(‘scuse the pun. It’s an involuntary reflex.)
I finished Outlander last night, with (surprisingly) minimal neglect of my normal life. I made a deal with myself, that if I was going to read it, I had to at least continue feeding my children. They’re good kids, they deserve it. This book has a bad reputation for causing everything else to become totally irrelevent. However, everybody ate. (I’m not saying WHAT they ate, or whether dishes got washed.)
It was really, really good.
It was one of those books that you keep thinking about after you’re done, remembering passages, wishing you hadn’t read it so you could read it all over again. It was well written, the plot was engaging, and the characters genuine and believable. It’s very similar to a story I thought about writing (and actually finished a few chapters on), but I’m embarrassed I even thought to do it after reading her skillful execution of it. She is a master storyteller.
I mentioned there was a fair bit of *ahem, but I’d like to clarify that it was tastefully done, and within the confines of marriage. I’m going to expound on that a bit, kids, so, 18+ from here on out.
It didn’t read like a romance novel, and yet, it was a very romantic story. I know that it is mistakenly shelved in the romance section occasionally, but it really doesn’t belong there. I have been thinking about how it is different, because it DOES deal rather vividly with human sexuality. She doesn’t skim over moments. You have a very good idea what was going on, but the language is entirely different. It wasn’t written to titillate, although it was graphic at times. It was just written plainly as it is between a man and a woman. And that’s obviously a subject matter that’s not for all readers. So, there has to be some discretion inlvolved here. But…
-and I’m thinking about how to say this, knowing that it probably won’t come out right-
It seems appropriate.
First, let me say, there is plenty more to this book than just this. So don’t get the wrong idea about it. I am focusing on it for the sake of this post. Okay, onward.
This book, whether intentionally or not, paints a vibrant, exciting sexual relationship within marriage. In a romance novel, matrimony is an afterthought. A tidy ending. Or, at the very least, it comes well after the physical relationship has begun. In a romance novel, it’s not so much a product of a loving union, it’s the result of physical attraction and drama. Oh, they’ll end up loving each other eventually, but it’s a completely separate journey than the accelerated path to sex.
But in this book, she wrote it right. They are one and the same, this journey of the two. She didn’t hide it in the dark, but she didn’t turn the scene inside out so you could see every little thing. It wasn’t even that she was walking a fine line, either. She just wrote it as it was, expecting the reader to understand. She didn’t have to create circumstances for good sex. No stormy night on a pirate ship. No intriguing masquerade balls in Charleston. None of that. MARRIAGE was the circumstance. Nothing more was required. That, to me, was a powerful message in this day and age.
Subtle is not really the right term to apply to this book though, nor is subdued. It was just honest. It was steamy sometimes, but not false. Does that make sense? It didn’t fabricate the true nature of sex the way a romance novel does. There were no heaving bosoms or throbbing you-know-whats. The reality is what makes it so compelling. And this trueness of writing carries through in the very themes she presents. The spiritual conflicts, the belief systems of the characters. She even has a central figure saying at one point that sex within marriage is consecrated, that God gave us to each other in marriage for this holy and spiritual experience. Wow! That’s not exactly mainstream thinking there. No mincing words, either. How much clearer can she be than that? I can think of a very good example of this by the way she emphasizes the man’s virginity. It didn’t contrast in the least with his virility or manliness, and he basically laughs at the goodnatured teasing of his peers. He knows it is not what defines him as a man. What an unexpected, biblical concept to find right in the middle of the book! It wasn’t a freak accident of fate either, the character chose chasteness. This puts it leagues away from a harlequin romance. It says, THIS is what’s hot. Holy is hot. Now, that just seems wrong to even type, but I can’t describe it any other way.
There were so many little themes like that throughout the book, so many evidences of a Christian worldview, that I can’t even mention them all. It was just nice to read a really lovely book in that context, not having to sift through the good and bad to enjoy it.
With almost every turn of the page, I found this book to be a pleasant oddity. I was glad somebody was willing to write the truth- that sex within marriage is joyful and satisfying. That sex anywhere else can’t even hold a candle to it. There is a wide misconception about that in today’s society, and it was a relief to see that exposed in this book as the lie it truly is. I don’t know if anybody else picked this up as they read, but I couldn’t get away from it.
I know you could argue that some things are better left behind closed doors, that we don’t have to advertise the joys and benefits of marital sex, but well, why not? Shouldn’t people know it? They are definitely exposed to the lies, shouldn’t they hear the truth, too? It’s nothing to be ashamed of, right? I realize there’s a line here, and I’m not saying we should cross it to compete with the world’s view of intimacy. I’m just saying, we can acknowledge and celebrate the reality of this blessing, without being crass OR prudish. I think this author did a really good job of that.
I finished this book, put it down, and thanked God for the institution of marriage and the joy it brings His children. In MY book, that’s a good review.
Anyway, so those are my thoughts. Hope they weren’t too blunt for ya! I’ll be back to my regular PG posting from here on out.
Now, to those dishes. Erg.