Book Review | Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

September 20, 2013 Reviews 12

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Book Review | Outlander by Diana GabaldonOutlander by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #1
Published by Dell on January 1, 1991
Genres: Historical, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 870
Format: eBook
Source: Library

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.

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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…

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):

Does it ever stop? The wanting you? Even when I’ve just left ye. I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again.
When I asked my da how ye knew which was the right woman, he told me when the time came, I’d have no doubt. And I didn’t. When I woke in the dark under that tree on the road to Leoch, with you sitting on my chest, cursing me for bleeding to death, I said to myself, ‘Jamie Fraser, for all ye canna see what she looks like, and for all she weighs as much as a good draft horse, this is the woman.

The Story…

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.

Concluding Sentiments…

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!

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About Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.”

The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER (“historical fiction with a Moebius twist”), has continued through six more New York Times-bestselling novels–DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, THE FIERY CROSS, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, and AN ECHO IN THE BONE, with nineteen million copies in print worldwide

The series is published in 26 countries and 23 languages, and includes a nonfiction (well, relatively) companion volume, THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which provides details on the settings, background, characters, research, and writing of the novels. Gabaldon (it’s pronounced “GAA-bull-dohn”—rhymes with “stone”) has also written several books in a sub-series featuring Lord John Grey (a major minor character from the main series): LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, and LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS. Another Lord John book, LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, will probably be published in 2011).

Returning to her comic-book roots, she has also written a graphic novel titled THE EXILE (set within the OUTLANDER universe and featuring the main characters from OUTLANDER), but told from the viewpoint of Jamie Fraser and his godfather, Murtagh. The graphic novel is illustrated by Hoang Nguyen, published by Del-Rey.

Gabaldon is presently working on the third Lord John novel (LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER), and the eighth book in the OUTLANDER series. In addition, she is working on a contemporary mystery series, set in Phoenix, and has written Highly Scholarly Introductions (with masses of footnotes) to recent Modern Library editions of Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE and Thomas Paine’s COMMON SENSE.

Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.” She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction. She has written scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal SCIENCE SOFTWARE QUARTERLY, and has written numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney. None of this has anything whatever to do with her novels, but there it is.

She and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona.


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About Berls
Berls has been a book lover her whole life. She reads pretty much every genre and is currently working hard at making her childhood dream of becoming an author come true. She loves sharing her thoughts about books, blogging, and just random fun stuff. She's a challenge and read-a-thon junkie, so it's no wonder that she loves co-hosting the COYER reading challenge. Leave a comment, Berls is always happy to chat!

12 Responses to “Book Review | Outlander by Diana Gabaldon”

    • Berls

      You even crossed my mind when I was writing this review as someone who must have read it because you love HF so much! LOL! That’s funny – I thought the same thing and that’s why I picked it up. Never thought I’d be recommending a HF to you! You MUST rearrange your reading plans and start on this one ASAP. I mean, this book was written for you! Ok, I’ll stop gushing but you get the point 🙂

    • Berls

      Thanks Lori! Like everyone told me, I’m going to tell you – read it! Yep STARZ is filming it now and it will premiere next fall. I’ve been following it, because I think it’ll be great. Gabaldon seems very involved with all the decisions, which is great. And I’m so glad they went the series route rather than the movie route, because a book like this just has too much to do as a movie without sacrificing a lot.

  1. Mandy

    Fantastic Review! I’ve got this one on my TBR and even a Ebook. I just haven’t sat down to read it. Thanks for sharing I think you pushed me into pulling it off the shelf to read. Happy Reading. Thanks for sharing.

    • Berls

      Thanks Mandy! I really really encourage you to start it, IMO you’ll be surprised the way it pulls you in. And don’t give up on it – when she gets to the 1700s it really picks up the pace. The first bit moves a little slowly, but it’s actually super important. Happy Reading 🙂

  2. Kayla

    There are not many reviews… much less long reviews that capture my attention, and leave me wanting to read the book reviewed right away. But yours did. I am so not a fan of Historical Romances but I think that I may just have to give this a try. Outlander sounds amazing! 800 pages!? Thanks so much for your review.

    Kayla @ K.G. INC
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    • Berls

      Thanks Kayla, I’m really glad you enjoyed the review. The good news is that if you get this in ebook format it’s actually only 600 some pages instead of 800. LOL! I plowed through it though – it’s that good (and I don’t usually read Historical Romances either). I hope you’ll give it a shot 🙂

  3. Johanna

    I know exactly what you’re talking about. I love Gabaldon and her first three book of the Outlander series are truly the best historical romances ever written. Then the series lets down. But by that time, I was so much in love with Jamie that I just couldn’t let him go, so I’ve read all books that have been published. And even though they have become predictable and repetitive, I’m waiting for the next one. 😉
    Johanna recently posted…Follow Friday #20My Profile

    • Berls

      I furiously read Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, but had to take a break halfway through Voyager. They’re great, but so intense and I just couldn’t take anymore for a while. I may be ready to start back up now though :-)Too bad that they become predictable and repetitive, but I have a feeling I’ll read them all too.

  4. Jonetta (Ejaygirl)

    I fell in love with this story (and Jamie) and it took me almost two years to read it after having gotten it as a Kindle freebie. What a shame that it set on my shelf that long.

    • Berls

      Oh I would be kicking myself for that one LOL! I’m sure I have some treasures sitting unread on my Kindle freebies too. Such an amazing story though. I still have several more of the books to read, too!

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