Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Historical romance.
I should know better than to read exceptionally popular books; nine times out of ten I feel like I’m not reading the same book as everyone else. So I’m probably going to offend a lot of people by not giving this book a glowing review. But what the hell; I can only speak from my own perspective. Listen: Gabaldon is a good writer. She knows how to put words together. She draws characters very well, and she seems to be top-notch on her research. But my God. This book is so long! Now, please bear in mind that I adore War and Peace, my paperback of which weighs in at 1455 pages. But, not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of shit goes down in War and Peace. Outlander, on the other hand, is really a very small story, taking place over about a year, told in first person perspective by one woman, the only other main (as opposed to supporting) character being her love interest. You may already know the story, but I’ll synopsize: an Englishwoman who recently served as a nurse in WWII is transported back in time to 1700’s Scotland, where she falls in love with a handsome young Scot. So. The first half is mostly Claire trying to avoid getting raped. And there’s a lot of traveling from place to place on horse. Both of those things are realistic; and I do truly appreciate realism in historical novels. But I also appreciate editing that removes redundancies. For example: we didn’t really need ten scenes talking about the hero getting whipped at various times in his life. If something’s a theme, three repetitions per novel is good. Maybe four, if you’re working with 800+ pages. Also, sex and cuddling scenes. One per hundred pages is my limit. I didn’t keep track, but I’m pretty sure Outlander is way past that. When you repeat something so many times in the course of a book, it becomes boring. Should I even have to say this? Sex scenes should not be boring. I could go on—about hurt/comfort fetishes and very long passages that really, really could have used some suspense—but I’ll stop there. My overarching point? I found this was readable, if frustrating, 850-page book that could have been a fabulous 500-page book. Or, an 850-page book told from multiple perspectives to permit more actual plot. Okay. I’m done. Please don’t write and tell me that more stuff happens in the later books in the series: I know it does. But life is too short.
With a bow to the judges and another, no less formal, to myself, Mr. Gowan drew himself still straighter than his normal upright posture, braced both thumbs in the waist of his breeks, and prepared with all the romanticism of his aged, gallant heart to do battle, fighting with the law’s chosen weapon of excruciating boredom.
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