Publisher: Bantem Dell
Genre: historical fiction, romance, adventure, fantasy
In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Claire and her husband Frank and finally reunited after years of separation during WWII. They decide to have a second honeymoon in the Highlands, and traipse about the countryside to learn more about Frank’s ancestry and the local botany. One afternoon, Claire travels to an ancient stone circle she and Frank visited previously, and ends up traveling back in time to 1743. She’s stunned beyond belief and struggles to comprehend what has happened to her, especially when her life is in the hands of the MacKenzie clansmen at Castle Leoch. She takes on the role of healer in an effort to fit in, and is drawn to an unlikely friendship with Scots warrior Jamie Fraser, who has a tumultuous history of his own. Before long, Claire is torn between her life in the Highlands, set in a time of turmoil for Scotland, and her comfortable life in 1945 to a man she loves yet hardly knows.
Why? Why did I read this before the TV show came out? I was told time and again I should read these books as I’d love this series, but it wasn’t until I saw the first episode of Outlander on Starz that I convinced myself to pick it up and read ahead of the episodes. It’s so well written and completely indescribable. It’s accurate historical fiction. It’s romance (steamy, too). It’s adventurous (and bloody and terrifying and a whole host of other suitable words). It’s fantasy (time travel!). It’s philosophical. It’s spiritual. It’s so many things!
I’ve shared my thoughts with booksellers and bloggers privately (and extensively) on this book, and I’m quite excited to read the rest. But I’ll stick to two major points I felt I should include in the review.
The violence. Particularly to Claire, and between Claire and Jamie. All the men versus Claire: it seems historically accurate. Women were treated like scum and furniture and property. The general devil-may-care attitude and violence towards Claire bothered me but I went in knowing that was common. She knew too. She hated it, and she’d lash out, but she also had to adapt to the times in order to save her neck. On the other hand, there’s a scene between Claire and Jamie I did not like one bit. I wasn’t sure if it was because it seemed slightly out-of-character for Jamie, or because I’d put him on a pedestal (or Claire did), or because of my own personal history — but it certainly tore me to pieces and broke my heart. It certainly shook things up. It revealed the times even more, that Claire’s situation was a real one, not play-acting, and that not everyone is perfect. But still. It bothered me. That one scene.
Claire. Talk about an intelligent woman! Even while her mind was jumbled and afraid and confused, she was able to step back and observe her surroundings. She adapted quickly to this war-torn era, and put her combat nursing skills to good use while she tried to make sense of her situation. I would not have been able to hold my head if I were in her shoes. I was also thrilled to read about her independence, her progressive thoughts, and her sexual empowerment. She knew she didn’t belong in 1743 and stuck out like a sore thumb in many ways, but she still asserted her feminist beliefs in every available opportunity. She is warm and witty and loving, deeply philosophical and immensely brave. Bravo. (And bravo to Gabaldon for writing such wonderful and intimate love scenes between Claire and Jamie. It wasn’t instantaneous, it wasn’t rushed; it built upon trust and friendship and camaraderie, making Claire’s decision between Frank and Jamie all the more realistically difficult.)
I’m really looking forward to reading the next book!
4 thoughts on “Book Review: “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon”
I agree with the two points you highlighted, but I had a very opposite opinion of the book. I thought the plot meandered a lot and that there were too many close calls and I got frustrated about 2/3 of the way in. I kind of wish she’d cut out about 200 pages to things would have seemed less circular and moved forward faster! It unfortunately turned me off to the books, but I think her plot will make for a good TV series and I hope to see the episodes soon.
The plot lends itself well to the TV show actually. It allows for the show to move around and jump conversations. But the overarching thread of the book (travel back in time, captured, Jamie’s Gathering, collecting rent, wedding, “honeymoon,” Lallybroch, capture, escape, France) is still in the right order.
If you were the editor, what sort of scenes/conversations/sections would you cut? I enjoyed all of it, but I always wonder these things too (what would the book be like without this and that? etc).
I can’t remember the plot perfectly because it’s been about six months so pardon my memory if it fails. I seem to remember Claire wondering away next to a river and getting caught and having to be rescued and I thought this scene was almost exactly repeated later when Jamie ends up being captured. The near-rapes where Jamie sweeps in to save the day at the last second were a little too much in my mind.
Ah I know exactly what you’re talking about! I breezed through them because I was 1) bothered by the rape and violence and 2) had to tell myself that surely this was a common thing in history and that’s why it was repeated so often. Basically, it reaffirmed that I could never ever ever live in that time and survive. I don’t know how those women did it.