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Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

In honor of Outlander Season 5 coming to STARZ on February 16, I decided to re-read the Outlander series. Personally, I love these books. The romance, the wanting to change the past for the future, and the daring nature of the Scots bring me so much joy. Here is my take on the book and how Season 1 aligns with the story.

The Characters

The character development in the book is much better than in the TV show. Claire has to adapt to something that is virtually impossible in our world. She doesn’t use much of the 20th century language that she is used to in order to keep her time travel a secret as she realizes she is definitely in the 18th century. As the book progresses, you can tell she becomes more comfortable being in the 18th century, possibly because of her love for Jamie. But I also think it’s because she fits in a little bit more because in the book she says that she has found her place with him and a home at Lallybroch.

As far as Jamie goes, there isn’t a lot of character development for him since he isn’t the main character we are obviously watching. But there is a special not to be taken on him that Gabaldon slightly describes. We know Jamie has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD  from all of his experiences at the hand of Randall (who, by the way is a sadist…this is not about him being gay). I believe Jamie noticed how much pleasure Randall gets from hurting people.  It can mess with your psyche to realize that about someone. I think, as the series progresses, this is something to watch about his character and how he handles certain situations because of it.


Jamie’s Treatment of Claire

When reading this book, I looked at some reviews and there were a lot of points about how Jamie whipped Claire, and this should be seen as domestic abuse and had many people put the book down. Obviously, this was not the case at all as domestic abuse isn’t a one-time thing. People who have been through domestic violence can tell you this. The 18th century was misogynistic, to say the least. It was thought that women were only good for breeding and that men should have all the power. The 20th century wasn’t much different, but women were able to have jobs and had the ability to have their own money in a way the 18th century never had.

When you’re looking at what Jamie did from a 21st century lens, you’re completely missing that she is in a different time period that he was raised in. Jamie was raised to that it was the man’s duty to punish not just his children, but also his wife. Compared to other relationships in the book, Jamie treated Claire like a queen after this one mistake.  Which he realized quickly that it was a mistake and made sure he would never lay a hand on her again. It wasn’t a power move like domestic violence really is.


The Ending

It’s important to recognize that in the 1700s, the terms “sadist” and “homosexual”, as well as “heterosexual” didn’t exist. This doesn’t mean that sadists didn’t exist, and we know that there were gay men in that time. People who don’t get through the entire series don’t see that Johnathon Randall didn’t just inflict pain on men, but also women. Sadists take sexual pleasure in inflicting pain on others. This is what people reading the book forget. They see a man who may or may not be attracted to men and think Gabaldon is using homosexuality as an excuse to inflict pain. But it’s not. You haven’t met Lord John yet if you haven’t read the whole series. 

Another thing is the ending shows much more about Claire’s personal struggle with coming through the stones. Her conversation with Father Anslem shows that struggle and she realized that there is no use in struggling anymore because she made her choice for the man she loves. Yes, she loved Frank Randall, that is why she keeps his ring. But her love for Jamie is different. The power of absolution works for her even though she will still have to struggle to find a way to stop Culloden and the slaughtering go the clans.


The TV Show

I love the show, although there are a lot of things that are different about the plot that I dislike, and I know it is because of the drama. 

  1. The conversation with Lord Thomas never happened and Randall never described his sadism to Claire, Dougal did. 
  2. The Watch was never watching over Lallybroch and Jamie didn’t give people back the rent.
  3. Geillis didn’t tell Claire about what time she was from or that it may be possible to go back through the stones, Dougal did.
  4. Angus was a secondary character. He wasn’t part of Dougal’s gang or Rupert’s best friend.
  5. The incident with Black Jack Randall had way more torture involved, which is why I would call Randall a sadist.

There are many more differences and it would take an entirely new post to name them all, but these are the most important ones to me. 

Clarissa Lunday

Washington '21

I am a junior at the University of Washington. I transferred from Seattle Central College after completing my Associate of Arts. I have a unique experience as I also struggle with depression and live with my service dog, Manchester. I love to write about my experience and my politics and I hope you enjoy my articles.
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