How do I go about articulating my thoughts? My feelings? A week and a whole novel later, Dragonfly In Amber STILL has me SHOOK! It’s been a long time since a book has invaded my heart space. Not only is Gabaldon’s writing amazing, but she has managed to get me to care about two fictional characters the way a childless auntie coos over her nieces and nephews. I felt so many things while reading Outlander and Dragonfly In Amber. Stress, anger, sadness, and fear for the Frasers. Even betrayal as I wept during Jamie and Claire’s eventual parting. I ACTUALLY CRIED and that’s incredibly rare for me.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first 300 pages of Outlander, I really enjoyed the tedium of Dragonfly In Amber. I was instantly sucked into their lifestyle as French aristocrats and overall enjoyed them functioning as a married couple. What I most enjoy about the series so far is that it’s kind of one huge history lesson.
That being said, I do have my critiques but my criticism has very little do with the books. Let me explain. Now I’m not going to beat the SJW dead horse. I’m not trying to be an angry woman of color either, but I always find myself feeling detached somewhat when I read historical fiction. As much as I love Claire, I do question some facets of her character. She’s a white woman from the 1940s who willfully gives up her rights to be with Jamie in the past. There’s no mention of slavery in the books, and while I don’t read stories to feel validated I do often have this thought in the back of my head. How does Claire feel about these things? How does Claire feel about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era? Hell, I would even love some insight on how she felt about World War II as a combat nurse (the Holocaust!!! HELLO!!). Aside from the obvious war is bad. Is Claire more than just book smart? She doesn’t really express any sort of multiplicity in her train of thought.
These thoughts don’t make me enjoy the book less. Or any historical fiction for that matter. Diana Gabaldon wasn’t trying to make a political statement and no one should expect her to. The series is a cheesy romance novel wearing the costume of an epic adventure. This leads me to the strong rape culture argument surrounding the books. While I understand that a lot of the things that happen in the books ARE appalling and downright DESPICABLE, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Gabaldon reinforces rape culture and violence against women.
HOLD UP! DON’T LIGHT YOUR TORCHES YET! LET ME EXPLAIN!!!
It is important to critically understand what you are reading, but I don’t think feminist theory should be applied to EVERYTHING. It’s possible to enjoy and consume media while still acknowledging its shortcomings. Gabaldon has every right to tell her story the way she wants. We have choices in life which is why I would not suggest this book to anyone who doesn’t like violence of any sort. Do not read this book if rape and violence triggers you.
Opinions are like buttholes. We all have one.
Since I’m discussing the problematic aspects of Outlander, Jamie gets raped by Jack Randall. The aftermath is important to his character and his development. He suffers and Claire suffers with him. And I loved the way Gabaldon handled it. We never talk about sexual abuse when it involves men. NEVER! This is why NOW I haven’t watched the show entirely. I’ve only seen the first two episodes of the Starz adaption. So I can’t really speak on what has been portrayed in the TV, but in the books I think Gabaldon did a really swell job at handling Jamie’s character and his rape. HOWEVER I did not enjoy reading about what happened to Mary Hawkins or Fergus. I do think the story could’ve done without their sexual abuse. Especially with Fergus. I cringed and had to put the book down for thirty minutes. I wish I could ask Gabaldon why she felt as though she had to let two characters endure rape that is never really discussed later. This is my biggest complaint. Of course I eventually picked the book back up, but I was emotionally exhausted. I did think about taking a long break after, but I was committed to the rest of the book. I had made it so far there was no need to stop.
Diana Gabaldon drained my soul with these books and I won’t be reading Voyager for two months. I need time to recover honestly but my money was well spent. If I’m committing to a thousand pages I better be destroyed. I wish I had taken a break after Outlander. I immediately dived into Dragonfly In Amber without taking a month long gasp of air.
Claire is a bit of a Mary-Sue. A bearable one though. Sometimes I feel like Gabaldon gives us more insight on the characters surrounding Claire. But Claire’s faults doesn’t detract from the story. Honestly, I read more so for Jamie. In most romance novels the love interest is a brooding asshole who takes his anger out on everyone around him. Jamie is the EXACT OPPOSITE and I love it. Jamie is considerate, kind, eager for Claire’s happiness, and emotionally available. Jamie is so willing to love Claire and it was such a refreshing departure from what I’m used to. Jamie actually talks about his problems and allows Claire to help him sort through them. He doesn’t push her away. There’s never a misunderstanding that ruins their relationship for the sake of storytelling.
TLDR; If you enjoy happiness don’t read this series. If you like having free time don’t read this series. If you’re a whore for torture, melodramatics, and a sprinkle of adventure DO READ THIS! Allow Gabaldon to ruin your life and deplete you of all your HP. Email me if you’re interested in a phoenix down.
Diana, if by any chance you read this I would like to have my soul back.