Monday, September 1, 2014

Another Flawed Love Story Epic

Source: Author Website
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991; Bantam, 2014, 672pp.)

Claire and Frank, a young married British couple separated by the events of World War II, decide to travel to Scotland for a second honeymoon. The impossible happens when Claire, exploring a small circle of stones in the hills, is suddenly catapulted back in time to 1743. Shortly after her arrival in 18th century Scotland, a skirmish between English and Scottish soldiers sweeps her away from the stones, and into the heart of the Highlands. Although she vows to return to her husband by any means necessary, she soon finds herself drawn to handsome Scotsman Jamie. As it becomes clear that their fates are meant to be intertwined, Claire finds herself torn between one lover in the 18th century, and her husband in the 20th century.

First, I’ll give you the positives about the novel. Although it tops 600 pages, Outlander is a well-researched and lushly detailed page-turner, and the love affair between Claire and Jamie is hot and dirty enough to make any middle-aged romantic squeal with delight. Yet, being the cynical spinster that I am, I found that the warm glow of the romance couldn’t outshine certain glaring problems in the story.

First off, the heroine. Although Claire is supposed to be a Blitz-era Englishwoman, she seems more like a liberated female from 1960s America. Worse than that, though, is the inconsistency of her character, which seems to oscillate from strong, steely combat nurse to immature brat at the drop of a hat. As for the “love story,” there is much to be desired. The only reason the couple gets together is due to a convenient forced marriage that will ensure Claire’s safety from the pursuit of a sadistic English captain. And although she protests her new marriage to Jamie the hot Scot, she is soon struck speechless by just how darn attractive her groom looks in a wedding kilt, and becomes, sort of, well—distracted from thoughts of her modern-day husband. While she does feel bad about betraying Frank, her sense of guilt isn’t visited nearly often enough, which leads me to think that maybe she and Frank shouldn’t have been married in the first place. After all, shouldn’t such a legitimate love affair, especially one that deserves such celebration, be founded on a little more than how high the hero ranks on the Scoville scale?

Needless to say, there will be those that disagree with me. Some readers will love this story, others will hate it. For the majority of readers who found The Time Traveler’s Wife to be a flawless epic of true love, you will probably adore Outlander, and its many 800 page sequels. For those in the minority, however, you may just want to look somewhere else.

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