Friday, 7 November 2008

The Outlander - Gil Adamson

It is a cold night, and the widow is fleeing across thee wilds of Canada, desperate to escape the two identical twins pursuing her. She is tired, cold, and hungry, still mourning the loss of her child, and in shock at the murder she has just committed. If they catch her, she is doomed. But she is a survivor, of that there is no doubt, and as her flight leads her into ever more perilous terrain, it is only her adaptability and strength that will give her any chance of survival.

The Outlander is a good debut novel, well written and with a powerful plot and some interesting characters. Its feel lies somewhere between the bleakness of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, the very female survival instinct of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and something of the cold road to perdition of a book I know I have read but cannot for the life of me think what it is. Perhaps it is the cold liberation of this books setting.

I read The Outlander after it was highly recommended to me by a colleague, and I have to say that while I thought it was good, I am not sure it is great. There is something which prevented me from loving it. The plot is excintingish, but not quite gripping enough. The characters are likeable, but not strong enough for me to empathise with. The prose is okay, but the tense is too far in the past for my liking, as though the book is written as a history of another time.

The Outlander comes to this side of Atlantic after huge praise in its native Canada where the likes of Michael Ondaatje and Ann Patchett have garnished it with high praise. It was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and big things are expected from it here. Perhaps I am wrong, but I just didn’t quite get what all the fuss is about.

5.5 out of 10

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