October 05, 2011

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This book is far from what I expected. Recommended to me by a book message board, I had expected a fantasy type novel with just a hint of romance. While there's some of that Outlander is vastly different from normal time travel books.

Claire, a married nurse from the 1940's is on her second honeymoon when she is transported through time by some sacred stones. Unaware at first, she discovers herself in the 18th century. Even more incredulous, she is found very quickly by a past relative of her husbands, and by past I mean several generations in the past. With the aid of some Scottish warriors, she is released from his cruel care and taken to their clan's chieftain.

On the way, she nurses a man affectionately called Jamie, who has been injured in some skirmishes with the English. There is some attraction, but Claire doesn't think too much of it until she is forced to marry him to save her own life. Very attracted to him, she is first torn with guilt over her husband in the future, but slowly puts him out of memory as she grows to love Jamie.

The book, while not having a set plot (perhaps because of the numerous sequels) is really the story of two lives and reads like it as well. They encounter several misfortunes at the time and tangle themselves in intrigues and lawlessness.

The story is told through Claire's eyes and Gabaldon does a wonderful job of making her character relate-able. However, I did find a few instances that made me pause. Claire, although she was a nurse in the 2nd world war, does not seem to fit with her time. She is not as genteel as one would expect from the time and has a vast amount more of independence and thought of women's rights than I think would be appropriate in that era. She also uses phrases that I don't think came into origination until sometime later and cusses quite frequently.

There is also some controversy regarding the beating that Claire's husband gives her in the novel. While most stop reading because of this, I am of the opinion that it did a lot to show the novel's history. While some say she forgave him too easily, he is a product of his time in which the action was condoned and she is a product of her time, where if not condoned, such things were left between husband and wife and there was no legal intervention if a beating did happen. It would make sense then, that she did not feel that it was grossly inappropriate and could forgive him much easier than a woman of our time could. While horrific in our eyes, if left out of the novel it would do no favor to the reader. Someone wouldn't leave slavery out of a Civil War novel just so not to offend. Lessons cannot be learned if they are not told about.

Although I agree that that beating was important to the novel as a lesson, I do think there was a lot of unneeded gratuitous violence in this novel. Each chapter seemed to mention a beating at least once, if not something more violent and it took away from the story after awhile. While I was enamoured with the plot, I think too much violent filler interrupted it.

Overall I did like this book. There were several things I would have liked to be written differently, but as its too late now, the book is an entertaining read and I'll probably continue on with the series.

Copyright 1991
627 pages

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