I finished reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon last night. Though I don't have the exact word count, this story has well over 125,000. The 6” x 9” paperback version has 656 pages. (My 125,000 word novel 6x9 has 247). Of course, this was not her first printed title. She had an established fan base, so a publisher is more likely to take the risk of printing a thick book.
The story is well detailed (sometimes too much), starting in 1942 then time traveling through a small Stonehenge circle back to 1742. She took quite a few chapters to set up the story, introducing history, place, characters and their ancestors for both time periods. Necessary, I suppose, but rather boring.
The story is told in the first person, Claire's voice, almost a memoir style – not my first choice for point of view reading. But her thoughts are interesting enough to make me like her and some of the dialog is charming, truly funny and properly reflects the characters. (I like dialog)
I liked the two main characters, Claire a nurse from 1942 and Jamie a fiery Scotsman from 1742. Though to took me a while to figure out he was the intended love interest and I didn't quite see the attraction.
Even if factual for the time, she pushed the limits of reality forcing her characters to endure the worst of what two people of any time could endure. Quite frankly, when Claire found she could go back to her own time, she didn't and I couldn't believe it! – after being kidnapped by a band of Scotsmen, nearly raped four times, killing a man (eventually two), flogged, almost convicted and killed for being a witch, forced into marriage or suffer torture for being suspected a spy for the French, her backside strapped by her husband for failing to obey his orders, same man making clear the meaning of “obey” in her marriage vows included his needs in the bed.
Instead, she falls in “lust” with her new husband, an outlaw, warrior and murderer with a price on his head, with few friends or people he can trust – even among his own relatives and clansmen, hunted by the English, always on the run, in hiding or fighting capture, or being captured, completely scarred from head to toe from the abuse he suffered at the hands of the English and never ending fighting with sword, knife and pistol (good thing she's got medical training – one of the reasons why he married her), physically injured many times but apparently a fast healer, who admits he's not a very good husband because he has no money or property and he beats his wife.
But the sex is good.
Really, Claire – wake up from the nightmare and go home! Is a good lay really that damn important!
There's nothing “gentile” about this story. It's brutal, violent. She found ways of abusing her characters both mentally and physically that left me disgusted. Though the characters seem to “brush” everything off after a few days and a good emotional release (fight or cry) and move onto the next horrific event - courage and bravery? Their lives are one never ending, no-win scenario – either suffer or die. It did leave me delighted I live where I do and in this century.
I finished reading the book not knowing it was part of a trilogy. The last chapter left the characters at a happy point (with much unresolved) enough for me to let them go and imagine a happily ever after, even though they seem doomed. I don't have the stomach for two more books no matter how much I like the rapport between the two main characters. I'm done.
I'll keep you posted.