Review: Outlander .. and it’s not pretty

Outlander (Outlander, #1)Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Every so often a book comes along that I loathe to the core of my being. I can give low ratings to books I dislike but sometimes there are books that deserve negative scores, if such a thing was possible. To say I hate this book is a bit of an understatement. To even say that negative passion rivals a thousand suns doesn’t quite match my feelings. I will attempt not to rant forever but I apologize in advance if I can’t seem to shut up. It’s that kind of review. I’ll summarize to say that the book has a myriad of technical problems, plot holes and inconsistencies, however, the worst offense is the loathsome main protagonist, Clare Beecham. She offends me on just about every level. I am utterly horrified there is actually a TV show staring this pitiable character.

Claire is a war nurse in the 1940s on vacation in Scotland with her husband, Frank. She is transported back in time to the 18th century through a mysterious stone rock formation. She is taken in by a Scottish clan, believed to be an English spy, but eventually she’s accepted by them when she marries another Scott, Jamie Fraser. However, both Claire and Jamie are hunted by a sadistic English soldier, Captain Randall, a man with whom they have numerous run-ins.

That summary is sadly wholly insufficient to describe the plot of the book, which is hugely complicated and meandering. Basically Claire goes back in time and wanders her way through the 18th century, basically making all the wrong decisions and making her new husband’s life miserable with every choice she makes. For some reason he loves her anyway so I guess that’s the romance aspect. To begin with the plot has so many holes and inconsistencies I got tired of questioning them. The timeline is totally off and it’s almost as if the author didn’t keep track. The story will jump in time and throw out arbitrary time lengths that don’t match up. For example, Jamie and Claire met the same day Claire traveled back in time and then were married one month later. There’s a mention that Claire and Jamie have been married one month about halfway through the book. Then Claire mentally says that it’s been six months since she traveled back in time. However, the very next person says again that she and Jamie have been only married a month. So, that makes no sense and this inconsistency in time jumps back and forth repeatedly to the point I lost count.

Additionally Claire traveled 200 years back in time because all the legends say 200 years. However, Giles Duncan disappeared from 1967 yet had clearly been in the “past” longer than Claire. So how is it the women are transported back 200 years but not all women?
It’s details like this that are misused and confused repeatedly within the story.

Claire, herself, is a very contradictory character. She was married for 8 years to her husband, Frank, even though they haven’t been together for some time. The story mentions them being apart for 2 years and then changes that to 6 years so I’m not sure how long they weren’t together when she was in France as a nurse and he was off with MI6, but it was a long time. In all that time she was faithful to him and loved him very deeply. Yet she calls herself a widow the same day she teleports to the past and marries another man, all the while trying to return to her own time. I didn’t understand why she would marry and furthermore sleep with another man if she was still trying to return home to Frank. After all, she must have known she could die at any moment during the war but she stayed faithful for years. Yet a few weeks into the past and a handsome younger man have her married and having sex three times a day. I found that part of the character inconsistent. Claire almost never thinks of Frank once she’s in Scotland and if she really wanted to return, why wouldn’t she think of him more often and make more of an effort? Additionally if she wasn’t thinking of her lost husband and not really making an effort why would she sneak off? The behavior is not consistent and furthermore it’s totally annoying. I was put off with the disparity pretty early on and it never reconciled for me. Claire never came off as conflicted, if that was the intent, but more so her character would change whenever the story needed to inject some tension into the narration.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with the whole book – Claire is worthless. She really is. She does nothing, adds nothing, and is not what I would call “a modern smart ass.” She constantly makes poor decisions and gets those around her in trouble because of it, while she never pays the consequences. Instead Jamie, her Scottish husband and a character far too noble and good for Claire, ends up paying repeatedly for her bad decisions. She literally sits there (in many scenes!) while Jamie fights for her life. I never found the helpless heroine an attractive theme and Claire takes helpless to an extreme. She actively made every situation worse. I thought “just let her die!” on more than one occasion. Sadly, she didn’t die. What was more frustrating was that she never learned from her mistakes either. Instead, she kept making them and the consequences to Jamie got worse and worse while Claire huddled in corners horrified and scared, never even acknowledging that she made circumstances far more dire than they had been before. So needless to say I couldn’t stand, and actively hated, the main character and narrator of the story.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Outlander .. and it’s not pretty

  1. Tam says:

    I did read this back in the day, but I remember nothing. Well, I remember it helped reinforce my love of plaid, perhaps I was so focused on him being dreamy I ignored her. I’ve seen a few reviews since that make me think if I read it with my today sensibilities, I would not be impressed.

    • A friend of mine mentioned that they LOVED this book. Like… desert island keeper love status. I remember thinking they were brain dead and we could no longer be friends. It might have to do with my current mind set but I like to think if I read this 10 years ago I’d have hated it too. It’s not just anti-feminist, it’s flat out badly written. That’s even more offensive.

  2. Wait I’m so glad someone else has read Outlander and isn’t completely obsessed with it! I’m not going through the same level of loathing but I was definitely on the fence after finishing it. Thanks for a thoughtful and honest post!

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