Review: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

This morning I finished the third installment of the Outlander Series, Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

There is so much that happens in this book it is hard to know where to begin!  Reader be warned, if you haven’t read the  books up until now this post might contain spoilers. So if you don’t want to know what’s going on then stop reading now.

So let’s start with the basics….Voyager picks up where Dragonfly in Amber (Book II) leaves off, with the realization that Jamie is not dead and Claire left with a big question mark….what to do next?

Voyager is a little slow going at first as with any epic tale, the writer has a duty of sorts to remind the loyal readers where the proceeding book left off and Gabaldon does that by slowly catching up with the lives (20 years later) of Claire, Jamie, Frank, Rodger and Brianna, and Lord Grey.

Some people argue that Book II was the least appealing in the series while others say Book III was…I can’t decided, both of these books were a struggle for me in some ways and for different reasons, though I favored Voyager more than DIA. I liked how the lives of the characters kind of culminated together by half way through. I thought Gabaldon did a great job merging all the lives and stories together and did so fairly quickly all things considering.

Here is the summary from Shelfari:

The storyline centers on a time-travelling 20th-century nurse (Claire Randall Fraser) and her 18th-century Scottish husband (Jamie Fraser), and are located in Scotland, France, and America.

The heroine of the bestselling Outlander, Claire, returns in Voyager as a mother to Brianna Ellen Randall and living in Boston in the year 1965. The preceding novel, Dragonfly in Amber, ended with Claire and Brianna coming to grips with the truth of Brianna’s real father Jamie Fraser and Claire’s travel through time. In Voyager Claire and Brianna trace Jamie’s life since the battle of Culloden during the Scottish Rising. Discovering Jamie survived the massacre that heralded the destruction of many clans in Scotland sends Claire back to the stone circle that first hurtled her through time – twenty years before.

Voyager is a poignant tale of two lovers finding each other again, embarking on a whirlwind journey filled with danger on the high seas and the constant peril of Jamie’s past catching up with them. As the third in what is now a seven-book series (according to the author there will be a Book 8, possibly a Book 9) of Claire Randall Fraser and her Highlander husband Jamie, the story is an integral step in a bestselling and surprisingly rich tale spanning the time from the Scottish Rising of 1745, to the American Revolution.

Though there were some moments in the story though that I struggled with but over all the book left me hanging in suspense and eagerly ready to start the next book. Most of my struggles came with the reconsiling of the 20 year absence between Jamie and Claire and the some of the setting/scenery.

Having them all travel to the West Indies was a mixed dynamic for me. Initially I thought it was a good plot twist and since next to Victorian/Gothic history my next fav period is the British Colonial adventures (ie; danger and pirates on the high exotic seas of the Caribbean). So I was excited when they made sail for the west but then I thought like I would be seasick by the time they reached the islands! Besides Jamie being sick every minute of their time abroad, the typhoid epidemic and injuries and the general description of the livings conditions and the swells of the seas was enough to make me WISH I were seasick! I was glad when they finally reached shore, the journey took to long for me, yes I know that was the idea but still….I was so tired of the ship when they landed I was really ready to move on to something else.

The other thing that was strange for me was the ending, I know the Caribbean was all slave trade and African culture but the ending where Claire and Jamie here Brianna’s voice through the ‘seer’ (Margaret) and all the slaves and their ‘witchcraft’ was a little much for me–authentic to be sure but I was kind of lost for a minute during the last few chapters. I had to go back and re-read what was going on since I am not very familiar with African culture and voodoo/witchcraft history I felt lost and confused toward the end. I was also confused by all the island hopping, all the cultures (Chinese, African, Spanish, Scottish, English, French, Dutch…the list goes on)–there was just a lot going on with everything and then the reappearance of Geilie with all the witchcraft and time travel stuff–my head was spinning by the end to figure everything out. I am still not sure if I have it all worked out or not. There was just so much to cram into the book I think it was a little overwhelming on all accounts–good but still overwhelming.

I think the biggest thing I struggled with was the characters, the passage and changing that comes with time, and how that effects people and their relationships.

As I mentioned before in one of my postings from DIA (Book II), I struggled when Claire had sex with the King–morally it bugged me regardless of her reasons. Same with Captain Randall, I felt like his whole character was not redeemable and it bothered me that Gabaldon tried to show that parts of him were still ‘human’. That said, in Book III I felt like I reconciled lots of feelings I had about the characters and their choices–seriously by the end of Book III, I was emotionally exhausted.

Creating characters which the audience can relate to is truly what makes the difference between a readable story and a memorable story. Finding yourself in the characters and forming those connections is the essence of literature….not only being able to identify with the protagonist but also the villains and finding qualities that you desire or fancy yourself to share is the key to connecting the story with its readers–being able to relate to the characters and their experiences is so important and this is where I think Gabaldon shows what makes the Outlander Series different from other tales of romance and adventure–here characters are real in us.

When Claire finds out that in her absence Jamie didn’t ‘live like a monk’ and in fact married again…I was a little more than bothered. Not that I expected him to NOT do those things but something about knowing that he did find other women to care for (maybe not love but desire at least) bothered me. Like Claire, I had to work through it and rationalize both Jamie and Claire’s perspectives and feelings of being robbed of a life together for 20 years.

Knowing that Jamie had been with other women, marrying, and even having another child seemed like a betrayal to Claire and her memory–somehow a violation of their love. I can relate to Claire’s anger and frustration for her situation but in the end, I had to rationalize the feelings of anger like Claire does. I think Gabaldon does a great job taking Claire through the varying feelings and emotions ultimately to come to the final question–in the end does it really matter what happened in the past? Why ask ‘if this then that’, or wonder if something were different….it’s useless to be upset over something that cannot be changed, she like Jamie must live with their choices and look at their future together rather than their past. I think Claire summed it up best when she quoted A.E. Houseman:

Halt by the headstone/ The heart no longer stirred,/ And say the lad that loved you/ Was the one that kept his word

I think that is when I too finally reconciled the past and separate lives which Claire and Jamie had lived–after that it was easy to forgive and forget and realize that their love was all that mattered, nothing else.

The other difficult obstacle to overcome was the darkness and mystery of their lives…..20 years and to have once known each other so well–they meet again as strangers. Claire knows Jamie has been many things and many men since their time together and each have lived a lifetime while continuing to love each other. In some ways this is exciting and like getting to know someone all over again–another mystery to keep you hooked so to speak. But like Claire and Jamie, I could easily relate to their trepidation. There was one scene which stood out to me as being the moment when they both realized that while they once knew each other well, time had passed and changed both of them and there would always be parts of their life and being that neither would know, a darkness in each of them which they might not even know or touch–two separate people, strangers to each other maybe–but yet in the end they know each other well and that is all they need.

Jamie and Claire are still in Edinburgh and just ran into Sir Percival at the inn…they are laying in bed talking trying to get reacquainted with each other. Claire tells Jamie about her job back in the 1960’s, she is a surgeon. Jamie observes she is very much like a knife:

‘No, a knife is verra much what you are, now I think if it. A clever worked scabbard and most gorgeous to see…but tempered steel for a core and a wicked sharp edge I do think…Not heartless I don’t mean. No never that. But you can be ruthless strong Sassenach when the need is on ye’.

I realized quite suddenly why he saw so clearly what Frank had never seen at all. ‘You have it too and you’ve needed it. Often’.

‘I have wondered, wondered often if I could call that edge to my service and sheathe it again. For I have seen a great many men grow hard in that calling and their steel decay to dull iron. And I have wondered often was I master in my soul or did I become the slave of my own blade? I have thought that again and again…that I had drawn my blade too often and spent so long in the service of strife that I wasna fit any longer for human intercourse’.

‘ I can’t see you as a brute’

‘I know Sassenach. And it is that ye canna see me so that gives me hope. For I am-and know it-and yet perhaps…You have that- the strength. Ye have it and your soul as well. So perhaps my own be saved’.

Why this scene stood out to me as a moment of silent reckoning was that both see how perfectly made for each other they are. Though they are very much changed from their time together 20 years before, both essentially recognize each other for what they both are–they are both strong and understand each other–made for each other and because of that their relationship will surely survive and flourish in a way that Claire and Frank never did. Claire and Frank did not grow together, did not understand each other and in the end were not right for each other or happy. This scene takes place earlier in the book and later is reenforced later when Lord Grey and Claire are talking about loving someone so badly and so badly wanting it to be the right person only to realize it isn’t:

‘Do you know-‘ he began…’Do you know what it is to love someone and never-never!-be able to give them peace, or joy, or happiness? To know that you cannot give them happiness, not through any fault of yours or theirs but only because you were not born the right person for them?’. I sat quiet seeing not his but another handsome face; dark not fair. Not feeling the warm breath of the tropical night but the icy hand of a Boston winder…only because you were not born the right person for them…’I know’ I whispered…I had told Frank-leave me. But he could not go, no more than I could love him rightly having found my match elsewhere.

So even though there was such a huge gap of time and re-aquainted for both Claire and Jamie to come to terms with–a lot of changes and baggage in their lives from choices they had to make–there was never a question of love, they were made for each other and all will someway be well–they will re-learn each other and deal with whatever past issues and questions they have–together. So like Claire and Jamie by the end of the book I was rather accepting of whatever transpired within the last 20 years.

I also felt like Lord Grey did a lot in terms of lessing the evil-ness of Captain Randall. At the end of DIA (Book II) I was feeling like I hated all royal military men :). Grey for me was very much like what Randall should have been–a kind, respectable, loyal, honorable gentleman and like Randall, he was also gay but would never force himself on another person. Grey’s character demonstrated how different Randall should have been and showed the reader that while both were similar men, they were very different which reminds us that it is the individual and their choices which make the man or character. Plus having Randall’s eyeball pecked out by birds was a rather fitting end to his character if you ask me :).

There was so much I could write about and as I read this series there was so many thoughts and questions which occur to me as I read—I could easily fill a novel from the discussions about this series. Which is something of a pleasant surprise to me that I was not expecting this degree of pondering, thought provoking literature when I picked up the series…though I am glad I did, and I am happy to say it is not overwhelming and heavy. I promised myself a break from the Highland adventures after this book to read something else but I cannot tear myself away–especially since Book III left quite a cliff hanger at the end….I simply must read on!

I am off back to the Highlands for more love, fantasy, mystery, and epic adventure!!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Book: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published (first published 1993)
  • ASIN B000FC2L1E

This book counts toward: 2011 Outlander Series Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Historic Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historic-Romance

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Are some people destined for a great fate, or to do great things? Or is it only that they’re born somehow with that great passion — and if they find themselves in the right circumstances, then things happen? It’s the sort of thing you wonder…

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10 Comments

  1. Interesting comments on VOYAGER! This is one of my favorite books of the series.

    You’re right that things get kind of confusing during the last part, with the Caribbean voodoo and crocodiles and all that. 🙂 It does get pretty overwhelming, trying to absorb everything that happens in this book. (That’s what re-reads are for! You’re reading the series about as fast as I did the first few times, and there is a tremendous amount of detail that you won’t pick up until you re-read.)

    You think you’re emotionally exhausted NOW, after VOYAGER? Just wait.

    “Creating characters which the audience can relate to is truly what makes the difference between a readable story and a memorable story” — yes, exactly, and Diana does this better than many other authors I’ve read.

    And yes, Jamie’s relationship with Laoghaire DOES feel like a betrayal of Claire, as irrational as that might be. Maybe because Claire so obviously feels that way. BTW, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that there are a great many fans who hate Laoghaire with a passion, for her actions in this book, and a sizeable number who dislike Jenny, for her role in bringing L to Lallybroch and effectively trying to drive Claire away.

    I loved your comments on Jamie and Claire after their reunion, and I totally agree.

    You’ll see more of Lord John (not “Lord Grey”) as the series continues. He’s a very interesting character in his own right.

    And yes, absolutely, this is “pondering, thought provoking literature” at its best! Can’t wait to see what you make of DRUMS and the other books in the series.

    Thanks again for such a detailed review. I really enjoyed it.

    Karen

    Reply
  2. Litlover

     /  January 31, 2011

    I, too, had promised myself that i would take a break from the Outlander series and immerse myself in The Red Queen by my all time favorite hit lit author, P. Gregory. But Gabaldon has left me breathless through the Claire’s and Jamie’s adventures; i am truly trying to recover my bearings. The exposition was really quite exhaustive but necessary to provide backgground information. I think the chapters involving Brianna’s learning about her true origins and the departure of Claire from her daughter were among my favorites. The irony is not lost here – a woman’s choice between her child and her cherished love. It was difficult for me to watch Claire’s struggle at the rocks and was truly relieved when Brianna appeared and made her go. I believe that Brianna will reunite with her parents, so it helped me to accept their separation.

    I was disappointed with Jenny as well and truly felt Claire’s betrayal. I wasn’t satisfied with her explanation, but i could understand her protectiveness as an older sibling. It seems that Claire and Jamie weren’t afforded enough time to reconnect; they move from one danger to another being pursued across country, ocean, and continent. With regards to Carribean settings, culture, slavery, and African rituals and customs, these are subjects with which I am most familiar, and I think Gabaldon’s depictions are lacking in regards to dialect, mannerisms, and rituals. She did depict slave trade and sell accurately. My interests waned during these chapters but were peaked by the return of Geilie.

    Now, we are on our way to ante-bellum America with hopes of Jamie and Claire finding …. I don’t quite know, but i can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  3. juli

     /  October 7, 2014

    I read your review before I started the 3rd book. Like many I have encountered they too had planned to take a break after book two. I couldn’t stand it and had to start with book 3. I was hoping your review would help me to take a break but unfortunately it only beckoned me to read on.

    So now I am at the last ten chapters of book 3 and let me point out that I started Outlander Book one just a little over a week ago. I am exhausted! I am really board with the “sea” voyage and thinking that maybe I should take a break now. If I finish the last ten chapters will I be nose deep into book 4 with no respice? What should I do…sigh,,,, I almost wish I would have never picked up the first book. I love the stores but good GAWD, do we really need so much bloat in the description. I find myself screaming, get on with it! but can’t even skip a single sentence or word. I am tortured in the Outlander books with no self control to put them down.

    Reply
    • LOL, yes I completely understand your frustration! Book three was a monster of a book! I almost had to put the entire series on hold for a while after finishing that one but I just couldn’t stop myself from reading it LOL. In this last book though I was often thinking ‘can we get on with it please?’. I love the series so much but there were times when I struggled with some of the bulk.

      Reply
  4. Rhonda

     /  October 16, 2015

    I had much respect for Jamie and his love for Claire, but a little of that respect went away when he made his offer to Lord Gray. Really, after what he endured with Randall? My whole mood changed after that point. Don’t know if I will continue if Lord Gray is a recurring character. I don’t like how he looks at Jamie.

    Reply
  5. Julia Krause

     /  August 24, 2016

    Thanks for such a detailed review! I know exactly what you mean by ’emotionally exhausted’. I can’t say I’ve ever been so affected by a work of fiction before… all I want to do is GET BACK TO THOSE BOOKS!

    Anyway, I’m feeling the need to give feedback on a couple of things:

    Re: Jamie being unfaithful, the first time it was only a gift of physical affection, meant in a sincere way (the only thing she had to give him) as a thank you for all he had done and was about to do. The second time, he was blackmailed into it, and again, it was purely a physical act, and nothing to do with love. As for Laoghaire, she and her daughters needed support, and Jenny thought Jamie could use the companionship. So he did an honourable thing. He didn’t love her. If Jamie had actually LOVED any of these women, that would be an actual betrayal.

    Re: Jenny, she just didn’t want to lose Jamie. If Laoghaire and her daughters made him stay put, Jenny was happy. She was afraid that with Claire back in the picture, Jamie would most likely leave with Claire. Jenny just wanted him to stay put and have a calm, peaceful life. So don’t be mad at Jenny. Go ahead and hate Laoghaire, though. She finally gets Jamie and then treats him like crap??? THAT… is messed up.

    Reply
  6. Motherbear

     /  December 23, 2016

    Thank you for this review. I read a summary of the book since I can’t get it from the library for a couple of weeks since it is already checked out. After reading the summary I was so upset. Jamie couldn’t remarry and to her! Ugh I Was So Upset but, your review has put me at ease and I am again excited for Voyager.

    Reply
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