Friday, April 10, 2009

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

Ooooo. This is so good. This is the other time travel book recommended to me by a friend that I mentioned before. I have to say it was much, much more fun to read than the other one. The only thing about the other one that I liked better was that it was clean.

This book was very realistic. The series is historical fiction chronicling the lives of those involved with the Scottish Rising, Colonial England, the pirates and slave traders of the Carribean, and the American Revolution.

Claire Randall is swept back in time through one of the many "little Stonehenges" that dot Europe and finds herself in Scotland during the mid-1700's. The book follows her adventures as she tries to survive the dangers of life at that time and falls in love in the process. The man she meets there- Jamie Fraser, is the Colonial Era Forrest Gump (sans the slow mind). The series finds Jamie pretty much anywhere that anything historically significant happened. Diana Gabaldon does this so artfully though that it seems completely natural for Jaimie to be everywhere and in every walk of life.

The writing is skillfully executed, often beautiful, sometimes poetic. The books are long and sometimes a little drawn out (think Dickens) but absolutely enjoyable nonetheless. Another thing Gabaldon has in common with Dickens is her extraordinary characterization. Both the detail and the web of interconnections of her characters brought to mind "Great Expectations" (without the boredom). The action is exciting, the time travel is intriguing, the setting is fantastic, and the love story is compelling.

A few words of caution: You won't be finding this series on GoodCleanReads. These books have a lot of foul language in them, particularly the taking of the names of Deity in vain. There is also quite a lot of explicitly detailed sex in these books. (Enough that my mother's local bookstore actually has this book in the Romance section. I disagree with that assessment, BTW.) The sex is not the focus, but it is a facet of the stories which comes up several times. It is, with two exceptions, always between married couples. There are three rapes in the series in addition to those exceptions. Also, there was some pretty brutal torture (including the aforementioned rape) toward the end of the first book which was hard for me to read. Just a word to the wise for those of you survivors out there who prefer not to relive past traumas.

I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction. I'm not sure it exactly qualifies as something more substantial though, if only because I think the objectionable material may not be edifying unto "the improvement of the mind by extensive reading."

My favorite quote from the series is in this first book: "Overall the library held a hushed exaltation as though the cherished volumes were all singing soundlessly within their covers."

I liked this book less than the first one. The love story gets better, but the political intrigue bored me a little. There is a whole part of the book when Jamie and Claire are in France that I found nearly mind-numbing. Interestingly enough, that part is what my friend loved so much about this book. To each her own, I suppose. I liked the book enough to keep going though and it's worth it to continue the story in the third book.

Voyager takes us to the high seas. Our characters travel to the Indies, visit a slave market, and end up shipwrecked more than once. There are pirates, kidnapping, and danger at every turn.
I had so much fun reading this book. However, I think my enjoyment of it may have been augmented by having read "The True Confession of Charlotte Doyle" and watching the Horatio Hornblower miniseries.
There is a little bit of strange voodoo in the Carribean but it didn't detract from the story in my opinion.

I found Drums of Autumn to have a slow start. Diana Gabaldon introduces some new characters in this book and I found myself impatient to find out more about the characters I was already emotionally invested in. Stick with it, the new characters are every bit as good as the old ones.

The Fiery Cross was my most and least favorite. I loved the American history it chronicles but I felt that it should have been two books. To wit- it felt to me like there was one book that was less interesting sandwiched into the middle of another book that I liked very much. The events leading up to the Revolution begin to take shape in this story. The love stories continue and do not disappoint.

Hmmm. What to say about this one? I love the emotional depth which the romantic relationships have achieved by this point in the story. I found the beginning of the Ameican Revolution fascinating. I found the plot interesting, but I confess it was the same interest one might have after getting sucked into a Prime Time soap opera (inaccurately dubbed "drama"). The plot just had one too many twists for me. It was still a good story but I felt a little exasperated by the Young and the Restless quality it had. I liked the book but I felt it lacked the aspect of realism Gabaldon had achieved so well in the prequels.
I will definitely be reading the next in the series, slated for release this fall. One other thing people may want to know about the books is that they are pretty long. (Between a thousand and 1500 pages.) Don't start one if you won't have time to finish it, because trust me- you'll want to finish it. I think I'm going to have to come up with a third rating option for enjoyable books that are probably not the best things to read. I think I'll call it- Refined Sugar. It's so good but you shouldn't try to subsist on it.


Kim said...

I love your new category "Refined Sugar". That's a great way to describe some books. It's too bad there's so much profanity and sex in these books because they sound like something I'd enjoy. I have to admit that my tolerance for such things has greatly increased over the last couple of years.

Kim said...

Okay. So I found Outlander at my library on cds and despite your warnings about some of the content, I had to check it out. I confess, I really liked it. I'm trying to decide about the next ones. Are they better or worse than the first one?

Not quite the Bradys said...

I hate to admit this, but they are worse. A lot worse. And I really liked them but I feel really guilty about it. : )