I gave up on this book because I was sustaining permanent damage from reading it and I was afraid I'd start hitting back. And it's a borrowed copy, so that wouldn't be cool.
In fairness, I should say there's a lot of good writing here. I really enjoyed the beginning chapters. They even kind of cracked me up, because I have friends who love genealogy and their husbands always get that look
when they start talking about it and that's exactly how I imagined Claire looking when her husband Frank started droning on and on about his ancestors.
And Claire is a nurse, which is a really good transportable skill if you're going to be thrown back in time which it turns out Claire is. (Sorry. Spoiler alert.) Can you imagine if you were one of those Nerds On Wheels computer repair people and you
got sent to eighteenth-century Scotland? You'd be totally screwed.
But Claire's skills come in handy without seeming out of place. A woman who's a dab hand at healing is always welcome in Olden Tymes, so Claire is able to land on her feet and kind of get a job once she figures out what happened to her and comes to terms with it.
Which is pretty much immediately. Which is when the book started to lose me. There's, like, no culture shock whatsoever. She gets knocked back two hundred years or so. She goes, "WHOA. What the flimminy?" She starts being The Lady To Go To With Your Eighteenth-Century Scottish Boo-Boos. That's it.
There are a few mentions of things like how shoes fit differently back then and anachronistic language, but there's no sense of the kind of thing a person from the future would be startled by. Not the food, not the weird underwear, nothing. Claire just settles in and starts being the resident nurse at a castle. She keeps half an eye out for a chance to get to the place that can take her back to the future, but it has all the deep emotional urgency that I feel when I really should stop by the grocery store on the way home but it won't kill anybody if I go tomorrow instead. Like, whatevs.
Still, there was plenty to keep me interested. Like – leeches! The stuff about leeches was cool. And the info about healing herbs. And that kid getting his ear hammered to a board because he was caught stealing.
Really, this book would have worked fine for me if it hadn't been for what everybody else seems to love about it, which is the Romantic Interest. Which still
would have been fine, even with the whole SHE'S MARRIED ALREADY thingy.
But, okay – let's say that she has
to marry that guy. They aren't in love when they get married and so the whole point of the book is to watch their relationship develop, while Claire struggles with guilt and fear and thoughts of how her real
husband must be worrying about her and how the heck does time-travel work in this book and WHY IS SHE JUST ASSUMING THAT TIME IS GOING BY IN THE FUTURE AT THE SAME RATE IT IS FOR HER? WHY, I ASK YOU?
(Sorry. I'm a minor-league nerd, and this part really bugged me.)
So what I just described would have been a book I could read and enjoy, or at least read and not scream in pain. But apparently someone gave Diana Gabaldon the creepiest piece of writing advice EVER, and it was this:
"Listen – you know how if you're cooking and you're worried it's not turning out very well, just add bacon if it's savory and chocolate chips if it's sweet and everybody'll love it? Well, if you're working on your first novel and you don't know what to have happen next, just throw in some rape! Or attempted rape! Works like a charm!"
She follows this advice to the letter, and I'm sorry but I have to go home now.
I managed to read the "she disobeys him so he beats her with his belt" scene. I almost punched the book right in the face, but as I said, it's a friend's copy so I had to be nice.
Then I managed to get through the "she forgives him for the beating, like, the next freakin' day" scene. I started fantasizing about this book getting stuck in the elevator of a burning building, but I was able to hold on and keep going.Then
there was the scene where Big Kilted Oaf – I mean, Jamie – starts laughing about the whole beating thing and reminiscing about how hot she looked when he was holding her down beating the crap out of her and she forgives him for that, too.
And I'm all, "WHO AM I AND WHAT AM I DOING HERE?"
I staggered on. Heaven only knows why.
did the author reward me for my perseverance? What is this book all about? What's the recurring literary theme?
Rape. Attempted rape. More attempted rape. Marital rape. A little more marital rape. Conversations about rape. GIGGLING during conversations about rape.
And I'm all, "I'M OUT OF HERE AND I DON'T CARE HOW MANY OF MY FRIENDS HATE ME."
I read 444 pages in a row, plus I skimmed a lot of the rest of it including the creepiest, rapiest Chekhov's gun I've ever
seen fired. Do NOT tell me I didn't give this book a fair chance. I TOTALLY DID.
In case you need proof, here's a list of all the things I learned about rape from Outlander.1. It's a bummer for the woman involved, but save your sympathy for her brother.
(Assuming you have any emotional response at all, which you won't if you're Claire.)
Jamie tells Claire about his sister Jenny being raped by a dastardly redcoat. He has a good chuckle talking about how Jenny punches and kicks her attacker. She isn't able to hold him off forever, though. And Jamie gets flogged for trying to defend her.
Claire's response?"I'm sorry. It must have been terrible for you."
terrible for Jamie to have his sister "dishonor herself wi' such scum." (Nice.) So terrible that he can't bring himself to go back home to her when he gets out of prison, and "see her again, after what happened." She's impregnated by the rape. Left on her own both emotionally and financially, she is forced to become the mistress of another English soldier. Jamie finally sends her what money he can, but can't bring himself to write to her. Because, you know, "what could I say?"
Claire's response?"Oh, dear."
(Really -- how
could I give up on this book when the main character is so sympathetic?)2. Rape can lead to comically inaccurate ideas about how people do "the nasty!"
After Jamie and Claire consummate their marriage, Jamie confesses that he "didna realize that ye did it face to face. I thought ye must do it the back way, like; like horses, ye know." Claire tries to keep a straight face as she asks him why on earth he thought that."I saw a man take a woman plain, once, out in the open. But that...well, it was a rape, was what it was, and he took her from the back. It made some impression on me, and as I say, it's just the idea stuck."
So of course Claire flips out and asks him what the heck that
was all about. Who was it? Why was he witness to a rape "out in the open"? Was he able to help the woman? What happened to her?
Oh. Wait. This is Claire the Emotionless. She doesn't ask him anything,
and he doesn't say anything else on the subject. Instead, they cuddle and talk about how much fun what they just did was.
Because a story about rape out in the open is just the kind of pillow talk a woman wants to hear when she's relaxing after a nice bout of bigamy.
I mentioned I loved this book, right? I didn't? Good.3. Nearly getting raped turns you on for Mr. Right!
Jamie and Claire are off on their own in the woods for a spot of marital bliss when they're set upon by highwaymen. Claire is nearly raped, but manages to kill her assailant. Yes, she was a nurse during World War II, but I think there's a difference between witnessing violence and inflicting it yourself. She kills the guy in the nick of time. He's on top of her, so she undoubtedly gets his blood all over her. Meanwhile, Jamie manages to dispatch the other two guys.
And then Claire flips out about the fact that she was just attacked, and she had to kill a guy, and she had to kill a guy at close quarters with a knife
Oh. Wait. This is Claire. She has no response to any of this
, now or later.
Well, she does have one
response:When I put my hands on his shoulders, he pulled me hard against his chest with a sound midway between a groan and a sob.
We took each other then, in a savage, urgent silence, thrusting fiercely and finishing within moments.
If your marital love life has been a bit blah lately, why not get attacked and then kill the guy? It'll spice things right up!4. It's not rape if it's your husband and he promises he'll hurry..."Jamie! Not here!" I said, squirming away and pushing my skirt down again.
"Are ye tired, Sassenach?" he asked with concern. "Dinna worry, I won't take long."
(next page):He took a firm grip on my shoulders with both hands.
"Be quiet, Sassenach," he said with authority. "It isna going to take verra long."
I gather it's especially not rape if your husband has an ethnic-slur nickname for you. He should use this at least three times a page. (Yes, "Sassenach" is derogatory. It'd be like if you were white and your husband called you his little gringo. Although that would actually be kind of funny if he's white, too. I think I want to get my husband to start calling me that now. But I digress.)5. ...or if it's your husband and he just really, really wants it.
Claire is saying no, and no again. She's still in pain from the last time they did it, because he didn't take no for an answer even when she told him quite honestly he was hurting her.
So how does our romantic lead respond?James Fraser was not a man to take no for an answer. ...Gentle he would be, denied he would not.
I quoted that last line to my husband, and he got the same look on his face that I had on mine all through a two-day bout with food poisoning.
If this book works for you, fine. I'm not here to judge. I'm just asking that you understand how completely creeped out I was by all this, and not tell me I didn't give it a fair chance. I did. I really hate not finishing a book once I start it, but I just couldn't stand it any more.