Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the first in a historical semi-mythical series which includes war and violence, relationships, family and society, questions of morality, honour, and spirituality, love and sex, adventures, journeys, and violence. Truly, this book has everything I could want in a story, and it’s done extremely well. It’s historical, it’s romantic, it’s sci-fi, yet it delves to the core of human beings’ values of love and life.
Diana Gabaldon deftly crafts a strong-willed heroine, a stubborn but extremely likeable hero, and a stunning adventure. Each book in the Outlander Series was written to stand alone, but completely enthralled, I flew through the first book and have picked up the next two already. Squeee! love love love love love!!
So what is Outlander about? Diana Gabaldon admits on her website that she’s never been able to describe it in 25 words or less, but instead chooses to tell this story:
In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family.
But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones–such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain. She walks through a cleft stone in the circle….and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform.
This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank–and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall–though for other reasons.
In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall–and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry. The story rolls on from there…
I was trying to describe a book to my sister that I loved but had been the fate of bad marketing. This other book was a large historical novel that also happened to have a strong romantic storyline; unfortunately it had been given a cheesy romance cover and an equally cheesy-sounding title (but actually made sense when you read the book). My sister said that Outlander sounded familiar and lent me her copy, suggesting I read it. I am so glad I did!
I laughed and smiled, I cried for sadness and joy, I barrelled through hundreds of pages, and still I wanted more. I loved the main characters, Claire and Jamie. I loved their romance, their back stories, their strengths and weaknesses and cannot wait to read more from the Outlander Series. Squeee! love love love love love!!
** SPOILER ALERT **
These are really just my thoughts / feelings / reactions to the book.
I absolutely love Claire and Jamie. I love Claire’s bold determination, her feminist ideals, her courage in the face of danger, and her medical abilities. I admire Jamie’s ideals, his moral and internal conflicts, his respect for family and culture, and his awesome Scottish accent.
I am so glad that Diana Gabaldon had Claire married already to Frank, and that Claire didn’t take that personal conflict lightly, even when she was forced to marry Jamie. It was also very nice to see that Jamie was the inexperienced one in bed instead of Claire, which is so often the case is romance novels.
The supporting characters were well-developed. I actually really liked Dougal despite his shortcomings and I came to adore Murtagh. One thing that Diana Gabaldon does extremely well is her character development: no necessary character was left without description and every character had flaws. She got to the core of our existence and acknowledged that someone can still be Good without being perfect, as well as being corrupt without being pure evil. Things are not so black and white. Even Captain Jack Randall had redeeming features and characteristics.
I really appreciated how Gabaldon moved the plot along without things feeling hasty or taken too lightly. Also, all actions had consequences, and it wasn’t like the heroes got off scot-free either. I won’t try to describe how hard I cried in the last few chapters of the book (joy and sorrow) but suffice to say I had to stop a few times before I could continue reading.
** END SPOILER ALERT **
Outlander was first published in June 1991 and Random House is bringing out a 20th anniversary edition of the first book. The series currently has seven books and the eighth is not yet complete. However, Diana Gabaldon has also written another series that isn’t quite a spin off, but a “sub-series” as she describes it—The Lord John Gray Series. She has also written a graphic novel following Jamie’s story in the first book titled, The Exile.