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on January 11, 2014
I know these books have been out for a while. I also know that they are loved by millions of people. My friend recommended I try it out and gave it a lot of praise. I am reviewing it, not with the idea that many people will benefit necessarily from my thoughts, but to hopefully cleanse myself of the horrible feelings I have been left with from attempting to get through this first book, Outlander.

From a literary standpoint, I did not think the book was well-written. The main character was very unlikeable. She was selfish, smug and stupid. Her eventual husband, while admirable and sympathetic at times, was not much to my liking either. I thought the long pages dedicated to his heritage, his uncles' heritage, the bad guys' heritage were tedious and unnecessary. The main plot got muddied over and over and over again with these long detours. The constant descriptions of beatings, battles, rapes and sex scenes also did little to further the plot. The characters' reactions to the events going on around them made no sense. The two main characters are jumped and nearly murdered during an amorous encounter and their response, after killing the two assailants, was laughter and going back to life as if nothing happened. What??? The supposedly strong-willed, proud, independent main character has no problem with every man in the story patting her on the bottom after she was beaten with a leather belt for hours by her husband??? I could go on and give more evidence to support my point but I hate to "spoil" the story for those who particularly enjoy completely silly unnecessary sex scenes, murder, beatings, rape, sodomy, etc.

I don't know why, but I kept pressing on, trying to find in this book what others had found so riveting. I tried to skim the more gruesome parts but at some point midway, there were too many to skim without missing pages and pages of the book. What did it for me was the graphic and violent depiction of marital rape. Up until that point, despite the horrific things that were being described, the characters' responses to it were mostly as being disturbed (except when the main character's husband was so turned on after he beat her...ugh!). The rape, however, was disgusting. She said no over and over again as her husband, who is described as being protective and caring, continued to force himself on her. The author describes the pain she is going through in detail and his brutality and yet, by the end of the scene, the main character comes to like it and "want" it. In the morning, they both laugh at how bruised she is by him and the bite marks she left on him.

This was the point I knew I was done. It was after reading this horrible account I knew that even if there was a good plot present (which there was not), I could not continue to subject myself to something so disturbing and distressing. From what I've read in reviews here, it does not improve as the story goes on so I feel comfortable in having stopped midway through. I actually resent having read any of this book. I have been trying to scrub the images it created and the feelings it caused from my mind since yesterday and it still hangs on. I cannot imagine why or how these books are so wildly popular. I cannot imagine that so many hearts could be so calloused and hardened that they would tolerate such intentional brutality being treated with such nonchalance. As if it was a normal occurrence. I know that sounds rather judgmental towards the fans of this series but I really just am baffled by anyone finding enjoyment in this kind of subject matter.

I thank the others who have written their reviews who share my opinions because I felt I must be the only one in the world who felt this way given how popular this series. I am glad I am not alone. I think I'm going to go read Anne of Green Gables now, or perhaps Little House on the Prairie, yeah that, to hopefully cleanse myself of the lasting effects of Outlander.
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on January 18, 2011
At one point, I so really wanted to hail this book as a great novel, but after finishing it, I am disappointed to say that it's just ok. I tried to forgive the literary mistakes but towards the end, it was just too much. The novel starts out strong, but, like another reviewer said, the ending is weak and messy.

The good stuff:
The author has a knack for descriptions and expertly paints a historical portrait of 17th century Scotland that really makes you feel like you are there. The two main characters of the book are well developed. You really fall in love with the protagonist's flame. Gabaldon gives him qualities any woman would desire in a man, and his faults just make him feel all the more real. The author builds up the love story, and some of the sex scenes are quite erotic. At times the story is really enjoyable, adventurous and suspenseful.

The bad stuff:
The book is too long. The story just goes on and on seemingly forever, with so much violence and so many conflicts that, after a while, it tends to lose credibility. Some of the situations the protagonist Claire finds herself in are unlikely. After the millionth time she is rescued, it just gets to be silly. Eventually, the sex gets to be too much and some of it is just plain absurd. Rabbit-like sex following near death, sex on the point of death; it's just too much. Furthermore, the author makes two major mistakes in her writing which completely deter from the enjoyment of the story. One involves witchcraft and presents a situation in which the reader, knowing the same things as the protagonist, can see the situation coming a mile away whereas the protagonist does not. It just makes Claire seem stupid, which is contradictory to the way her character is originally presented. The second situation has to be the biggest cliche of all time. Two men fighting, the woman helplessly watching, and finally the villain sneaks up behind the woman, grabs her and threatens to kill her unless her lover stops fighting. I think I've seen this happen already in about a dozen movies. As a matter of fact, there are two instances in the book where the heroes have a clear shot of killing the villain but they fail to do so. From there on, the story goes downhill and climaxes in a hot mess involving wolves, cows and bear-men.

Overall, I suspect the book got a lot of high ratings because most of the readers are women in desperate need of some steamy excitement in their lives. However, I cannot give a book 5 stars with so many blatant shortcomings, adding to the fact that it most likely appeals to a select range in the population and not to a wide audience. I mean, come on people. This is not Tolstoy or Richard Adams or Tolkien. It's more like Twilight-series-quality work. So, weighing in all the good and bad, I would have to say this novel deserves 3 stars.
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on January 23, 2002
I have one thing to say to Diana in response to her comment via the CNN interview that she's never lost any money after offering to pay a dollar to any reader who can put one of her books down: Most readers are too polite to take you up on it.
After waiting for The Fiery Cross with such anticipation, I could hardly bring myself to pick it up again after it put me to sleep or knocked me into waking boredom many times. And, while I've been hooked on the story of Claire and Jamie from the beginning, guess what, not everyone is. I've recommended the books to many friends. Most liked them, but several didn't.
The writing in some individual passages of FC is beautiful, but there needed to be some coherence to the story. Of course, no one can or should dictate to any writer what she writes, but at the same time, I appreciate having this forum to say what I think. Since so many of the dissenters here are avowed Gabaldon fans, I think it should be clear to all that we care about these books and these characters.
The many unanswered questions and unfinished bits and downright contradictions from one page to the next can't be laid at the doorstep of the editor. I found myself being kicked out of the story by conflicting details far too many times. Nothing much happened for 850 pages, and then the hurry-up events that took place were only there to raise more questions. And ... why would Ian return from the Mohawk and never even mention his wife or baby?
It felt very much like this book was only about making money. Check this one out from the library.
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on January 19, 2009
After reading the enthusiastic reviews here, I was hoping for a book that might be similar in substance to Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" or some of Rosemary Laker's books. I was very disappointed and, at times, disgusted by this book. I finished it, but it was a chore, and I'm still trying to figure out how all those 5-star reviewers could excuse the story's serious deficiencies and its over-the-top sadism.

The author shows a talent for writing an adventure tale, but the action comes at the expense of good character development. The perils and violence came at such breakneck speed that this was an exhausting read, and I thought Gabaldon's obsession with corporal punishment bordered on perversion. If I could bear to open this book again, I'd go back and count the number of pages devoted to the detailed descriptions of floggings and beatings. I'd guess it's around 50 of the book's 800 pages.

The ultimate downfall of the story is that it didn't take advantage of the many interesting opportunities to develop the premise and the character's predicament. Claire's transition to the hardships of the 18th century was far too easy, and she seemed to share little if any surprise at what she encountered. She's a character who was opinionated and very talky about some issues, but she barely mentioned her reaction to the clothing she was forced to wear, the social customs, the filth and poor hygiene (I don't remember her ever taking a full bath or brushing her teeth or dealing with her periods) and the many other conditions that would be shocking to a 20th century woman -- especially to one that showed a tendency to be vain in the beginning of the book.

These problems were compounded by the fact that Claire herself was just not very likable. I really wanted to like her and this book and read the whole series, but one book by this author was more than enough.
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on January 5, 2002
This book, as well as the end of Drums of Autumn, has a decidedly taped-together feel. Ms. Gabaldon has said, with some pride, in various interviews, that she never uses an outline or flow chart to make a "big picture" of her plot. Apparently, she writes various chapters as they occur to her and then, at the end, puts them in some sort of order. This approach, which worked pretty well in the first 3 books, has now produced some very mediocre stuff.
Fiery Cross is admittedly a "bridge book" between the first 4 novels and the final one. My bet is that Ms. Gabaldon knows exactly what will be in the last book and chose a few segments to put out as "cliff hangers" in the end of Fiery Cross. Then, she filled in the first 2/3 of the book with the results of her research, adding vignettes of daily life and a few tidbits of the storyline to keep readers going. The result is a meandering book with very little forward motion. Parts of it are painfully drawn out and add very, very little. Please rethink your approach, Ms. Gabaldon. We love to read about Jamie and Claire and will indeed read practically anything (even Fiery Cross) to get it. But don't we deserve better, after waiting so long?
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on August 9, 2004
I read all 5 novels in last 4 months on the recommendation of a coworker. While waiting for her to bring in this installment (The Fiery Cross), I read many of the reviews here. I was very disappointed since most of then said that the book was slow, boring and had no real storyline. When I started reading the book, I almost had a sense of dread because I thought it was going to be difficult to get through. This worsened because the first 150 pages were all about the events of one day and that has been complained about at length. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. I found this installment to be "thoroughly enjoyable." It wasn't, in my opinion, boring or slow. I enjoyed it immensely and am now waiting with baited breath for the next book in the series, The Breath of Snow and Ashes. I'm sure people's opinions differ. All I will say is that if you enjoyed the previous installments, do yourself a favor and read this one and formulate your own opinion. If I wasn't borrowing this book from my coworker, I might not of bought it based on the reviews and that would have been a mistake.
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on November 14, 2006
To clarify further from other reviews, this version of Outlander was also published in Australia which is where I purchased a copy.

Cross Stitch takes you on the most unbelievable rollercoaster road as far as your emotions are concerned. I think I cried about 7 times at various different points throughout the book, sometimes from joy and other times from sadness. It is a fierce and passionate love story as well as being an accurate interpretation of life in the 1700 & 1900's, with many historical references throughout.

The main character Claire is a strong, intelligent and sometimes feisty woman who is very lovable. She's married to Frank Randall in the year 1945 and manages to go back in time to the year 1743 in which she meets Frank's sinister ancestor Captain Black Jack Randall and flees into the arms of a few Scottish clansmen. That's when the real story begins!

What really impressed me about this book was Gabaldon's realistic interpretation of the historical events of England and Scotland and the way in which she paints the world the characters live in. It ignited a passion in me to learn more about the times for that particular era which no other book I've read has been able to do. Having never been to the UK, I find myself wanting to visit the Scottish highlands and see for myself the landscapes that she painted so vividly in my mind and to visit their forts and castles.

Cross Stitch is a highly satisfying book, which gets my hearty vote of 5 out of 5!
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on November 8, 2010
This book gets so much adoration and love...and I just don't get it! I completely agree with several of the other one-star reviews. This book is disturbingly violent, has a plot that meanders aimlessly, and two lead characters who are poorly characterized.

I lost count of how much of the plot and dialog dealt with whippings, beatings, and rape. Enough. I get it. It was violent in 18th century Scotland. If I wanted that much realism, I'd read a history book, not a novel. Not to mention, I didn't need pages and pages of a very detailed depiction of someone being repeatedly sodomized. It was disgusting.

The plot had so many scenes where the same thing happened over and over again. 850 pages could have easily been whittled down to half that, and I would not be walking away from this book unable to tell one scene from the next. As Yogi Berra would say, this book was "like deja vu, all over again."

And the characterization--that's probably the worst of this book's flaws. The lead female is...a selfish dunce. The story begins with her married to a completely decent and likable man: a man she very willingly cheats on! Not only that, but her inner monologue vacillates between gut-wrenchingly selfish and mind-bogglingly naive. I cannot believe a grown, MARRIED woman could be so self-centered and emotionally stunted.

Next is Jamie Fraser, the Highland hottie everyone and their Aunt Bertha raves about and swoons over. Seriously? HE BEATS HER WITH A BELT. BEATS HER, PEOPLE. Not a couple of swats out of anger--a full-on beating that leaves bruises all over her. He cheerfully delights in it! He tells her she's lucky he didn't climb on top of her afterwards because he was so turned on by it. WTF? Am I reading the same book as the eleventy frillion people who seem to think this guy is sexy?!? That scene turned my stomach and made me question why anyone would find this guy compelling in any way.

Overall, this book is too long, too violent, and lacks characters that readers can buy into or relate to. It's just...seriously, I don't get it.
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on November 10, 2014
As a sucker for the entire historical fiction genre, I thought I'd give this a try based on the popularity of the tv show and because the premise sounded interesting. I made it about 2/3 through before I finally threw in the towel. In addition to the poorly developed and/or inconsistent characters, a plot that unfolds at a snail's pace, and scandalously awful treatment of an otherwise interesting historical period, there's the the whole rape issue. Every other page seems to have someone being raped, threatened with rape, or doing the raping. I can only imagine that the author's first meeting with her agent must have gone something like that scene from "Blazing Saddles:"
Literary agent: What's the book about?
Diana Gabaldon: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Literary Agent: You said rape twice.
Diana Gabaldon: I like rape.

Unfortunately, this is simply a badly-written romance, containing every cliche the term "bodice ripper" has come to signify. Not good.
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on December 9, 2010
This book is definitely not for faint-hearted. The plot was ridiculous and the scenes too graphic. Claire and Jamie's reactions to certain situations are contradictory to their characters.

For example, Claire's reaction to Jamie's abusive treatment towards her - no self-respecting educated modern-age woman (even from 1950s) would forgive such act by her lover/husband, even if she could not physically stop him. The book made it sound like beating Claire was the last resort Jamie had in order to restore respect among the clan. But it was not - they could have left the clan right then, instead he chose to beat her, and she forgave him - UNBELIEVABLE! Another example about character contradiction is when Jamie was tortured in prison. Why did Jamie give up fighting and submit himself to such cruelty after Claire got away? He knew he was going to die the next day anyway. Any worthy hero would have fought and faced death with dignity! Wasn't he supposed to be brave and heroic? Where was his courage when he needed it the most? - completely OUT OF CHARACTER! And what about Claire just left Jamie in prison to the "black jack" knowing what a price Jamie was paying - how could she live with herself? And the author then described how Claire fought wolves to defend her precious life - where was her strength when she and Jamie fought Randall just before this scene? She could keep a whole pack of wolves at bay, yet she and Jamie together could not win the fight against Randall (yeah, right!). As for the graphic scenes, they are entirely unnecessary. THEY MADE ME SICK. Lastly, the opium-induced beating/revenge (whatever) scene at the abbey was RIDICULOUS to say the least - Jamie would need a lot more than that to restore himself mentally after what he had subjected himself to. Oh by the way, there were at least two occasions before that Jamie could have killed Randall (he sure had enough reasons to do so) and he didn't - why? - just so the author could have her chance to detail pervert and cruelty!

I had never NOT finished a novel in my life. Although I wanted to with this one, I kept talking myself out of it hoping that the author somehow would redeem herself. After all, the book got great reviews and how bad could it be? Boy was I wrong! It got worse and worse till the very end. Don't waste your time and put yourself through such an unpleasant and sick experience. The flaws are too numerous and they are not minor issues that can be overlooked.
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