Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was very uncomfortable to listen to.

I took out the book on CD and listened to it in the car, on the theory that it would go faster, being listened to in the moments when I don't have anything better to do. It did, indeed, go a lot quicker than it would've if I'd sat down with the book, but that doesn't mean it was fast. There were more than a few cringe-inducing chapters that I wish I could've skimmed past.

Gabaldon does horrible things to her characters, and leaves very little to the imagination on that front. Rape, torture, flogging, whipping and disciplinary spanking are all discussed frankly and in intimate detail. Sex is plentiful, but the details are glossed over, to the point where I was murmuring, every time the characters discovered a new picturesque location, "And then they had sex in it," because that was what most of it boiled down to. It got pretty silly, in the middle.

I got pretty mad at the book around that point, too. Claire, our main character, time travels from post-WWII back to the 1740s, and brings her "modern" notions with her. So, understandably, she protests the notion of being spanked for just trying to go home. (In the book, it's called beating, but it's bare-handed hitting across her bare butt.) Jamie, her husband and the one administering the beating, shows no remorse until he finds out the whole truth, but she quickly forgives him and comes to agree. I felt better about it after Jamie felt bad after learning the whole truth, but I remained skeptical about the book's claim of Claire as a strong female protagonist it seemed to have been staking up to that point. The forgiveness seemed too quick, and there were other aspects of domination that made me very uncomfortable. I think the book would've been a lot stronger if the dominance aspect had been left out. At least, I would've liked it better.

I still don't think I've fully forgiven Jamie for that section of the book, even after the awful things he has to endure in the last few chapters. I won't go into it in detail here, but suffice it to say that I was cringing, hearing it read aloud to me. It was horrible and grueling and awful, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the author was really enjoying making this character suffer. She spoke in fetishistic detail about young Jamie's beatings, and now this? It was pretty creepy.

I didn't totally hate it. There were moments that made me smile, and I was a little intrigued to find out what happens next. I won't be picking up the next one.

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  1. I've only read one of Gabaldon's stories, it was a short story set in the same universe as Outlander. I didn't think it was very good and it cured me of ever wanting to read any of her other work.

    1. She has a lot of really avid fans, which puzzles me, until I remember some other books with similarly damaging themes that are hugely popular.

      Ah, well. Some people like to think that books have nothing to do with reality.