Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon (audio)


Well, my estimate was right on target...it took me two and a half weeks to listen to all 28 discs of the first book in the Outlander Series. Whew! What a ride. I've been pondering which category this book would fall under...historical fiction? drama? action? romance? Well, it covers them all folks.

The basic premise is this: After WWII, a combat nurse (Claire) and her husband travel on holiday to Scotland to do a little bonding after a long separation. They stumble upon a miniature Stonehenge-type place, where Claire touches a particular stone and is sucked back in time. To 1743, to be exact. She finds herself in the middle of MacKenzie clan territory, where she meets the dashing (and virile, we find out later!) Jamie Fraser. With Jamie, she faces innumerable dangers and drudgery typical to the era...British soldiers who are hunting Jamie for crimes he did not commit, townspeople that want to hang and burn Claire for suspected witchery, disease and infection, clan leaders with hidden agendas, jealous nubile wenches that want Jamie for their own, the lack of hot baths, etc. The biggest threat, however, is the evil, psychotic Jack Randall (who is actually an ancestor of Claire's husband) who only lives to torture, maim and sodomize anyone that crosses him. Beyond all of this drama, Claire finds the love of her life in Jamie. I'm not sure I could find another book that better portrays such a sweeping, epic love story such as this.

This is a very long book, and the time-traveling scenario initially seemed a bit goofy. There were plenty of reasons for me to walk away from this reading challenge, but I am so glad I did not. The author does an excellent job of using Claire's practical, no-nonsense, ball-busting personality to allow us practical, no-nonsense ball-busting readers to believe in the time travel premise. She is my kinda gal. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, she applies her nursing knowledge to the use of herbs to help heal others, and by the end of the book, the girl starts to leave behind a body count (wolves AND bad guys). Jamie is also quite a treat. He's a man's man, big and strong, but emotionally open and sometimes vulnerable, and has an insane libido. Yeah baby! The writing is pretty close to real-time, so you feel you have lived the last year with these two. Throughout most of the book, you will get your share of Jamie saves Claire, Claire saves Jamie, a couple of times over. But as the book draws to a close, Claire starts to pursue her faith and religion that she lost in her childhood. Serenely, she reaches out for answers to haunting, theological questions relating to Jamie's likely death, her husband who lives in 1945, and what she should do with the knowledge of the future. The writing comes close to poetic.

I feel relieved that I have the whole series in front of me to explore. No waiting (except that I am actually still waiting for the library to deliver the next set of discs!!). If I had to wait for the author to crank out book #2, I would lose my mind. And exploring I will do, as there are I believe a couple hundred more discs to listen to. Also, a note about listening to this book via audio. I had a blast listening to the narrator, Davina Porter. She has a lovely accent, she is spirited and lively. I have a hard time finding enough moments in the day to sit down and read a hard book, and with almost 900 pages, I think this was the way for me to go. Aye, bonny book!

17 comments:

Melissa said...

I am so glad to see you loved this one! I love to recommend this series to others, but always hope they love it. How could anyone not love my favorite book? :)

And yes, you are lucky not to have to wait for the next book. I am not patient, and a year plus for the next book is always torture!

farmlanebooks said...

Great review! You made it sound as good as I expected it to be. I think I'll read this next month, when I have a bit more time!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melissa, you have picked a good book to love. I just checked the library website, and apparently the discs are days away from arriving! I will listen to Pride and Prejudice while I wait...

Jackie - this book does require time, but you don't notice it so much because you are so entertained! These guys are much more likeable than the W.H. crew!

Literary Feline said...

I am glad you enjoyed listening to this one, Sandy. Twenty-eight discs! Wow! I hope you enjoy the rest of the series, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on those books as well.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Wendy, as long as Jamie continues his dude-ish ways, and Claire keeps kicking hiney, I will love every minute of the two hundred discs!

The Bumbles said...

1. Why do all the books I want to read right now have more than 500 pages?

2. I think I have enough time travel to dwell on with Lost right now so will probably put this off until the summer.

3. How cute is your kitty banner at the top of your page?!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I feel your pain, Bumbles. Lately, I just want to read something less than 200 pages, no matter what it is! Ugh! As for the time traveling, I was skeptical, as I said. But it works. Really well.

Thanks for complementing my kitty, Caspar. I was bored of the picture of the books across the top. I find myself lingering on Wendy the Literary Feline's website, just to look at her kitty picture. So I figured I'd feature one of my five pets for awhile. The guinea pig is next.

Melody said...

Well, I've never tried reading any of her books yet, although I knew there are a lot of readers out there who loved her books! Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the great review, Sandy!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Sandy, oh my gosh, you are a reading (and audio) machine, lady!! You rock! And this, by the by, was the best review of Outlander I have ever read, bar none!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody, thank you! The series is a commitment (I felt I needed a priest present when I signed up for the challenge!) but hopefully will be worth it!

Michele, I'm blushing. That is so nice of you to say that! Well you rock too! You turned me onto this series!

Beth F said...

Truly a terrific review! I'm so glad you're addicted. Isn't Davina Porter fabulous as the reader? I wish I had the whole series in front of me. Oh, and the books just keep on getting better.

One of the later books is alomst 50 CDs!! But don't let that stop you from listening. I think my MP3 was virtually glued to my head for most of a year when I first started listening.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I can't believe all of you have read this series...where the heck have I been? Beth, somewhere in the middle of last year I listened to "World Without End" on audio and it was 36 discs. I really was thinking I was queen of the universe for accomplishing this. That was just a little jog around the block warmup...if I had known then what I would take on, I would have not been so gloat-ish!

Carrie K. said...

I'm on disc 23. I've read the entire series before, but joined the challenge to listen to them all on audio before the new one comes out in the fall.

I love the narrator, too - her voice was familiar from PD James's mystery An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

I just picked up part 2 from my library today!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Carrie, I am envious that you know what is going to happen to Claire and Jamie! It must be an interesting experience to both read the books and listen to them. Davina Porter makes it pleasurable listening. I wouldn't mind listening to more of her...I like P.D. James so I will keep that in mind.

I just received Dragonfly in Amber Part 1 (Discs 1-17) and am uploading it as I speak. I am so excited to continue the journey!

farmlanebooks said...

I found a copy of the Outlander audio book in a second hand shop this morning, I was all prepared to start reading the book this weekend - now I'm confused! Do you think it is better to read the book, or listen to it?

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - it is probably a personal preference. For me, I am loving listening to the audio version of these books. I have a hard time getting through long novels in book form, just because I don't sit down for more than five minutes. So the audio is perfect for me...I can listen when I'm cleaning the house, mowing the yard, driving around, exercising, etc. Unfortunately, I cannot listen to them when the kids are in the car because they can be quite graphic! I've heard some people say they missed things when listening to audio, but it is working fine for me! Let me know how it goes!

farmlanebooks said...

I've just discovered my audiobook is the abridged version on 6 CDs. I think this is a bit too much editing, so I'm going to read the book instead.