers a lot of people that involves domestic violence between a husband and wife where it is sort of brushed under the rug and normalized. Here is the thing, do I think that scene was in any way, shape, or form okay? No. Hell no. But it’s supposed to be a realistic depiction of the time then, which is awful to say the least. Again, I just want to bring this to your guys’ attention, so you’ll know going in, or you’ll know this book isn’t for you. Which is totally okay. I was personally okay with it, because I forced myself to look at it through historical context, but I will never make an excuse for this behavior in any literature, regardless of the time period.
And the last negative thing I really have to say is about the author, Diana Gabaldon, who has said some gross things on Twitter. I normally can never separate the art from the artist, and that’s the main reason it has taken me so long to pick this book up. Diana Gabaldon has made some terrible comments about fast food workers, about English majors, and has proven over and over that she’s not sorry for any of it. I also just felt like I couldn’t ignore her nasty behavior and not bring it up in this review. If this is a reason why you don’t want to read Outlander and support her books, that’s completely valid and completely understandable.
Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I was really surprised by this. Also, this is an outstanding mixture of fantasy, historical, and romance! And this story is filled with adventure, twists and turns, romance, and so many magical elements that I truly wasn’t expecting. I’m so thankful that I finally read this beloved book, and I can’t wait to read more and find out more about a certain ghost at the very start, because my curiously is at an all-time high. Also, I can’t wait to finally watch season one. You know, for research and totally not because of Sam Heughan.
“Because I wanted you […] More than I ever wanted anything in my life”
Buddy read with Paloma! ❤