Meanwhile, I'll just review something else. Because I know Mary Mary is reviewing Diana Gabaldon's Outlander for our Sisterhood blog, I figure I may as well offer up my own review of that book. We could call it a counter-review, since I'm pretty sure I can predict the gist of MM's review—and I, in contrast, quite liked Outlander. Enough that I actually read it twice: once about ten years ago, and again more recently when I was on a historical-fiction reading kick as part of my research for my own novel. It held up.
|My own battered (and signed!) copy|
|Actors portraying Jamie & Claire in upcoming TV series|
I once heard Outlander described as a marital aid, and Gabaldon says countless women have written her and thanked her for improving their marriages. Personally, I'd think Jamie might ruin it for other men, but you can't deny the book (and all its sequels) are pretty heavy on the sex. Sex scenes are very difficult for most writers to pull off, and often become unintentionally comic or squirm-inducing. Gabaldon, in my opinion, pulls it off. She is very comfortable with sex (she talks about it a lot in interviews, too), and she knows that good sex scenes don't involve a recitation of body parts but genuine emotion between two people. Jamie and Claire have a very developed relationship, and this makes their "sex scenes" into "love scenes," as Gabaldon discusses here. (Excellent advice: every aspiring writer who includes sex scenes in their work really should read it.)
Gabaldon's historical research is yet another reason I enjoy the series. She's a good, solid writer, but there's nothing showy or especially poetic in her work. Her research, however, really shows. I lived briefly in Scotland and spent some time on my own researching roughly that period, and while I'm sure she's made some historical mistakes, I sure didn't catch anything. However, as much background work as she did, she never info-dumps. The historical detail is seamlessly woven into the story. Claire, as a 20th-century nurse, is able to remark on the medical practices of the 18th century in a way another narrator could not: she notices them and describes them, where a contemporary narrator would simply accept them without comment. It's not just medicine, of course, but clothing and food and other customs. Gabaldon may not have intended to include time-travel at first, but she uses this aspect to great advantage once she stumbles across it.
A final point in Outlander's favor has nothing to do with Gabaldon. It's the use of Davina Porter as the audiobook narrator. While I read the book the first time 'round, I listened to it the second, and Porter definitely added to the story. Diana Gabaldon in real life has a great sense of humor, and the book reflects that; Porter really emphasizes it, making the funnies even funnier. Her dramatic timing is spot-on as well, as is her Scottish accent. I enjoyed several sections so much I re-listened to them. I'm not sure I've done that with any other audiobook. If I were a commuter, I would definitely pick this series to make my commutes more tolerable. Not only will Porter and Gabaldon work together to keep you entertained, but there are a gajillion books in the series so far (OK, eight), they are all incredibly long, and Gabaldon shows no sign of wrapping up the series anytime soon. Rush hour traffic? Keep it coming, Sassenach.
|Outlander merch, for real insiders|