“Outlander” is the first in an imposingly lengthy series of romantic adventures by Diana Gabaldon, (and soon to enter TV-land in an obvious bid to become “Game of Thrones-for-Girls”). The novel deals with time-traveling Claire and her taming of the Scotsman Jamie Fraser, in the days prior to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion.
“Outlander” was originally titled “Cross Stitch,” perhaps to appeal to the knitting crowd, (“a stitch in time”?) But I imagine someone pointed out that this not about quilts, but kilts. A “kilt-ripper,” I believe is the official denomination. Gabaldon finds every conceivable reason for depriving Jamie of his clothes, and invents a few inconceivable ones, because “Outlander,” make no mistake, is “erotica.” (“Erotica” means “porn that made it to the best-seller lists.”)
There’s many pages here but the plot is straight-forward enough: It’s just after World War II, and Claire Randall is a sassy Mary-Sue. During a holiday with her cumbersome bore of a husband, she magically stumbles through time into 1744 Scotland. The time travel element is of no importance whatsoever; Claire is just falling down a conveniently placed rabbit hole into the arms of a hunky Highlander, name of Jamie Fraser.
Claire does quite well in the past, never mind that her modern jive should be as incomprehensibly to the Scots as 18th century Scottish slang should be to her. Ever tried to read Walter Scott? THIS is what would be flying at her ears:
“Your ain parlour burn the blither! Ye have riven the thack off seven cottars—look if your ain roof-tree graw faster. Ye may stable your shirks in the shealings at Derncleugh—see ye do not couch on the hearthstane at Ellangowan, that wad hae wanted bread ere ye had wanted sunkets. Yea, ye have turned out o’ their bits o’bields, to sleep with the tod and the blackcock in the muirs! Look that your braw cradle at hame be the fairer spread up; this be the last reise in the bonny woods.”
Got all that?
Claire happily adjusts, and in an unlikely contrivance, is “forced” to marry the handsome-but-secretly-sad Jamie. Jaime is the Pieta-Jesus/Stud to satisfy Claire’s Madonna/Whore instincts. Between jumping Jaime’s bones and tending to the same bones when they break, our heroine realizes she’s deeply and mystically connected to Jamie (‘s penis). Then he brutally belts her nearly to death to “put her in her place,” which makes her
realize what a shit he is love him even more!
Together the honeymooners go adventuring. Jamie is always getting into “adventures,” see, what with the sinister high-ranking British homosexuals who are continuously trying to rape him. ( YES! You would think ONE gay rapist going after Jamie’s ass would be enough, but the book has TWO!)
Oh BTW, “Outlander” is a very rapey book. Somehow people let it slide, because it’s obviously a woman’s “empowering fantasies!”), and because the worst of it happens to the dude (by contrast, Claire only gets assaulted and groped four or five times.) But I mean, there’s a LOT of repetitive rape attempts here. I suspect if a guy had been responsible for the authorship of “Outlander,” it would land him on some sort of watch list. Were the Highlands like that? Is it some attempt at historical accuracy? It seems even the Vikings would have been completely appalled: “Maybe you guys should pillage a little more, rape a little less? Life is about balance!”
BUT, guilty literary demurrals aside, I highly enjoyed this. There’s no denying that this is an involving entertainment, Scottish escapism at its very best. The steamy and/or icky scenes are thankfully spaced out, with plenty of action and intrigue in between; life in the Highlands is beautifully envisioned; the plot trots along; the supporting cast is far more rounded than the main characters; and the writing style has an extra layer of respectable sheen that lacks in, say, a Karen Marie Moning copycat novel, (sample Moning titles: “To Tame a Highland Warrior”! “Kiss of the Highlander”!)
THAT nonsense is strictly for the Harlequin crowd. But “Outlander”? A lad could carry a copy in his sporran and not feel TOO embarrassed.
RATING : MASTERPIECE!!! (if you’re a romance-reading lassie) COOL! ( for the rest of us) DOUBLE MASTERPIECE!!! (if you’re Groundskeeper Willie. It’s his favorite novel!)