Read: because I wanted an audio book for my trip to England, and it was $6 on iTunes. Plus, my roommate Katie recommended it a while back. (Delta, 656 pages)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (finished 7/18/10)
Synopsis: Absorbing and heartwarming, this first novel lavishly evokes the land and lore of Scotland, quickening both with realistic characters and a feisty heroine. English nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall and husband Frank take a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. When Claire walks through a cleft stone in an ancient henge, she’s somehow transported to 1743. She encounters Frank’s evil ancestor, British captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, and is adopted by another clan. Claire nurses young soldier James Fraser, a gallant, merry redhead, and the two begin a romance, seeing each other through many perilous, swashbuckling adventures involving Black Jack. Scenes of the Highlanders’ daily life blend poignant emotions with Scottish wit and humor.
* * * This review contains some mild spoilers * * *
Overall Impression: Can Davina Porter just narrate my whole life? I wouldn’t be so disappointed in the morning if her lilting voice ran through my head, saying, “and then Cori poured herself a bowl of Special K, only to remember that she had finished the milk the night before.”
So, despite the ridiculous length, I ended up enjoying this one. I probably would have given up about halfway through if I had not been listening to it on audiobook, though, because despite a lot of words, not much happens. There are times when the plot surges forward, but much of the book is the main character, Claire (a very likeable heroine), watching other people have conversations about Scottish things, making love to her (incredibly hot) Scottish husband, and collecting plants for medicinal purposes. None of this is bad, but sometimes it felt like filler. I think quite a bit about the story could have been cut out (for example, why have her help birth a horse if she’s just going to freak out about a human baby being born a few chapters later?) and the book wouldn’t have been any less for it.
And then there were the WOLVES. If you are writer, and you are thinking that wolves would help further the tension in your plot, repeat after me: “I will not use wolves. Wolves are ridiculous and overwraught. My plot is fine without the wolves. I will leave wolves to fairy tales and Stephanie Meyer.” Now, repeat this until your plot needs no wolves. Read my post on Robinson Crusoe for further anti-wolf thoughts.
I will say, however, I really liked how Claire was originally from 1945, and her experience as a nurse in difficult situations in the war made it realistic that she would be able to get by in 1743 Scotland. Kudos to Gabaldon for making this work. And much of the book was a rousing good time — the characters were fun, the writing was quite good in most places, and it made me love Scotland all the more. As a warning to those thinking about reading it, there are some Really Awful Things that happen toward the end. I sort of wish I’d been reading the paper version so I could have skimmed over the more graphic stuff — it was disturbing in places. If you want more info, I’d be happy to give it, but I don’t want to spoil it here.
Pros: Great narration, well-thought-out characters, and a whole bunch of Scotland, which I love. I’ll probably get the next in the series on audio book one of these days.
Cons: WOLVES. And filler.
Other books I’ve read by Gabaldon: none