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Book Review: Outlander

Erica’s Experience

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Title: Outlander

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction

Page Count: 850

Publication Date: 1991


For, what I believe to be, the first time in my life, I read a book after watching its TV series. I’m a strong disbeliever in taking this approach with any story. It gets tainted once you know what’s going to happen. It loses its magic; its surprise; its beauty. You lose the real ability to exercise your imagination. The character descriptions are replaced with actors’ faces and a constant comparison takes place as you hit every pivotal moment.

I can confirm that Outlander is no exception to my rule, yet I’m amazingly glad I watched the show beforehand. If you’re aware of the Outlander premise, you know it is a delicate balance of time travel, historical fiction, and smut. A mid-20s woman from post-WW2, Claire, is thrown into 18th-century Scotland where she falls in love with a rebellious outlaw, Jamie. It’s important to understand that the current 6-season runner on Starz is inspired by a chronology of 12 books. The shortest novel in the collection is 650 pages; some odd stubborn part of me wanted to attempt tackling it.

I’m extremely proud of myself for making it through an 850-page novel in only two months but reading it was like trying haggis. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not going to do it again. TV is actually a better platform for Outlander than the written word (there, I said it). Gabaldon is an extremely detailed writer to a fault. A perfect example is when she writes an almost 100-page chapter focused on Claire taking in the Scottish countryside while she accepts her life post-time travel. These same details take maybe half an episode (max) on film.

There were missed opportunities that could have been (and should have been) captured from Gabaldon’s original work in the first season of the Starz adaptation. My favorite character within the entire novel, Father Anselm, is a young scholarly French priest Claire confides in about her “predicament.” In the show, he becomes an old Scottish priest that is pretty much glossed over. The philosophical discussions about religion and good and evil between him and Claire were some of the most inspiring passages in the entire book. It’s too bad that these deep moments were seen as more controversial to cover than the sex scenes.

I wanted this book to be more, especially with it being almost 900 pages and containing some shimmers of wit. But it wasn’t. Even with those tiny glimmers of solid writing, in the end, Outlander is puffy fluffy detailed smut; the perfect Starz starter pack.

If you’re as stubborn as the Scottish chieftains in this book and want to give it a try, you can buy it here. Stay tuned for the florilegium inspired by this novel next week!

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