The Outlander by Gil Adamson is the second of the selections for this year’s Canada Reads that I tackled. The blurb on the back of the book certainly made it sound exciting, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype.
From the beginning I was definitely interest. The anonymity of the main character meant I always wanted to know more about her. We begin the story only knowing her as “The Widow”. On top of the questions we have right from the start—why is this woman being chased, what is she running from—we now have this odd clue, and must wonder, “what does being a widow have to do with it?”
Unfortunately these and other tantalizing clues, references to her past and the excitement we get from the pursuit, come very infrequently. At times I wondered if those rare paragraphs of thrill were only placed at the end of chapters to keep us reading while really all along Adamson just wants to talk about walking through the countryside. Much of the story is a kind of punctuated equilibrium. The Widow goes about her business, and then for a paragraph or two we’re reminded that she’s being chased.
Gradually—oh so gradually—the story does pick up. We meet other characters with more nicknames, which makes for an interesting kind of narrative but none of which are as titillating as “The Widow”. One might even become convinced, by about two thirds of the way through the book, that there’s actually a story being told. Whether you’re willing or not to wait that long is another issue.
At least when it does get going, and the little bouts of action or intrigue become more frequent, it does become interesting. I did like the characters, as mysterious and guarded as they were. Even Adamson’s habit of giving mere glimpses of other scenes to show us that something was indeed going on started becoming enough to keep momentum going. As with Fruit, I was disappointed with the ended, again because I wasn’t sure that anything actually ended. I know the story is still going on and I feel like I’m missing out on it.
In the end it was a good read, but don’t expect the thriller the story summaries promise. Appreciate it for its calm excitement.
Other books in Canada Reads 2009: Fruit by Brian Francis