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

I rarely post bad book reviews because I find most reading enjoyable no matter what kind of genre or writing style; however, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon left me feeling disappointed. Today’s book review will not be good. I didn’t finish the first book.

To begin, I want to say it excited me 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 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, so the books would be an excellent read that would make the story even better. I was mistaken on that point.

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. I own every single book of this series and I am not going to ever finish reading them, which is a shame because I truly wanted to enjoy them!….

I would like to discuss two things before I detail all the many reasons I will be giving this book a 2 out 5 star rating. First, I need to say it is difficult for me to write a bad review because it genuinely doesn’t happen often at all. I love the books I am sent through publishers and those I purchase myself. It wasn’t easy deciding I would not 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.

The Outlander series is based on the premise of time travelling, which is entertaining. Who doesn’t love a historical time-traveling romance novel? The book’s plot is centered on a young woman 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 love Claire in both the book and TV show because she is a strong and brave woman who just jumps right into the thick of things without panicking too much about how she will get home to the future.

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 isn’t the right way to describe the love between Claire and the man she is forced to marry for her own protection in 1743 Scotland. He is a typical brute and highly disagreeable in the novel.

I think Jamie Fraser was the biggest let down in the novel because I was disgusted with his character which is strange because the TV show portrays him in such a different light and I 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 have? By the time she is 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 Fraser’s uncle/mentor (I am unclear of the connection which happens a lot in this book. No clarity throughout). Gabaldon 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 way 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; the book has a lot of one liner history that needed more detail. 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 rebellion 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 at least a little? Readers should care about what the characters do. There is just no way because I wasn’t feeling it, and I found that lacking despite my love of history. I mean really… As a reader I wasn’t asking for a history lesson, but some details about why it mattered should have been there to paint the picture. With that said I realize I only read the first book so perhaps there is more that follows in the others to clarify, I cannot say because won’t be reading.

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 terrible. An example of how awful it is would be when Jamie beats Claire for “misbehaving” and “not listening” to his orders. This is love? I am 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 accurate if the novel is making my stomach queasy. I’ll pass. This is all I will write regarding book one and the series because my rant has gotten long-winded. The book 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 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!

I would like to say that although I haven’t watched past season two of the television version I did really enjoy the show and will watch the other seasons.

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!


  • I have only watched a couple episodes and they were quite nice and intriguing. I was naturally curious about the books but thankfully a friend of mine had the same reservations as you so I was spared.

    • It is so odd to say I preferred the show over the book because that is usually never the case. Books are always better in my opinion but in this circumstances the books aren’t for me but did enjoy the TV show although there is a lot of harshness in it as well. Thank you for the following the post and commenting!

  • Definitely not my cup of tea, and definitely will never read it.

  • I was interested in getting the book’s also but so many of the reviews I read had the same hate of the books as you that I never wanted to spend my money on them. They just didn’t sound interesting after that. Thank you for your honesty in this review.

    • Yeah I cant see you liking this book Terry lol

      • Great review. I couldn’t bear Outlander when I was given a birthday copy of the book when it was first published. And while I try and try, I have been unable to watch more than the first six episodes of the series, even with the lush scenery. The plots are contrived, characters unlikeable. I feel better I’m not alone.

  • Thank you for your post. I read the first 6 chapters and couldn’t read it anymore. I’m in the middle of season 3 the TV series and it’s getting ridiculous. I hope you like it better than I do.

  • The books never get better and after awhile the TV shows start to lose momentum, as well. My wife is a fan, so I’ve been a captive audience. Hopefully, the series will end one day, but I suppose the American Revolution has to come to an end, first.

    • That is what I am hearing, although many in my reading group are okay so you hated it but maybe you weren’t in the correct mindset. Give it a second chance later on, but right now I just have no desire for second chances on it. I mean I own them on my kindle so who knows. I doubt I will give it a second try though. Too many other books out there! haha

  • Sadly, I have to say, I did read the books but only after watching 2 seasons of the show and the books were a let down. I think it’s mostly because there was nothing left out of the series! Or nothing more to be gleaned from the books!

  • Jennifer Gilmore Albert

    I loved the books. Some were better than others however. I loved the first season of the TV version. The second and third were okay, the fourth was not even needed. I have loved the 5th this far.

  • Alex Constandinou

    Other than the obsession with rape the plot lines are easily predictable even for someone with no imagination and due to everyone and everything being linked the size of the imagined world is reduced to that of a postage stamp. Poorly imagined and poorly written. No real detail with throw away characters and a self serving narrative. Disappointing but mana for the simple minded.

  • Barbara Nathalie

    I read the fiy book because a good friend loves the book andovies so much, she’s been through noth twice. I only read the first book and made it through the third episode. I got annoyed with the lead characters.

  • I am listening to the Audio of Book One, and so bored! What is the point of time travel if you only go one way..? Just set it in that period. So slow, so much boring sex, so little explanation of what is going on historically. I loved the botany and healer parts, but she doesn’t learn much about how they work

  • I stopped reading the Outlander series at Voyager. Gabaldon has a problem with understanding how to add melanated characters without writing them as caricatures. Some of the language used in Voyager was unnecessary, insensitive and at a minimum prejudice. Some have classified her writing in Voyager as racist.

    These issues are overlooked and rarely highlighted or discussed because the majority of her fans are non-melanated.

    The other disturbing aspect of Galaldon’s writing is her obsession with brutality and rape which also is excused by her readers.

  • Well, this is the thing about Gabaldon’s writing. I, at first was appalled and shocked over the graphic descriptions of rape and abuse. And there are descriptions in all her books that sent me reeling, aghast, disgusted, book-slamming- down- on- my- floor mad… HOWEVER, what I garnered as I read all the way through the first book and eventually the whole series, (twice through as a matter of fact, except for her latest The Bees, which is a tome of epic proportion, but, a read of great delight), is that DG has done her thorough research. Because she has been so focused on history as the basis, she is true to the societal practices of the 18th century. I mean, life was constant brutality back then, and women were, well, just not considered people- they were mostly considered useful objects and sometimes, rare prizes won. You know this, I know this, history recounts it over and over. From the perspective of a woman living in mid-twentieth century England, the drastic change in her identity as a female had to be felt and dealt with. If you bothered to read to the end of the first book, Jamie learns of how wide the disparity is between his time and hers, and his manly expectations of his era vs. what is appropriate in hers. And one of the realties learned is how even after centuries of history passed, even in 1950’s- 60’s America, women were STILL mistreated horribly-only not quite to the extent and unsympathetic, violent bias of the 1700’s Scotland. I too, was actually angry with my friend who referred me to the book. I berated her for having me read a book that focused so much on brutality and brutish ruthlessness. And by the way, even Jamie endures some major sexual cruelty himself. Those particular chapters I never read again on the second round they just broke my heart because it went on and on for pages and pages. I just could not take it. What is worth noting though, is that in order for Jamie to have gone through the barbaric treatment, so much of the story would not have become what it is, nor would he have transformed as a person. Like all good drama, the character goes through a transformation- such is the same with the Jamie character and Claire as well. So I have to say this: I am very glad I decided to stick out the series and read it all the way through. As time goes on, or as the saga progresses, you will see that these rapes and abuses play pivotal points in the rollercoaster ride of the storyline. It is well worth it to read them all. The characters grow, and their cardboard 2 dimension configurations take on 3-D dimension as their undying love for each other matures. It is all very stimulating, humorous even, amazing, stunning, perplexing, vexing, and thrilling- all through the power of pen. At times I have remained pissed as all heck as to why I have to be told in writing that someone is staring into a horse’s head being devoured by a sea of maggots. I mean really….but the truth is, without this opposite of sublime we are graced with throughout her books in certain moments and passages, (usually typically swoon rendering on surprise and relief), we would not fully comprehend the depth of this massive story. Being a history lover, coming from a family of artists, horticulturalists, scientists and musicians, I find her series Outlander to be a veritable feast of both beauty and ugliness; both important in the tale of this epic love. What you will find is that even the love of Claire and Jamie will develop into a love of home and family, and the genuine sweetness of that, is beyond measure in (my book)…I don’t want to give anything more away, but I would be glad to explain more if requested. I hate to hear of someone jumping ship so soon, and yes, you did jump ship wayyy too soon! I will also reveal that some books are much better than others, for whatever reason… and most book readers agree it is a matter of personal taste. I for one rolled my eyes in the climax nearing the end of book 3, but I am very glad I didn’t jump ship, for there are mountains of wonderful things I would have missed in the subsequent novels. By the way, Diana Gabaldon has always stipulated her books can be read in any order. I look cross-eyed in response to this claim, only because she has so very many characters throughout the books who appear and return and always for significant reasons. Anyway, I urge you to give it another try. I read the old-fashioned hardbound books, and that way I can go back and reread certain lines I want to remember or fact-check. I have a bestie who reads off her kindle while washing her dishes and folding her laundry and she sails through the books –well actually torpedoes through those books— which I don’t understand. But she grasps it all and can recount details remembered far, far better than I can. For me, though, I have to truly taste and savor the reading… and yes, in many cases, whip past the meanness that does become daunting. So, in conclusion, I think you have sounded the gavel way too soon. Please don’t do that. I am of tender heart and am a strong woman who detests abuse in any form. But for the sake of story, the truth has to be exposed. It just does. Oh and YES! Like you, I am enamored to the nth degree with the television series. The producers have done a stupendous job, and it astounds me that there have been no Emmy’s come their way. I mean seriously? LOVE Outlander- BOTH t.v series and novels. And I do doff my cap and bow in honor to the wordsmith of DG. I love her using her scientist background along with all the other talents she has to have written such a marvelous romantic, historical adventure.

Leave a Reply