Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Release Date: June 1st, 1991
Standalone/Series: Book one in the Outlander series
Genre: Adult – Fantasy – Historical – Romance
My rating in stars: 4 stars
My rating in words: Really liked this book
What it’s about:
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient 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 is catapulted 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 love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
” People disappear all the time […] Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.”
I did it. I finally started reading Outlander, after months of procrastinating because I was so intimidated by the size and hype of this book. And I finally finished it now too, after two weeks of reading. Man, this was one big book. But still, I’m happy I finally took the plunge, because this story is definitely worth the read.
Now, while I did really enjoy the book and would like to read the second book in the series as well, I have to be honest and admit I did not like it as much as I thought I would. And the problem is I can’t really pinpoint why that is. Perhaps the hype was just too big. Perhaps the book was just too long. Perhaps I forced myself to read and finish it a bit too much. Perhaps that one scene with Claire’s punishment just rubbed me the wrong way and I had a hard time forgiving that. Most likely it was a combination of all of the above.
That said, I do recommend this book to anyone. It really is an interesting book and at the very least it makes you think about all the themes it presents. So while I can’t really describe exactly what disappointed me about the book, I can tell you exactly what I did like about it:
First of all, there’s the extensive worldbuilding and attention to historic details. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about Scotland and Highlander clans in 1743, but it was a thrill to learn more about it all. Is it all historically accurate? I assume most of it is, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that you will become completely immersed in this world while reading this book. And because you can look at this brutal world through Claire’s eyes, we get a modern-day (well, 1945-ish modern-day anyway) view of this world, which only intensifies the experience.
“It’s a good country for myths. Things seem to take root here.”
Talking about Claire, she is quite the amazing protagonist. I loved her from the very beginning and I only grew to love her more while reading. She’s smart, practical, sassy and funny. I’m not sure many women would be able to stand their ground when thrown in the middle of raging Highlander clans, but she does and she does it in style, while still being a believable modern day woman who questions the barbaric ways of the past. I loved her loyalty and her cunning. I loved that she never really forgot about her husband. I loved how well she adjusted.
Then there’s Jamie. He’s got quite a lot of rabid fangirls behind him and I now understand why. He’s a complex character, with both good and bad traits to him, which makes him real and relatable. He does some things in this book which did make me cringe a bit and took me a while to forgive, but in the end he’s just such a good, kind-hearted, noble and passionate person that you can’t help but root for him and eventually fall head over heels in love with him.
“I can bear pain myself, he said softly, but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.”
The romance between Claire and Jamie is the heart of this story, even though the morality of it all is up for debate. But the good thing is that this question of morality is never ignored in the book either. Claire herself wonders about it often. My view of it evolved throughout the story as I assume it was supposed to. At first I was steadily against any romance and rooted for Claire to return to her husband as soon as possible. But as the story progressed I saw the heart of it all and realised things were not so simple anymore.
Finally, I loved the secondary characters. Trying to figure them out was a blast and in some cases I’m still not sure that I did. I LOVED the character of Geillis Duncan. She was so mysterious and intriguing and I wish we could have gotten more of her. The characters of Colum and Dougal MacKenzie were equally difficult to figure out, but I did love all scenes where we got a glimse into their lives. And then there’s Murtagh and Jenny and Ian and so many other wonderful characters.
“And if your life is a suitable exchange for my honor, why is my honor not a suitable exchange for your life?”
The pacing and the length of this book is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a perfect book to lose yourself in completely and to become completely immersed in the story and and the characters. But honestly, it is quite long and it does drag sometimes. So if you are hesitant to start this book because of that, I would definitely recommend the TV show. I watched it while reading the book – reading ahead and then watching one episode, reading more before watching the next episode and so on – and I absolutely adore it. I think it’s one of the best book-to-tv adaptations out there. So while I will always recommend giving the book a try, this is one case where I would happily suggest the TV show, just so you can just get the feeling of the story and the characters. You’ll find out rather quickly whether you like it or not, and then you can always decide for yourself whether or not you’d still like to give the book a try. (Though I hope you will.)
“Don’t be afraid. There’s the two of us now.”
“Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”
“There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye—when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I’ll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save—respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?”
“I swore an oath before the altar of God to protect this woman. And if you’re tellin’ me that ye consider your own authority to be greater than that of the Almighty, then I must inform ye that I’m not of that opinion, myself.”
“Life among academics had taught me that a well-expressed opinion is usually better than a badly expressed fact, so far as professional advancement goes.”