Book Review: Hating the Novel “Outlander” Written by Diana Gabaldon

I usually don’t post bad book reviews very often because as a reader I find most reading enjoyable no matter what kind of genre or writing style; however, the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon left me feeling massively disappointed. Today’s book review isn’t going to be good to say the least. I didn’t finish the first book. 😢😢

To begin I want to say I was incredibly excited to try the Outlander series and have the entire book series on my Kindle. The reason I was so eager to try the series out is because last year after having mouth surgery I was laid up for a few days and binged watched the first couple seasons of the TV adaption of the Outlander series.  I loved and enjoyed the show immensely so obviously the books would be an excellent read that would make the story even better. I was sorely mistaken on that point.

Please read my review below as I discuss why this is one of those rare moments when my preference for the TV/movie adaption of a novel is way better than the actual book.  I will continue the show but will not read the rest of the series. I can’t stomach reading another word of Gabaldon’s book. That is the truth. Now funny isn’t that I own every single book of this series and am not going to ever read them. Okay, not funny, it is sad and pathetic. I really truly from the bottom of my heart wanted to enjoy them! ….

I would like to discuss two things before I detail all the many reasons why I am going to be giving this book a 2 out 5 star rating. Firstly, I need to say it is very difficult for me to write a bad review because one it genuinely doesn’t happen very often at all. I usually love the books I am sent through publishers and those I purchase myself. It wasn’t easy deciding I wasn’t going to finish the book despite being well past halfway through the novel; but I was over it! Readers shouldn’t waste their time reading books they are not enjoying so I believe putting books into a DNF (Did Not Finish) pile is okay.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is based on the premise of time travelling which actually is very entertaining. Who doesn’t love a historical time traveling romance novel? The book’s plot is centered around a young women Claire Beauchamp Randall who after WWII is on vacation in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank when the impossible happens. Claire finds herself transported to the past and is pushed face first into a 1743 Scottish clan war against the English. I do love Claire in both the book and TV show because she is a strong and brave women who just jumps right into the thick of things without panicking too much about how she will get home to the future.

Of course the book is a “romance” and that is where I take my first disliking to the story. As a reader I am a sucker for a good romance but that really isn’t the right way to describe the love between Claire and the man she is literally forced to marry for her own protection in 1743 Scotland. He is a typical brute and highly disagreeable in the novel.

I think Jamie Frazier was the biggest let down in the novel because I absolutely was disgusted with his character which is a bit strange because the TV show portrays him in such a different light and I absolutely adored him on the show. The Jamie on TV is much more easy to sympathize with and love than the book Jamie. Book Jamie is a lot more obnoxious, gruff, and way meaner than what he is like in the show. I am not sure how you could classify Claire and Jamie’s marriage as love. It is more of a controlling and dare I say abusive situation and poor Claire doesn’t seem to mind because what choice does she really have? By the time she is literally forced to marry Jamie, she has almost been raped, has no home, is being held captive by a Scottish clan. Claire is just trying to survive and figure out a way to return to her real husband and back to 1946.

My next dislike of this novel has to do with rape. I mean really? Who doesn’t get raped in this book and why does every chapter have to involve some form of rape whether it is with Captain Randall of the British army or Jamie Frazier’s uncle/mentor (I am unclear of the connection which happens a lot in this book. No clarity throughout). Gabaldon really missed the mark with how she seemed to favor writing in detail constantly of physical abuse with descriptive narration of the scenes yet her writing falls flat in other areas in such a massive way it left a bad taste in my mouth to say it the simplest.

Gabaldon has no trouble providing readers with every graphic ways to describe the brutality but somehow can’t make me as a reader connect with the characters. They have no substance whatsoever, and Claire is a bit of a ninny with no real depths. The author tries to give them personality by detailing to the readers the character’s unique history but a lot of it doesn’t do the trick; furthermore, the book has a lot of one liner history that need more. You cannot name drop the king of France and mention constant squabbles of the Scottish Clans without giving readers reference to the who they are and what they are about. Why was there a rebel and the significance? How am I suppose to understand how important a civil war is or a royal figure if the writer doesn’t spell it out for me? There is just no way and I found that lacking. Did Diana Gabaldon expect her readers to have extensive knowledge of Scottish history? I mean really …

I know this post is nothing more than a long rant of hate on the novel; however, it cannot be helped! There is so much that is simply terrible. An example of how awful it is would be when Jamie literally beats Claire for “misbehaving” and “not listening” to his orders. This is love? I am suppose to admire and support Jamie? As a reader the authors wants us to root for Jamie and Claire’s love except it is anything but and I refuse to accept that abusive and controlling relationships are love. I know there is a whole argument of well it is “historically accurate”. Nope. I don’t care. That argument doesn’t hold any weight for me. I am not interested in historically accurate if the novel is making my stomach queasy.  I’ll pass. This is all I am going to write in regards to book one and the series because my rant has gotten a bit long-winded. The book simply isn’t my cup of tea and I will not attempt to read the work of rape obsessed Diana Gabaldon again.

Disclaimer: These are wholly my opinions and I don’t judge anyone for enjoying Gabaldon as a writer and the series itself. There was a lot of good ideas and some great writing in her book. My opinions are just simply that, an opinion. No way reflecting on the taste of other readers. I think all readers have unique perspectives and perhaps when someone doesn’t like a story they aren’t seeing it with the same perspective as another reader and vice versa. We are individuals here and if you loved the series than I think that is awesome. Finding books we love is always a positive in my world!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my book review. I would love to know what others thought of the series? I know I cannot be the only hater for the book but also know that there are many who love the series. Please let me know what about the series made you hate/love it. Leave a comment in the section below! ❤ ❤ ❤



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62 thoughts on “Book Review: Hating the Novel “Outlander” Written by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Yes, I’d say I’m a pretty big fan of the books lol sorry for my long defending comment. I would say Outlander has been one of my favorite reads but I pretty much love anything historical fiction and fantasy.


  2. I’m actually really surprised. I started watching the series and then read the books. I actually thought the book and the show correlated really well. In the books Claire was actually furious after Jamie gave her a spanking and they spent a while not talking. This was also a time where this type of punishment for kids and wives were quite normal if not expected. Jamie and his clan risked their lives for Claire because of her foolishness (he didn’t know she was trying to go home through time) they weren’t going to let that go lightly. These were stubborn Scottish highlanders no less. During a heated argument after a while of not speaking Jamie opens up to Claire how he felt she tore his heart out and Claire is a smart woman, she understands that this is not her time and that things are different so she forgives Jamie with the condition that he will never hit her again. He stays true to his word. Diana’s books are historical fiction with the characters behavior being closely related to how they would act during those times. I think that’s how historical fictions should be. As for rape… unfortunately that stuff happened ALL the time back then. And the reason they were rebelling was because they wanted their catholic king on the thrown. If you continued reading the series you would learn more about the rebellion. It’s also not a history textbook so I’m not sure Diana would give an entire history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We definitley have different perspectives on the book and show. I am glad you enjoyed reading it and the series altogether. I can definitely see how not reading the rest of the series might be limiting but I’m of the opinion if you don’t really want to finish the first book why bother with the second, third, and so forth. I wonder if our taste match up. What are some of your favorite reads and authors?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry to butt in but this has been bugging me all day, since I first saw the comment. What kind of historical evidence is there for the supposedly rampant levels of rape that took place “back then”? I’m not saying there weren’t rapes (not to mention plenty of consensual activity) but there were so many religious and cultural factors that most potential perpetrators would have been kept in line. TV shows, movies, and books have taken a lot of liberties with how things supposedly were in the past in order to further their stories and create drama, which they then justify as “historical reality.” Even contemporary claims of excessive violence or debauchery are usually stories told about certain people, places, cultures, or time periods by their enemies–not exactly reliable sources. I think we might need to reconsider some of our modern beliefs of what the past was like. I’ve also mentioned this before but it’s funny how writers and showrunners defend rape and violence against women as “historically accurate,” but don’t seem bound by concerns for accuracy when it comes to things like body hair, makeup, and hygiene in their heroines.


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  4. Your complaints about the book are interesting because I have the same complaints about the show–the obsession with rape, Jamie’s “discipline” of Claire, and a lack of historical depth. Yeah, Jamie seemed cute and nice at first on the show, but he lost me when he lectured that men need to keep their wives in line (I too don’t care if it was historically accurate–it was also historically accurate for women not to have access to full makeup/razors/hair products/toothbrushes, but that kind of accuracy never seems to matter). To each their own, but Outlander isn’t for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well, I am one of those who enjoy very much the series. I must admit that I liked it better from volume 3. First and second were quite good, indeed the rape scenes are harsh and Jamie’s experience is more disturbing than many(or should I say their experience, since they are both involved as a couple). As time passes and Jamie starts to learn the ways of life, he becomes wiser and more complex. I find that a youngster can develop in time, and this is what I like about the series: the characters are not static, they evolve. You can only see that if you read more, though. 😀 Perhaps in the TV adaptation (which I haven’t watched yet, but glad you reminded me) has already been portrayed as such, because it’s harder to explain the plot in the scenario as adaptation actions roll faster, and specific insight it’s hard to give. But each reader has the right to choose whatever suits them best. Not only that, but you can find that maybe, at some point, you’ll like it better than at this very moments. That’s your call. I liked the way you pointed out the reasons behind this opinion. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad I watched the series before attempting the books, I love Outlander but wouldn’t waste my money on the books if they are like you describe. I really do not like explicit content at the best of times, but I think they portrayed it in its necessary context in the TV show. Anything more would have been gratuitous!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of my favorite BookTubers recently stated that she didn’t like the Outlander series for precisely the reasons you mentioned. I thought I’d give it a try last year, but I gave up after 200 pages. The (sexual) violence isn’t something I’m going to enjoy for novels and novels on end. ASOIAF had a lot of violence too, but I could stomach that better because in most cases you weren’t supposed to like the characters who did those things anyway.
    To pass this off as romance is a whole different matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can handle violence but there comes a point where too much is just pointless. I think the authors intent was to show how rough and unforgiving the times were while adding conflict for the main characters but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I am happy to hear I am not alone in my opinion!


  8. I liked your review. I liked the novel solely based on TV series. I did not like the rape and the gory details on many things but i ended up liking the book. I understand if i were to critically judge the novel from my perspective today then i would hate it. However, the novel was published in the year 1991 and the war brings rape and famine and bloodshed and loss of many things. That has been part of any history. Male chauvinist attitude prevailed before and it still does in many of the third world countries to date. So my reason for liking the novel is that it is based on how the society worked back then was portrayed. However calling it a romance novel is wrong till you read the sequels I guess. but for me the first one is a historical novel.
    I am not the kind who would disagree with a bad review. Every person has a different taste and I liked how this was not your cup of tea. i enjoyed reading your review. It was a fresh perspective. I agree with many people that Jamie on TV is far more better than the book one. i also feel TV might have taken the “romance” part much seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Its totally wonderful that you enjoyed the book and dont neccassarily agree with my review. Reading is very much about personal taste and readers have different minds, taste, and perspectives. I will say my favorite part of Gabaldon’s work is that she does do a great job setting the scenes and handling the time travel aspects so readers don’t get confused about what time they are in. She did write the scenes well enough to paint a good picture in my head of the story which takes talent. I wish I had said this in my review! Haha. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post! ♥❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. These are the exact reasons I stopped watching the series after Season 1 and never tried her books.
    I have no problem with Romance or other genres (to read or to write) but I remember thinking “There must be something in the air in Scotland and everyone either wants to rape or eventually gets raped.” I know these were difficult times but if/since that was so common, I hope people dealt with it (physically and psychologically) in a easier manner, something like “Oh, I got my daily beating/rape this morning. I might escape the afternoon one.”
    Seriously now, since Claire is from the 20th century I’d expect her to teach Jamie a lesson or two about women. And I don’t mean in bed.
    For strict historical accuracy I go to Umberto Eco not Gabaldon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I kind of had the same issue with A Song of Ice and Fire series. People hail GRRM as the king of fantasy and yet I find little to no fantasia in his book, no substance in his character or story. For me, the TV show does seem better than the books even when I am not a big fan of the TV show itself. I have some problems with the Outlander TV series as well like how the system of “magic” is never explained, it just happens or it doesn’t. I find it very weird. Anyway, thanks for getting Outlander series off my TBR. After watching the show, I too had wanted to read the books.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Before your review, I hadn’t really heard of anything really negative about Outlander. The abuse is not good! I will definitely be more cautious if I ever want to read this book,though it won’t be anytime soon. Great review as you highlighted some really good points!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I give you so much credit for putting this opinion of a popular series out there. I’m sure a lot of people are afraid to say such things because they fear getting bashed by the die hard fans. Good on you! You’re honesty was refreshing and I’ll be taking this into consideration before reading it. I’ve read books with rape before but this does sound like a bit much.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Congratulations on taking the stand and writing a bad but well documented review! I can totally sympathize with you as to how difficult this is (having delivered some myself and on video).
    I have only watched a couple of episodes from the TV adaptation and while I loved the historical setting, romance isn’t really my cup of tea. However I remember thinking that the book series should be awesome and a hit with readers. In fact I was thinking of reading maybe the first one to review for my friends that are into the genre. So you have saved me a lot of trouble and I can only thank you for that. You have spelled out so clearly what’s worth with this book that I am sure I would have hated it. Well done and that’s why we need to be honest and do negative reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 😂Wow. I’ve not read a word of what she’s written, nor watched any of the TV adaptation. I will say here, being a writer (as you know), I wouldn’t normally comment like this. I will say I have read she is annoyed her novels are not normally categorized as “historical fiction,” but are placed usually in “romance.” She dislikes the “romance” tag (presumably because she considers “romance” lightweight). She’s lucky: they could be “sci-fi” only. I feel that given time travel is IMPOSSIBLE (insofar as we know), they cannot be “historical”; therefore her books are “romance” at best whether she likes it or not. Frankly I don’t mind my books perhaps being termed “romance.” Given that “Casablanca” is considered a “romance,” my books being termed “romance” is just fine by me.😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pride and Prejudice is considered a romance novel too. I think we really need to get over genre stigma. (Speaking of sci fi time travellers, though, I believe Gabaldon admitted Jamie was inspired/influenced by Doctor Who and the Doctor’s highland companion, also named Jamie.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • To answer your question about what I meant by “genre stigma” (I can’t reply directly in the thread and didn’t want it to get too confusing), there’s a lot of prejudice against various genres. First of all, there’s a general tendency to look down on genre fiction (Sci fi, Horror, Romance, and so on…) as being of a lesser quality than “Literary fiction.” Literary snobs don’t think genre fiction counts as “real” literature. Beyond that, certain genres–particularly the female-dominated Romance genre–are looked down on even more as being fluffy or shallow. Few people have a problem admitting they love Fantasy or Spy Thrillers, but a lot of readers are embarrassed to admit they love Romance (and they often get a negative reaction when they do admit it). It sounds like Gabaldon wants to be taken seriously as a writer, so she’s trying to distance herself from the Romance genre. People (both in the industry and readers) need to realize that good and bad writing exists in all genres, including Literary. No one should be shamed for reading (or writing in) a particular genre. This ended up way longer than I intended–hope it helps 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agreed and sounds like those people are absolute elitist and snobs. Not my kind of book people for sure! I am also confused what is the difference from genre fiction and literary fiction? I have noticed there is a whole separate genre for literary fiction but am at a loss as what constitutes literary fiction versus YA, Mystery fiction etc etc


      • I’m not sure anyone really knows anymore what Literary fiction really is. You could say it’s anything that doesn’t fall into any other category, although a lot of “Literary” fiction can also be put into other genres. At this point it might simply be a term for the pretentious to feel better about their reading material. There’s also an argument being made by some to eliminate genres altogether (which seems great in theory, but confusing when you’re looking for a certain kind of book to read!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah literary snobs can get lost. A good book is one you as the reader enjoyed. It doesn’t have to be the best written words ever or have some grand moral message. A good book is simply just entertaining. Now as for getting rid of genres, I don’t think it is a good idea. I believe they are there to let readers know some idea of what they are getting into to. I would hate to be wanting to read a good murder mystery but get a romance instead or vice versa. I think genres are good for sorting purposes.

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