Series: Outlander #1
Published by Dell on January 1, 1991
Genres: Historical, Romance, Science Fiction
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is 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 stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach--an "outlander"--in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
My Initial Reaction…
Where have I been the last 22 years?!?! I started hearing about Outlander for the first time in the spring of this year (2013) and kept hearing that I had to read it, but I’d better prepare myself for one hell of a ride. Well, I tried to prepare myself, but I grossly underestimated how skilled Diana Gabaldon would be at crafting characters that got under my skin and into my heart. One of the greatest romances ever written, in my opinion.
The characters are so incredibly well developed in Outlander, I feel like I now know Claire and Jamie personally. There’s a great (and large) supporting cast, but Claire and Jamie easily steal the show.
Claire, affectionately known as Sassenach, is a 1940s wife and war-nurse at the outset of Outlander, vacationing in Scotland with her husband Frank Randall. They’ve been kept apart for so many years because of the war, so this vacation is almost like a honeymoon for them. Right from the start, I loved Claire. She’s stubborn and feisty, and she’s got a mouth on her, particularly for the 1940s (not to mention the 1700s!). She’s also incredibly smart and resilient. You see glimpses of that intelligence right from the start, not surprisingly since she’d have to be after serving in WWII. But once she lands herself in eighteenth-century Scotland, those qualities come to the fore and she never fails to amaze me with her ability to persevere through truly extraordinary, overwhelming and terrifying situations.
And then there’s Jamie Fraser. He’s the ultimate hero. He’s so strong and manly, while being incredibly soft and vulnerable at the same time. Some of the things he says just melt (or break) your heart. Every moment with him is a favorite moment for me. I think he may be the most romantic hero I’ve ever read. He’s also a beautifully flawed character. He’s not perfect, despite what his many fan clubs might suggest; in fact, he’ll piss you off plenty. But his heart is always in the right place. I think the best way to describe him is to let him speak for himself – so I’ve pulled a couple of my favorite Jamie lines out for you (in no particular order):
I have no idea what I was expecting from Outlander – I had heard it was a must-read and one hell of an emotional ride – but it certainly wasn’t what I expected. For one, I thought it was more of a sci-fi/fantasy novel than it turned out to be. In fact, with the one exception that the scenario that lands Claire in the 1700s is entirely the stuff of science fiction, this book is historical romance through and through. If you’d asked me if I like historical romances before I picked up Outlander I probably would have said, “not really.” Now, I’m a fan.
That being said, despite not meeting my expectations even slightly, this book was incredible. It’s 600+ pages (in the eBook) of heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, soul-tearing action, romance, anticipation, sexual trauma, and torture. The romance in this book is probably some of the best I’ve ever read, in no small part because Jamie. And Claire’s situation is so complicated, there are moments you can’t help but cry for the struggle she is going through. Romance though it may be, don’t expect a light and carefree read. The pages not marked with love are dripping in blood. There’s truly horrendous descriptions of torture, seemingly constant violence, injury, and death. And somehow all that manages to be balanced with the perfect amount of truly hilarious moments.
I will say that some scenes seemed superfluous, but I can’t help but expect that they weren’t cut for a reason. So much happens that I worry it’s all important and I just hope I’ll remember those little, seemingly unimportant details when/if they become important. It is a bit of a slow starter too, things don’t really pick up until the Scotland phase begins. But even the slow parts are enjoyable and the rest is your reward for pushing through them.
I think Outlander is a book that everyone should at least try. If you love romance, it’ll melt your heart. If your a fan of action – the intense and bloody stuff – you’ll not be disappointed. If (like me) you’re all about fantasy, Outlander delivers a unique take. And if you like historical pieces, well then this technically was written for you. At 800 pages it’s daunting and you’ll be emotionally exhausted when it’s all said and done. But I bet you’ll be glad you read it and you’ll be ready to pick up the next one!