📚 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2017

Narrator: Davina Porter
Length: 32h 43m
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2006

 4.25★ Audiobook⎮ One of my [many] New Year’s resolutions was to get through Outlander if it killed me and for a while, I thought it might. I must’ve restarted this audiobook at least three times in the past 18 months and it still took watching the television adaptation to solidify its contents in my mind.

For nearly the first third of the audiobook, I felt like an unenthused spectator at a sporting event with a roaring crowd. There is so much praise for this series, but I was initially underwhelmed. However, after hour five and encouraging words from someone whose opinion I trust, I’ve began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My interest in Outlander really began to shoot upward once I started using the television adaptation as a supplemental tool. The excruciatingly slow nature of this story caused me to glaze over countless important details while listening to the audiobook. Speeding up the narration helped quite a bit, but not as much as following along with the television show. I was actually very impressed with the book-to-screen adaptation. Most of the characters’ lines seemed to be pulled directly from Gabaldon’s work.

By hour 10, I knew I was interested enough in the story to finish the rest of this installment, but I was still unsure about continuing on with the series. There were numerous aspects of the plot that troubled me and I constantly had to adjust my mindset from that of a 21st-century feminist to accommodate the historically accurate, yet disturbing, actions of 18th-century Scottish culture. Fortunately, I was able to do so, but I absolutely do not recommend this story to anyone sensitive to any type of abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, you name it- it’s all in Outlander).

My main reservation with both finishing this installment and continuing with the rest of the series was length. Eight installments and this is the shortest one at 32 hours (not counting the many novellas). Not only would that eat up my audiobook credits, but it would put me seriously behind with my reading challenge. The pace of this novel is far too slow for it to be this long. Gabaldon’s writing may be beautifully detailed, but even my patience has a limit. Hence, my number one reason for detracting almost an entire star is that this novel is just too damn long. I feel that this story could have been told just as well in 20-25 hours and even a small consolidation of plot points would have gone a long way toward securing my attention and interest.

With that said, I’ve heard from several sources that this series gets better as it goes along and as I already own the next installment, I will doubtless be giving it a shot at some point. Most likely after I zip through a few smaller (aka normal-sized) novels to ensure that hearing a 50-hour audiobook doesn’t hinder my reading challenge progress. I’d also like to become up-to-speed on the television series so it matches my reading progress thus far. If you are thinking of undertaking the Outlander series, I encourage you to follow along with the show. Doing so greatly enhanced my understanding and overall experience with the novel.

This is a very different type of time travel adventure from those I have read in the past. The time travel enigma definitely takes a backseat in Outlander, which is probably why it isn’t primarily seen as a science fiction novel. It more strongly resembles a historical fiction novel, possibly akin into something written by Philippa Gregory in regards to historical accuracy and immersion. Kudos to Gabaldon for the obvious amount of painstaking research done to ensure historical accuracy. Outlander‘s setting is positively consuming and fosters the sense of cultural immersion I am so fond of in historical fiction.

Narration review: Davina Porter is a widely-admired narrator. After spending more than 32 hours with her, I can see why. The vocal distinction she provided was top-notch. Indeed, her Scottish brogue was so convincing but I found myself frequently straining to understand it. Like with all accents, it became easier to understand with time, but just barely. As the next installment is partially set in France, I’m very excited to hear Porter’s French accent. I’m sure it will be delightful.

One aspect of this audiobook that I was slightly disappointed in was the quality of production. There was a faint, but constant sound of white noise present in the background throughout the entire 32 hours. I realize this audiobook was produced in 2006, so that may be why, but I hope subsequent installments don’t have this issue. It wasn’t a major concern, but still slightly annoying, especially because I had to listen very closely when a Scottish character spoke.  ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon,  Audiobooks.comAudiobooks Now and The Book Depository (paperback)

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