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.