18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Evocative and unusual adventure,
This review is from: The Outlander (Hardcover)
It was hard to know what I was getting into when I opened this novel and started reading the first page. A tale of the Wild West? A thriller? An action-packed chase? A murder mystery? The Outlander is a book that's hard to pigeonhole: it's all these things and more. Full of deftly lyrical prose, it's a gripping read. It was also unexpectedly funny in places!
The cover makes this book look a bit like a thriller, or a 'boys-own' style book about adventure. I should note that this book isn't a thriller, although it's gripping and there's a lot of suspense. It's not a particularly gendered book, either, but would be interesting to both male and female readers. There is both action, intrigue and psychological exploration, as well as beautifully written and atmospheric descriptions of landscape. I think the cover mis-represents the book slightly, but then it is always a rather tricky marketing exercise - especially with an unusually varied book like this one where I find it hard to imagine who the 'target market' could possibly be.
There's no 'whodunnit' element to this book, despite the fact that its premise is that the main character is fleeing a murder scene. You find out soon enough exactly how the plot stands, although as with all the best books there are some missing details that emerge to fill in the picture as you read. There's also a lot left to guess at and think about. The novel is based around the idea of a journey: the physical journey undertaken by the main character (Mary Boulton, a widow who's on the run after murdering her husband) is mirrored by an equally important psychological journey as she faces up to her past, tackles her tricky present situation with determination and humour, and gains a new view on the world as she travels. The landscape and sense of place is beautifully described, bringing real atmosphere to the book as the main character travels through the Canadian wilderness.
Referred to often as 'the widow', Mary Boulton is a curiously odd character - compelling, endearing and puzzling, she is great to read about and wonder about. Mirroring the author's approach throughout the book, the widow's motivations and desires are hinted at rather than over-analysed. A great read and one that I found surprisingly compelling. I cannot imagine that there are loads of people out there who yearn specifically for a descriptively atmospheric, suspenseful novel that hovers between a thriller, a tale of the wild west and a quirky voyage of self-discovery - but isn't it often the case that you don't know what you want to read until you start it? I found the first few pages slightly hard going, but the plot kept me fascinated and it was an absorbing read once I'd got into it. In fact, a surprisingly good read and I'd recommend it. I would like to have given it 4.5 stars, as it really was an excellent book although it did not quite rate as one of 'the greats' for me.