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Monday, June 18, 2012

Outlander Read-a-Long: Chapters 1-7

Book cover of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
It's time for this week's edition of the Outlander Read-a-Long, and I've loved rereading Diana Gabaldon's epic time-travel romance (again!).  In fact, I had a hard time stopping at Chapter 7  I just can't quit Jamie Fraser.

This week's questions come from Jess at Gone with the Words.

1. Outlander is a well-known book. Before you cracked it open, what were your expectations or assumptions about this story? Or did you jump into it with a blank slate?

I first read Outlander a decade ago, the summer after I graduated from Georgetown.  I didn't have a job yet, so I spent my days reading epic amounts of historical fiction.  After I finished the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, I wanted to find a similar series and somehow stumbled upon Diana Gabaldon.  I quickly learned that aside from the Scottish setting and their secondary use as a doorstop, Outlander and Lymond have nothing in common.  Outlander, though, was a revelation and I devoured the first book in a day (a side benefit to being unemployed!).  I read the novel multiple times that summer, and though I finished the other books in the series, I always returned to the first book.

This time around, I plan to take my time with Outlander and to savor it.  I'm also interested to see if the book holds up now that I primarily read romance, or if my feelings about it have changed.

2. Claire’s husband, Frank, is fascinated with learning more and more facts about his family tree, which extends back pretty far. Do you or anyone in your family keep a family tree? How many years/generations back does it go? If not, have you ever considered or attempted to create one?

I did! I created a family tree for a project in high school, and it was a thing of true beauty.  I pulled together info from both sides of my family, and on my dad's side it goes back to the mid-18th century.  At the time, I was mainly impressed with how pretty the tree looked  silver and black paint pens on black cardboard  but now I recognize its greater value.

3. How did you find Claire’s initial conclusion as to her surroundings after waking up from going through the stones? Did you think that was a reasonable conclusion?

I think Claire's assumption that she's caught up in either a film scene or a historical reenactment seems very reasonable.  After all, the natural human reaction is to find the simplest explanation and both of those make sense.

4. How about her composed, rational way of dealing with the fact she’s traveled back in time. Did you find it believable? Do you think you would have acted the same way?

For me, Claire's acceptance that she has time traveled is one of the weak points of the first part of the novel.  I know her war experiences have given her the skills she needs to survive in almost any situation, but I still find it hard to believe she could function as well as she does.  She has some moments where she expresses bewilderment and questions her situation, but overall she is far too calm and accepting for me to totally buy it.  Personally, I would have been a mess and they probably would have thrown me into a dungeon deep in Castle Leoch and then tried to forget about the crazy chick in the cellar.

5. At this point in the story, what are your feelings or expectations on Claire and Jamie? Is Frank still a factor for you?

I'm surprised by how much I dislike Frank this time around.  The first time I read the book, I remember being torn on Claire's behalf as she fell in love with Jamie while still feeling loyal to Frank.  Now, I find it clear how wrong Frank and Claire are for each other.  He's emotionally distant from her and even dismissive of her at some points.  The scene after they first meet Roger and hear his backstory is particularly telling  I found Frank so callous and absorbed in his own feelings while totally discounting Claire's desires.  He isn't a bad person, but I don't believe he's capable of emotional love.

As for Claire and Jamie...well, I canna get enough Jamie Fraser.  I find myself wanting to skip a lot of the sections just to get more Jamie time.

Bonus Question: Frank encounters a man outside of the inn where he and Claire are staying. He is afraid it might have been a ghost. What do you believe it was? Do you have any predictions or suspicions on what that was about?

Hmmm...not sure I can answer this one without spoiling it for others!

Romance novel book reviews by Sarah The Brazen Bookworm


  1. Just added The Lymond Chronicles to my TBR :)

    I give you a trophy for reading Outlander in a took me a week.

    I would have been a mess in that situation.

    I understand your thoughts on Frank as well. I struggled to pinpoint what it was that was off about Frank and his relationship with Claire.

    1. The Lymond Chronicles are a lot denser than Outlander, and more academic, but SO good. The only thing I don't like is that the romance takes the entire series(!) to play out. I need more immediate gratification. :)

  2. The thing about Frank and Claire - even before Jamie was introduced, their relationship seemed a bit off-sided to me. And I think Claire knows it. She even mentions something about being married six years, but only together for six months, right? (This is my first time reading! YAY ME.) And while her thoughts are always primarily on Frank, his are all over the place and Claire seems to be an afterthought all the time. Now I realize that after only 7 chapters we haven't seen that much of Jamie yet, but I'm willing to bet it will be different with him. Immediately, when he was on the stool in the corner and she was nursing him, I liked him. Now I think I love him. FOR REAL.

    The more blogs I visit, the more I realize how many people have already read this book. I honesty didn't realize it was this popular!

    I'm finding it hard not to read ahead, but I know that if I do, I'll forget the details that I might need to answer the questions and I won't be able to make the questions when it is my week to do so.

    1. Yes, that's the perfect way to put it - Claire is an afterthought to Frank. And I'm surprised that doesn't bother her more, though I think she's just suppressing it and would inevitably have resented it. I really didn't like how he totally dismissed her desire for a child. I think it showed how self-absorbed he is. And, yes, my love for Jamie is FOR REAL too, right from that very first minute. :)

  3. Holy crap, I can't believe you read this book in one day! Were you like a total zombie afterwards and did you sleep 12 hours straight? That's pretty impressive reading:)

    I definitely don't feel the Frank/ Claire romance. It seems like perhaps they have been apart so long that they are a) having to get to know each other all over again or b)Claire may be discovering that they are more incompatible than she origanlly thought. And yes, he is dismissive and distracted and what's up with the whole "if you met someone else during our separation, I'm ok with that" thing?

    So as you may surmise I am most definitely pro-Jamie:)

    I did read ahead a little, I made myself stop at Ch. 17. I couldn't wait. I had to get to the good parts:)

    1. Lol, I did have a bit of a book hangover after that one. I'm a pretty fast reader, though, and when you don't have a job the pages fly awfully fast!

      Honestly, I don't know how people don't read ahead! I'm impressed you stopped at Ch. 17. And once I get to the good parts, I find myself having to reread them again and again. You know, to, um, experience Gabaldon's writing. Not at all to just imagine Jamie Fraser is real. Not at all. ;)

    2. Ha! of course not! Right there with you, Sarah:)

  4. I think it's maybe reading the rest of the books that makes readers particularly dislike Frank. I know I dislike him more and more as the series goes on and a little bit more is revealed about him. Although to be fair with an ancestor like Randall, he's a lot nicer than he could have turned out to be!

    1. Yes, I keep trying to temper my dislike of him for those who haven't read the rest of the series, but he does get harder and harder to feel any sympathy for. Though you're right - he's nowhere near as bad as Black Jack. *shudder*

  5. I have to get in gear and read this. Unfortunately, I was not able to join the read along. I read the questions and a couple of your answers, but was afraid to read too much. Enjoy!

    1. Yes, I didn't include any major spoilers, but best not to read too much lest you find out something important. I hope you get a chance to read the book at some point. It's a fantastic read!

  6. Oh, Frank. He's so aloof and self-absorbed. Yeah, I definitely noticed the way he treated her at times. Sorry, Frank! We don't like you. :D And that's not even going further than this book...because I have read all of them and have stronger opinions on the matter, lol.

    I think you need to show us a picture of this fabulous family tree! :D


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