There’s a line in the review that I find interesting: “…often women were in the story to present opportunities for the man to demonstrate tenderness”. The other side of that I guess is that often women are in the story just to present opportunities for the man to demonstrate brutality, aggression, inadequacy, redemption — it’s all about them.
But it is a little like when health groups started calling out movie directors for their use of cigarettes to demonstrate that the character was a rebel, had a death wish, had thoroughly enjoyed a romp in bed or whatever. It’s lazy character development through prop not plot, whether you are using a cigarette or a woman.
Claire could never be a prop. Therefore when Jamie beats her, the character development does not occur because he hits ‘a woman’ but that he believes it is both right and HIS right to curb his wife’s behaviour that way. And then Claire shows him that it isn’t. That’s a much richer and interesting storyline than what we are used to hearing, and it is something that lasts throughout the books — from the nettle scene (which I personally dislike but can perhaps understand) to the occasions where he wants to shake her and she wants to slap him.
The physicality of the characters is always intense, whether in passion or fury, and part of what makes them so compelling is how they bring each other back from the brink of violence.