I was working in a bookstore when this book first started to be hugely popular. I have had friends who loved it practically swoon when they heard I hadn't read it. I've heard other people dismiss it out of hand. So, eventually, in absolutely no hurry, I had to check it out myself.
the verdict? Meh. It's okay. Parts of it are interesting, but other
parts (particularly the ones that are supposed to be suspenseful) are
far too repetitive, and the narrative dwells on sexual violence in much
more detail than I have any interesting in reading.
It is mostly
a light romance, and I did enjoy that Gabaldon avoided the
route of having Claire fleeing from an unhappy marriage. But you know
what I enjoyed most about the book? The moments when not much of
dramatic significance was happening. Or at least those moments when
peril-to-life-and-limb was not the focus of attention.
moments of jockeying for power, of the running of a castle or an estate,
the quieter moments - those were the ones I enjoyed. I thought the
characters were well drawn and intelligent at those moments, and I
wished the book were a) shorter or b) had more of those.
every time the author worried that there wasn't enough tension, someone
got captured by the goddamned English. I can't even count the number of
times this happened. Find some other way of creating tension, or have
it happen once or twice, and cut your narrative in half. Because around
the time we got to the seventh or eighth capture, I was so fed up. Claire or Jamie were captured by the English and threatened with rape or actually experienced torture and rape. Over and over and over and over. And then, at the end, after the most
horrific events, it gets recounted. Once. Then twice. Then thrice. And I
think even a fourth time, in increasingly horrific detail, and this
starts to feel like torture porn.
While I'm glad the author
wanted real consequences, as opposed to the lightweight vague threats
most romance novels have, I don't need to hear about it in such loving
detail. I just don't.
And what was with the Geillis subplot? It
seemed like there was something interesting there, but which the author
decided to keep to herself instead of sharing. Without any kind of
payoff, why include it? She's obviously a complex character, but we got
so little in return for so many hints.
So, yeah. The political
intrigue stuff was interesting, the quiet moments of life were good, the
capture by the English was overused, and the details of sexual violence
far, far too complete.