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Book Review – The Outlander by Gil Adamson

The Outlander
by Gil Adamson
416 pages
Published in HC April 15, 2008; PB June 30, 2009
Fiction, historical

As part of my reading deliberately, one of the books I was intent on reading this year was The Outlander. It seemed right up my alley and I know I read good reviews of it, so when I told my real life book club (as opposed to my fake life book club) that I thought we should disband the book club, but I found out they all wanted to continue, I said, Fine, but here’s the books I want to read. The Outlander was one of them, and thus our February book was picked.

I don’t know if you remember, but I really disliked The English Patient. I only bring that up because I should have known I wouldn’t like this book because Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, gushed all over this book. In fact, I think my book might even have the remnants of Ondaatje’s spittle.

Oh, wait. That’s from when I fell asleep reading. Nevermind.

Here’s why I thought The Outlander sounded so fantastic: Mary, 19-years-old in the year 1903, kills her husband and has to flee for her life from his crazed brothers intent on seeing justice prevail over their brother’s killer. But she lives out in the middle of nowhere, so she flees farther into nowhere (the Alberta Rockies), and almost dies. I don’t want to tell you too much, but that’s the gist of the story.

Because Mary killed her husband, she flashes back to scenes from her married life. I’ve seen this done beautifully, seamlessly, but I really thought Adamson was choppy in the way that Mary doled out to the reader the details of her married life and why she killed her husband. In a story where the main character has KILLED HER HUSBAND and is RUNNING FROM HIS CRAZY BROTHERS, there should be a certain amount of suspense and Oh my god I wonder what happened. Instead, I felt rather ho hum she killed her husband *yawn*. Instead of suspense and back story and Mary obsessing over how she might survive, there was a lot of description of the mountains and a rather linear telling of the story.

One thing that bugged me was that Mary’s name is used a handful of times. For most of the book, she’s referred to as “the widow”. I wondered at around 50 pages why I was unengaged and didn’t really care about Mary, and I couldn’t help but surmise that I felt turned off by the lack of a proper name, even though I knew her name was Mary.

I couldn’t help but feel a little cynical at the love story in The Outlander and how the story ultimately wrapped up. Even as cynical as I am at happy endings, I do like them, but this just seemed a little too pat, a little too easy, a little too…unrealistic.

When I read books for my book club, I’ve got little tabs ready so that I can mark passages I find interesting, inspiring, important, funny, etc. I didn’t use a SINGLE TAB in this book. I couldn’t find anything remarkable to note for the future.

To be honest, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t like The Outlander until I just wrote this review. I don’t like disliking a book, so maybe I should just pass this book along and say, It’s not you, it’s me.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Gil Adamson’s website:

Other reviews:

The Written World (loved it)

an adventure in reading (really liked it)

caribousmom (loved it)

Book source: I bought this book myself.

And one more thing? If you click on one of The Outlander links and buy something from Powell’s, I’ll make a commission! Mwahahahaha!! Maybe with the pennies I make I’ll be able to call someone who cares.

You can thank the FTC for this disclosure!

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