Amanda Reads: Outlander

Starting off, I don’t really know where this post is going to take me, which is actually pretty appropriate since I didn’t know what I was doing when I started off on Outlander, either. When I decided to buy the first book in the series, this is what was going on in my head:

“This book has a nice, fantasy-looking cover. It’s a TV show, so it must be interesting. I think there’s like a love story or something. And there are so many more books if I like the first one!”

That was pretty much it. I had little to no idea that what I was delving into was some sort of bizarre, time-travel romance romp with some seriously weird stuff going on. Suffice it to say, I was pretty shocked by a lot of what I encountered in the 800 plus page journey that awaited me.

It took me a long time to get through this one. If I hadn’t been co-reading it with my friend Erin, I might not have finished. While the premise of the book is interesting, I had a lot of difficulty with Claire, the book’s narrator. She often seems to lack a depth of emotion and reflection that was pretty troubling considering the seriously disturbing stuff she goes through in even the early pages of the book. Get sucked through time away from everything you ever knew? Eh. That’s a thing that happened. Kidnapped by some Scots men? That, too, happened.

My issues with Claire as narrator never really went away. Although she goes through quite a lot, she takes it all in stride, never really seeming to react. While you could make some arguments that this is a result of her being a nurse during wartime, where she undoubtedly saw unspeakable horrors, it can be kind of off-putting as a reader. Especially in first person narration, one expects a sense of the narrator’s inner life. In Outlander, we don’t really get much.

In spite of that, something pulled me through this book. Though there were large swaths of inaction that I had to trudge through, there were also points where I would suddenly flip through 100+ pages without noticing. I wasn’t expecting so much sex and I definitely wasn’t expecting wife-beating as a normal practice accepted even by Claire (so many questions about this), but there it all was. The book has some potentially problematic areas and is certainly graphic and mildly horrifying at parts. Overall, I was most disturbed by Claire’s casual acceptance of Jamie’s decision to beat her–yes, beat her. After that moment, I found it even harder to like Claire, and my burgeoning affection for Jamie was hampered, as well.

I’m still trying to decide if I’ll keep reading this series. In fact, I’m still trying to decide if I even enjoyed reading the first book. It does, however, make me pretty curious about the TV show, and how much made it to the screen.

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6 thoughts on “Amanda Reads: Outlander

  1. I have to strongly disagree with your review. The reason Claire stayed quiet during those times when you feel she should’ve been more affected was the mere fact women were not give such liberties during those times. It’s hard for me to finish reading a review when the reviewer didn’t read all the pages of the book. She clearly states such through her inner musings & character about her need for discretion during the times.

    I understand where you’re coming from about the wife beating, but it was more about the savage animalistic act involving sex, rough sex, which is prevalent through the book, that many found satisfying. Again, it was a different world & Jamie “dint want ta do it” but felt it necessary. As well as Claire.

    I thank you for your well written review, we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. But my advice would be to read the entire book before reviewing it.

    • Hello, Dean. I’m more than happy to welcome your disagreement with my opinion; one of the best things about books is how differently they can be read by different people. However, I can’t help but be confused by your choice to accuse me of not finishing the book simply because I don’t agree with your assessment of it. My not finding the same things in the pages that you did does not mean I didn’t read them all.

      I would love to talk further about your perspective on the book, as you make a few interesting points I hadn’t considered. However, your accusatory tone in parts of this comment makes me hesitate to begin a dialogue, so I think I shall leave it at that.

      I thank you for your comment and for the perspectives you raise here.

      • I surly apologize…my tone wasn’t meant to be accusatory.. I see now (that I’m fully awake) how it appears that way. Only friendly, bookerly connotation was meant. 😁 And I apologize, again, I mistook your “flipping through hundreds of pages” for not reading (I didn’t have my glasses, either), wherein I totally agree-hundreds of pages flashed by for me as well, due to elation.

        I’d happily discuss anything you like of the points I raised. 😄

      • Oh, no worries! It’s certainly difficult to both convey and read tone on the internet. I can also see how my “flipping through 100s of pages” could be misconstrued as not reading them, but I’m definitely not the sort to skip pages in a book.

        I thought your point about the time period was interesting and certainly bears considering; I had forgotten to remember that Claire is not only displaced from her own time, but originates from a time different from ours, as well. I wasn’t necessarily frustrated with Claire for not verbally reacting at these times, as I agree, she was in a difficult position. I more meant the actual first person narration of the book, where she often just seems to be reporting things. I think perhaps we’re meant to take this as stoicism from being a nurse in war time; unfortunately, I’m just not sure I’m buying it entirely.

        As for the rough sex comment, it’s certainly an interesting point. While I know some people enjoy reading about rough sex, the fact that Jamie actually beats Claire in a way that isn’t consensual or enjoyable for her is a bit different, I think. I understand why Jamie felt it was necessary, but Claire’s acceptance of it is more what frustrated me. It seemed to me she got over it a bit more quickly than I might have expected.

      • I think the sex part was meant for a different type of reader. Or it was meant to evoke the primal urges in all of us, albeit some are so deep they don’t feel them, but that a whole other topic, lol. I felt that Claire actually enjoyed it because he took control (especially because of her Timey-Wimeyness, <–Doctor Who ref, couldn't resist) and her fears of indecision away. Made her feel protected, along with summoning those "primal" urges. It's clear that she enjoys the rough sex over her husband's vanilla offerings and I think that also ties in with the beating. If I remember correctly (forgive my Swiss-Cheese Brain if I don't) that he spanked her? Which is also indicative of the rough-sex lifestyle. I must say, discussing the book has been interesting & fun. I'm an avid, avid…reader an I've never really considered the value a "book club" (which is really what we're doing here) has to offer. 😀

  2. I would agree, I’m not the target audience for some of the more rough sex scenes. I can see what you mean about the contrast between her “vanilla” husband and Jamie, though–I hadn’t fully considered how that difference made up part of her decision to stay in the past rather than returning to her own time. And yeah, there was definitely spanking ha ha.

    Always happy to meet a fellow Whovian! 🙂 It has been a pleasure discussing the book! I love considering other viewpoints and interpretations.

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