[The Outlander] Spoiler Alert Thread
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This book is a real door-stopper. However, that being said, it is a quick and fun read. I hope everyone enjoys it as I have the 3 or 4 times I have read it and I fully intend to enjoy this reread as well.
Ms Gabaldon has a way of fleshing out her characters that makes the reading of a book so filled with different characters much easier than most would be.
First of all, let me say that this book has soared up to my favorite list. I read the reviews and plot summaries several months ago and knew I would most likely enjoy it, but I didn't expect the extent to which I would absolutely love it. But oh, how pleasantly surprised I was!
I guess my very first observation would be the size of the book itself. Just looking at the book and picking it up you realize that you're in for a massive undertaking. This might scare some readers away. I have to admit something at this point- I am very guilty of being an anxious reader. ANY book I read winds up being read in haste the first time through. Not out of boredom or displeasure, just because I want to know the entire story immediately and get very antsy when it takes too long. I wish I could hold a book up to my head and just absorb it in it's entirety through osmosis. Being that isn't possible, I tend to fly through books and often miss important things or don't even enjoy them as I should. Longer books don't really scare me, but they remind me that I'll be even more restless by the end, whether i enjoy it or not.
This book, however, did not seem long in the least, and I can't stress that enough. It's over 650 pages, and even being the very slow reader that I tend to be, I not only flew through the book but absorbed it and wanted more. I found myself well into the 300's on my second day reading it, and finished the whole thing in six days... and it only took so long because I had other, non-related distractions to kept my from reading as much as I normally would. So for those who are worried about the size of the book, please don't hesitate to pick it up anyway and give it a try.
As far as the accuracy of the historical part of the book, I just have to take everyone's word on it. And quite frankly, I don't even care whether it's accurate or not. I take fiction as it is... accept that some things may be accurate while others just imagination. Whatever. As long as the story is interesting and doesn't claim to be fact, I'm ok with whatever an author comes up with. As far as this particular story, I was indeed fascinated by the descriptions of the Scottish Highlands of 1743, the clansmen and the way of life.
I also enjoyed the characters. Claire, the heroine of the tale, isn't the most outstanding character I've ever read but she's certainly believable and likable enough. Her personality, demeanor and behavior contrast really well with those of the women of the 1700s, but her knowledge of the time-period allows her to understand what is accepted and normal, and therefore it's even believable that she would be able to survive among those people. All the clansmen are as I would expect them to be.... burly, rowdy, gruff, often times surly and short-tempered. But also very quick to laugh and joke around with one another during times of relaxation. The scenes when they are gathered at night, drinking whiskey and laughing together are somehow warm and comforting. Jaime, the clansman who Claire eventually forms a relationship with, is very like those men, but we see his more vulnerable and romantic side as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, we also are exposed the temper of a Scotsman and the normal treatment of their wives, but as harsh as it seems to us now, it wasn't out of the ordinary then. Sensitive readers may be put off by this, but I took it as just a fact of how things were.
There are also several scenes that become hot and heavy as Claire and Jaime begin to explore the physical aspect of their relationship. Personally, I enjoyed it immensely (and I'm still not sure what that says about me) but I have noted several reviewers complaining that there is too much sex in the book, and that some of the sex is too aggressive.
Like I said.... those scenes left me sort of wishing I'd time-travel back to 1743, just so that I could be thrown around a little by a muscular, handsome, red-headed Scot... so I can't really see eye-to-eye with those complaints.
The story itself had very few slow moments. There was a lot of up and down action, times of peace and exploration, followed by violent clashes or quick escapes. But as the book went on I wasn't really anxious to get back to either or... and each new phase fell nicely into place after the last. Each chapter, each moment of the book served a purpose whether it be learning more about the culture, character or plot development, adding back story, enlightening the reader with an explanation for previous events or behavior, deepening of a relationship, adding suspense or action or just for pure entertainment's sake. There really was never a moment in the entire 650+ pages that I wanted to put the book down, even for a small break. And as someone who gets very anxious to know the ending of the story, I didn't feel rushed to finished or irritated by the length. I was more than happy to continue along with the story and allow it to unfold before me, without that little voice in the back of my mind going, "FINE, but what happens NEXT!?!?!" Most importantly, when I finished and put the book down, I was slightly peeved that I didn't have the foresight to get the second installment ahead of time and begrudgingly picked up a different book in the meantime. And that is really saying a lot.
In conclusion- love love love love love. =)
One thing that struck me the first time was a couple of hints that the 'modern' section was originally set in the 1970s, and Gabaldon later set it back to the 1946/7. But I can't now find the passage/s that caught my eye. Has anyone else noticed this? Its clear why it needed to be set then - by the 1970s no nurse would have any kind of understanding of natural remedies, and probably not much experience with the results of battle.
Does everyone realise that this was Gabaldon's first attempt at a novel? Agreed, she was used to technical writing, but I am amazed at the quality, particularly speech, which many authors never pull off believably. And the research!!
It was very thought provoking because of the changes in her circumstances throughout the book.
I have a few lingering questions.....
Did Clare really love Frank so little that after a few months she could just turn her back on her world and stay with Jamie or was this an inconsistency that was plot driven? Seems difficult to believe since she stayed so faithful through the war for 8 years and then in heartbeat just gives up.
If this happened to me would I be able to adapt to the changes in the environment - modern vs. primitive conveniences ? I don't think so. Having known indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, automobiles, planes etc. I don't think that I would be willing to go backwards into the camping lifestyle.
you are in for some good stuff now.
I think still that her memories of Frank are clouded by the encounters with Randall. She hasn't seen him in 6 months and before that they were separated for a number of years. And then she was wondering a little if he had had an affair while away from her. On the other hand, she has been with Jamie daily during this entire time, and he has risked all for her a number of times. And she knows that Jamie is there for her right then. Who knows what her relationship with Frank will be after 6 months apart with no explanation. I wonder if he would believe her? But then I think that she sensed that Frank was nearby when starting through the stones. She says that living in more primitive conditions is ok with her because she has done it a number of times with Uncle Lamb. That being said the trial for being a witch would definitely send me back. How scary is that? Plus, she knows about bad, bad times ahead for the clans. However, WW2 was a really bad time, too. Terrible things happened and lots of people died. Well, for all this rambling, I guess I don't really know why she decided the way she did. :)
As for Claire staying, I think it's very complicated for her, but I believe some of the elements are that in Jamie's time, she feels alive, involved, and needed--never bored. In Frank's time, she does nothing but try to develop a hobby (botany) to keep her busy while Frank does his own thing. They lead very separate lives, and Frank does nothing to try to include her--she's very bored.
I am very much enjoying your posts, and enjoy having someone to discuss the book with.
Jamie's love is one of nurturing, and a partnership of equals; Frank's is the love of a superior for an inconseqeuntial inferior. Surprisingly, Jamie's treatment of Clair is forward-thinking (way ahead of his time), while Frank's treatment of her is backward and would fit more easily in the 1740s.
I would think the captain would have to survive, but maybe not. It could be that the geneology chart Frank did was wrong, and there was another branch of his family tree from which he was descended, or maybe one of the great-grandmothers--somewhere along the line--had an affair.
Regarding Randall/Frank I think maybe it will be like Back to the Future and Claire will go back to the 40s and find she's upset the space-time continuum!
I also wanted to share that I had a dream last night that I had Claire's hair (the way I imagined it would be I guess!). It was so nice because my real hair is super straight.
I think that I am also interested in continuing the series, and I will look for the second book when I drop by the last days of the Borders going-out-of-business sale. I really enjoyed this group read.
I plan on continuing the series as well (I love the characters), but have a few other chunky books waiting for me, so it will probably wait until later this summer.
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