Book: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.
Well….that…..was……interesting. Let me begin by saying this book series has continued to shock me on every single level. However I am not sure if this is a good kind of shock in the case of this book. I avidly raced through this book out of pure perseverance (I read it in 24 hours!) and then found myself reluctant to write a review about it as I feel quite a traitor in the prospect of writing a negative view. I realise I have rated this book an 8/10 but it probably deserves only a 7 or 7.5 but loyalty to the book series and to the wonderful author Diana Gabaldon, keeps me from doing so. The first two books were perhaps my favourite books of all time, that is how much they have impacted on me. If you are an avid fan of adventure, romance, mystery, murder, crime and comedy (with a Scottish twist), then these are simply the only books for you. Diana Gabaldon is a genius, everyone knows that, her writing is pure magic! However, it pains me to admit, I had many issues in this adventure of our much beloved Frasers. The novel itself will take you through a wave of emotions from sighing with pleasure to extreme frustration (to such an extent one wants to throw the book against a wall). This novel should almost be in it’s own series separate to the first two books, it is COMPLETELY different from the previous two and unfortunately this cannot compare to it’s predecessors. I understand there will always be a supernatural element to these books, but I shockingly have to admit there was just too much of this element in this story. Shocking. Without further ado I will begin my review of the third instalment of the Outlander series.
In the electrifying ending of the previous novel, we left our heroine Claire Randall in an altogether aghast state as her historian friend, Roger, had just informed her that her darling Jamie had not perished in the battle of Culloden as she had previously presumed. So with the help of Roger and her Amazonian sounding red haired daughter Brianna, Claire begins to finally track down Jamie’s whereabouts. Now I do realized I am contradicting myself when in my review of the previous novel in the series, I had stated that it annoyed me when people complain about how dragged out some chapters of Gabaldon’s stories are, as often she is doing this on purpose to set up the novel for later important events. In this case I must admit I am of the total opposite opinion. The chapters where Claire is tracking down Jamie are altogether lagging. They comprise of first hand accounts from the characters of Claire and Roger and a whole lot of flashbacks to life after Jamie on Claire’s part. While the flashbacks of Claire’s life post leaving Jamie are interesting, in order to gauge the effect her time travelling has had on her relationship with Frank, they are often too dragged out and I found myself wanting to skip on to the next chapter quite a bit. When Claire finally makes the decision to go back through time to find her Jamie, the reader might find themselves gritting their teeth and raging at her stupidity for not having done this much earlier.
The reader then gets a glimpse of what life has been like for Jamie Fraser since the tragic battle of Culloden. He of course survived, despite all odds against him, and returns home to Lallybroch to be nursed back to health by his sister Jenny (who I have a new found hatred of, but I’ll explain that later). He lives the life of an outlaw, hiding out from English soldiers until eventually after years of hiding in a cave (literally) he decides to give himself up for the greater good of providing his family and home with the money to ensure their survival throughout the famine in Scotland. Jamie is sent to a prison where he strikes up an odd friendship with John Grey (a character who appeared in the last novel) the English warden of the jail. John appears to be in love with Jamie (which I feel personally doesn’t fit well in the story as we already had the character of Jack Randall for this role). Following release from prison Jamie, Instead of getting shipped off as a slave to the Americas, is placed in Hellwater, thanks to John Grey, an estate of friend’s of John’s family which will allow Jamie to once again work with horses while also allowing John the ability to keep Jamie close. Jamie faces many issues at this estate including the stuck up daughter of his employer who does everything in her power to seduce Jamie, resulting in blackmail if he does not bed her. This part of the story is quite dragged out but the most important event that occurs in these chapters is that Jamie fathers a child, Willie. The boy begins to develop a likeness to Jamie and as a result Jamie must leave to seek his fortune elsewhere. So he decides to becomes a smuggler of alcohol under the false name and identity of a printer called Alexander Malcolm. It is in this role that our star-crossed lovers Claire and Jamie finally reunite.
The reunion itself for me personally lacked something. Yes Claire cried, yes Jamie cried, yes they jumped each other’s bones but the reader is left feeling a but uncomfortable. It has been twenty years since these characters were last together, and their reunion is kind of awkward and sheepish. It is clear that both Jamie and Claire have changed, this is most evident in Jamie. Our quick to smile and joke, loveable rogue has instead become quite aloof and there is a darkness to him that seems a bit unnerving. The two settle into each other’s lives quite quickly though and promise to be honest with each other and love one another for the rest of their days. But one always realises that when Claire and Jamie are together, trouble soon follows and it does. Twists and turns are to the fore in the novel and Jamie’s past literally comes back to haunt him much to the reader’s disbelief and utter frustration. Jamie has not been as honest with Claire regarding his past, which confronts Claire on return to Lallybroch. Jamie not only married someone else but he married HER…..Laoghaire!! Yes the little scheming witch managed to dig her claws into Jamie but Jamie promises Claire he has not been living a proper married life and only supports Laoghaire and her two daughters, from a previous marriage, financially. Readers beware, you will find yourself shrieking at the book in utter annoyance throughout these scenes.
In order to rid himself of Laoghaire and pursue a life with Claire that he has always wanted, Jamie and Claire with the help of Jamie’s nephew Ian, embark on a quest for the lost treasure of the Jacobite rebellion, a treasure that came from France and the English are desperate to get their hands on, but Jamie requires in order to pay his debts. Of course this quest would never be easy for our star-crossed lovers and so after the kidnapping of Ian and the loss of the treasure, Jamie and Claire find themselves going across the seas to try reclaim their lost treasure….oh and Jamie’s nephew I suppose. The novel then embarks on a ridiculous but still entertaining journey full of ridiculous pirates, a witch, a slave trade, an unhinged woman, vodoo ceremonies, a serial killer, a random Chinese man who I still fail to see the point of, backstabbing, rape, storms at sea and of course the ever present Scottish charm as Jamie and Claire fight for not only their survival, but their relationship and future also. I do not wish to examine the plot any further than this as I wish the reader to experience the jaw dropping events that are both totally unbelievable and yet one can’t help continuing to read in odd fascination.
I begrudgingly have to admit that I found most events in this novel completely unrealistic and downright ridiculous at times. I felt instead of wallowing in the beauty of the romance between Jamie and Claire, like in previous novels, I instead was immersed in a ‘Pirates of the Carrivbean’ movie with absurd characters who should never have been able to cross paths with the pivotal characters of Jamie and Claire. Certain points of the plot I can’t even begin to understand such as in their search for Ian, Jamie and Claire manage to do a wide range of other things such as go to balls, keep a Chinese man in check and help Fergus (a character from the previous novel) marry, whilst engaging in their usual amorous activities when really they should be focusing their attentions on finding Jamie’s nephew! Not a worry in the world at times with these two. Even the situations that Claire finds herself in, as her outspokenness always gets her in trouble, were altogether absurd and I found myself wondering was I in fact reading the same novel or a slapstick comedy.
So as to the major issues with this novel. The first for me has to be Claire’s inability to have searched for the records of what had happened to Jamie sooner. For if she had she would have realised he had survived and wouldn’t have wasted so much bloody time away from him. Granted I know that she had a daughter in the meantime and couldn’t necessarily leave her all alone but by God woman, how can you be so stupid! Instead she chose to live an insipid life with Frank ‘the swine’ Randall, who doesn’t just mistreat her, no that would be too easy for the ba****d. Instead, he has affairs left right and centre and then has the audacity to demand Claire to allow him to take Brianna with him on his return to England after he finally decides to pluck up the courage to leave Claire. Well if ever I wished to be transported through a book so I could castrate a character, this was one of those moments!
Another major issue is that of Jamie Fraser. No doubt he is a loveable rogue, but his desire to help all those around him instead of himself is getting altogether nonsensical at this point. To such an extent does he do this that he manages to land himself in jail, ends up married to an absolute spoiled, whiney, cantankerous woman and then decides to become a smuggler. Clearly without Claire his life means nothing to him but by God, have some dignity man! I don’t understand why life as a criminal was the role Jamie had to turn to. I don’t think this meshes well with background of Jamie’s character across the series either. Obviously he is no saint and can’t be expected to wait twenty years for Claire, and remain chaste, but his entanglements are so over the top in such an eye rolling manner. As mentioned in my review of the previous book, I cannot forgive Mrs. Gabaldon for allowing me to feel such hate for the Jamie at times. His inability to be honest with Claire from the outset is utterly frustrating, He blatantly lies all the time! I do realise that the author does this to rationalise that simply coming back into each others lives after twenty years, is no easy feat, but regularly portraying Jamie in this light is damaging, not only to the character of Jamie, but the romance element of the novel also. At times it appears that Jamie seems to have no respect or care for Claire at all, he does not care how he may be hurting her or how damaging his actions are to their relationship.
As to Claire herself, I found her character quite insipid in this novel. It’s as if all the fight has gone out of her. This is evident in the scenes where Jamie finally confesses his past to Claire. Once the initial dispute is out of the way, Claire forgives Jamie rather too quickly stating that she is guilty of moving on in her life with Frank too, when it is hardly the same thing. And again when Claire finally uncovers the truth regarding Jamie’s other child Willie, Claire seems to accept Jamie’s excuses even after blatantly lying to her for so long. After all they have gone through as characters throughout the series, I mean they share a child together and supposedly would die for each other, this just does not sit well with me at all. I also think they use sex way too much to cloud over their issues. It also seems a tad odd that at fifty, Claire seems to be as irresistible looking as she was in her twenties, all the power to her and all but is it not a bit unrealistic, she apparently doesn’t even have grey hair.
The final issue I would like to point out is the overuse of characters. There are much too many names to follow in this novel. I in fact question the need for certain characters at all such as Mr. Willoughby, the random Chinese man who seems only exists in the novel to annoy readers or maybe to point out the racial issues that existed at the time. The character of John Grey, I also had issues with. His character appeared before as an English teenage soldier in the previous novel, who is now enamoured by Jamie but thankfully not in a disturbing Black Jack Randall. As to his point in this novel, I have not a notion. I think his character is altogether useless and is almost a main character in the story without deserving to be. I think the author has set him up to be an even bigger character in books to follow but I just don’t understand the fascination with him, maybe the author just wished to have a nice gay character in the story after the sadistic horror of Jack Randall. There was also a re-emergence of many old characters such as the beloved gang from Jamie’s home town. The Murray clan has expanded somewhat as Jenny and Ian senior, have a huge brood of children, who now are grown up and some have children of their own. I think the biggest disappointment is the character of Jenny in the Lallybroch scenes. For some reason Jenny shows animosity towards Claire on her return, and it is in fact Jenny who creates the raucous between Jamie, Claire and Laoghaire and is probably responsible for Jamie getting shot. Her half arsed attempt of an explanation to Claire regarding this is dire. The sudden reappearance of Geillis Duncan, who in the first novel was a friend to Claire but in this novel is the villain, was a disappointment. I felt the author could have gone down so many routes with this character given sufficient development instead of transforming her into a plump, insane witch. There are many more characters that appear over the course of the novel but I have forgotten some already and others I wish I could forget. This is overall problem that arises with all these characters, there are just too many. There is too much going on from the beginning to the end of the novel, and quite often I found myself skipping back over the pages to clarify who a character was.
However once more Diana Gabaldon has a gift, and even with all it’s faults, I still couldn’t put this novel down. Perhaps out of my loyalty to these beloved characters or perhaps through the cleverness of the author who manages to keep you hooked from the outset and throughout. For every fault a character has in the story, they will always manage to redeem themselves towards the end of the novel. The love story that exists between Claire and Jamie is one that any reader would become addicted to. The characters is the story are for the most part brilliantly created and add to the suspense, drama and in some scenes, comedy of the story. Although the twenty year gap in events from the last novel to this one, does provide many issues, it does allow the author to experiment with the development of certain characters such as Fergus for example, who was just a child in the previous novel, who Jamie kind of adopted. But now as a man, Fergus has developed a roguish, handsome appeal that is almost contagious, although I do not think the author spent enough time developing this character. I look forward to reading more about Fergus in the novel to follow.
I hope this review does not put off future readers of ‘Voyager’, the novel still is quite entertaining in a frustrating manner. There is bucket-loads of suspense and adventure to throw at readers, perhaps a major excess of this, but despite wanting to throw the book away at times, I still found myself reopening it again moments later to furiously read on. So my dear avid readers, do give it a go but be knowledgeable on what is to come in the story, as it is truly one hell of a roller-coaster. I await the delivery of the next novel with excitement and cannot wait to delve into Claire and Jamie’s next adventure.
As always, I look forward to your comments, please leave one below or send me a tweet!
The Avid Reader 🙂