I watched the first season of the TV show based on this book series back a couple years ago and I mostly enjoyed it. I mean, it’s certainly wasn’t Lord of the Rings, but it’s a nice, interesting historical romance. The book has been on my TBR since (for over three years) and finally this year I took the plunge and read it. There have been two reasons why I’ve avoided it up until now. First, its 850 pages…I mean, this is nearly Les Misérables length (that one’s about 1400 pages, I believe). Second, usually I’m not a fan of modern romance (set in history or not) because the characters tend to be shallow. But I told myself I had to read it and read it I did.
For those of you who know nothing about it, Outlander follows Claire Randell, a married ex-WWII nurse in 1945 who while on vacation with her husband in Scotland gets transported back to 1743—a time when Scotland was fighting for its independence from England. There she meets Scottish warrior James Fraser—though I’m pretty sure nobody ever calls him James, instead opting to call him Jamie. The rest of the book follows the growing romance between the two and Claire’s conflict between staying faithful to her husband back in the 40s and her growing attraction for Jamie.
Unlike most of my reviews, this one will be mostly non-spoiler, because unlike most of my reviews I think this book is actually worth reading. In fact, I will go so far as to say this is the best historical romance I have ever read (though that isn’t saying much, considering I’m not a huge fan of modern historical romance in general).
My biggest and only criticism with the book was the style in which it was written. One of my favorite things about books which movies lack is the closeness to the characters. We really can see inside a character’s thoughts, examining their deepest fears and darkest secrets. Everything that happens in the book in deciphered through their eyes. In this book, that is not the case. Everything feels very detached, almost as if the author wrote the perspective as third-person detached. The only problem with this is its first perspective from Claire’s point-of-view. And yet you really feel as if you’re watching a movie in book form. This made me feel disconnected with the Claire’s pain as if she were a robot I was watching. This type of writing completely threw me off as I never really felt empathy for the characters.
Saying that, there is a lot to like about this book. The pacing is nice and though it is rather long, it is fast-paced and doesn’t feel as long as it actually is. Despite the fact that we meet a lot of characters, most of them I actually remembered—most. Although the characters are developed from this detached perspective, we still get a clear view of their motivations and views on life.
But I really think what makes this book is the historical context. The descriptions, scenes, and action are extremely lush, whether we are in the 1940s or the 1700s. Saying that, I’m not certain the book drew me in enough to read the sequels. The perspective just really never grabbed me and despite the fact that this is a well-written book, I’m the type of reader that if I don’t feel attracted to the characters, I’m not interested to know more.
If you read it, what are your thoughts on it? Also, do you prefer the book or the TV show? Did the detached perspective throw you off too, or is it just me? Let me know down in the comments, follow my blog for more book reviews, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,