My reasons for reading this book could not have been more misguided. The thing is, I have this reading journal where I keep track of all the books I read. In back of the journal there's several inspirational lists containing great novels. One of them is called 'Romance Favorites', and that's where I found this book, listed among titles such as "Middlemarch", "Rebecca" and "Pride and Prejudice". I wondered why I had never heard of this book before, since it was mentioned among such beloved and undying classic favorites of mine. And I decided I had to read it, thinking it must be some sort of "big deal". However, it turned out to be no such thing.
There are numerous things I do not like about this novel. First of all the characters. Their reasoning seems so far out of my comprehension at times. The supposed hero of the story, James Fraser, is an annoyingly sex-craving virgin, who resolves to violence and rape when he cannot make his wife obey him. What a charmer, right?
The main character, Claire, is victim for a series of serious crimes leaving no mark on her soul that her "so-lovely" husband cannot kiss away. Sure, sure. Rape, nearly murder, is definitely not something to worry about, when you have a real Scottish beef-cake waiting for you at home. That's plainly obvious for anyone to see.
And then there's Frank. Poor, poor Frank. Claire is wildly in love with him, and yet forgets him in the flash of an eye. Once in a while he pops up, causing her to feel bad for a second, but her bad conscience towards him is no hindrance to her having wild S&M sex with another man. After all, she HAS to do it. At least that what she keeps telling herself.
Her behavior towards Frank is slightly accounted for in the appearance of his alter ego Captain Randell. Apparently he's supposed to be some metaphor for a side of Frank that she never knew, causing her to question whether Frank was so good after all. However I do not find that reasoning very convincing.
The writing-style and the pace of the novel is horrible. Utterly and completely horrible. It almost seems like Gabaldon is afraid of as much as one still page in the novel, and therefore constantly is inventing new problems and dilemmas varying between elements such as more kidnapping of the damsel-in-distress, more rescue of the damsel-in-distress, obscure sex scenes, escape and rape, over and over and over again. Gabaldon may write with a high pace, but it is a repetitive pattern, causing me to be a bit bored despite all the action.
But I have to admit there also was something undefinable fascinating about the world Gabaldon has created. Her interesting mix of sci-fi, historical fiction and romance really holds a promising idea, and her extensive research binds it all together and somehow makes it reasonable.
The romance-part of her novel is corny and even insulting at times. But perhaps it is just a reflection of the time she wishes to represents. And even against my better judgement I sometimes found a line or two that seemed sincere. Even loveable.
I would categorize this as guilty pleasure. For while it does provide some kind of pleasurable fascination it does not provide much else.