Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Outlander

Outlander (Outlander #1)
Published By: Delacorte Press
First Publication Date:  1991
Page Count:  662 pages
Source:  20th Anniversary Edition Purchased by Reviewer
Audience:  Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Mature Themes

First off, I have to say that I feel woefully unqualified to review such a well loved story.  For over 20 years, and the story of Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Alexander Mackenzie Fraser is still going strong…with a well cast and well produced tv series to inspire a new generation to go along with the books.

And it took that tv series to finally sit my behind down and crack open that book…a book I will admit I’ve had for a very long time and had always felt a bit intimidated to start.  I don’t know why…but it just did.

Granted it was perhaps the wrong time in my life to start this epic tale.  And the fact that it took me almost four months to read this, in no way, reflected my interest in the story whatsoever.  I couldn’t wait to get back to it when life got in the way and forced me to put it down.  I just had to be satisfied with reading a page or two, or five or ten, every day during that time.  It was surprisingly an easy story to follow and fall back into with the bits and pieces of time afforded to me to read it.

Diana Gabaldon spins an epic tale of time travel into 18th century Scotland, with an fantasy element thrown, and it kept me enraptured throughout.  It is a gifted author who sets up their characters and plot over time but yet you get the sense of exactly who these people are and where they might be going.  Of course, because SO many friends of mine have read it, and I had already heard much talk about it, I had some sense of who the characters were.  I’ve heard the names and that Claire was a strong heroine, and Jamie was the quintessential leading man with flaming red hair.  Well…all of that was true, and then some.

Claire was, indeed, strong.  But she was also vulnerable in the most obvious ways – being thrown back in time (that’s not really a spoiler).  Before her epic adventure began, she was a field nurse during World War I.  She’d seen plenty of blood and guts and misery to last a lifetime, and because of her past experiences, she had the good sense and intellect to think quickly and accurately.  But still…nothing could prepare her for where those ‘standing stones’ took her.  She was very strong-willed…with a capital S.W.!!  Sometimes, that did not always work in her favour and often got her into a wee-bit of trouble but I think most will agree it sure made for some pretty great story-telling.

Jamie.  Jamie.  Jamie.  Where do I begin?  I can certainly see why my friends have loved him so and set the bar for leading men by him.  Strong, rugged, well-principled, compassionate and willing to fight for the lives of those he cares for with little regard for his own…that is all Jamie…and much, much more.  Trying to describe him will always do him an injustice.  He’s almost unbelievable…and yet he was totally believable.  He wasn’t impervious to pain or loss or humiliation, and that made him real.  Despite the incredibly rough life he has lead thus far (and I’m sure much more will follow him), he still has the most kindest and gentlest of hearts for such a strong and heroic character on the outside.  This all still sells him so short.

Several other notable characters were so well developed, whether they evoked extreme liking, loathing or somewhere in the middle, they were expertly introduced at the right times.  I still find I’m on the fence with Dougal, but I’ve grown to love Murtagh, and several other of the Scottish folk.

Another well-written character that needs to be mentioned would be Captain Jack Randall.  For me, he was the epitome of evil and diabolicalness.  While it was hard to adequately describe Jamie and do him justice…the same could be said for Randall.  He was, perhaps, the most twisted and sick villain I have ever ‘met’ in books.  And not that I had really any ounce of sympathy for the man, the author cleverly provided a tidbit of vulnerability during his worst act against anyone.  The emotions he induced in me were pure loathing, and yet, and part of me had the tiniest smidgeon of empathy towards this most vile man because ‘something’ had to make him that way.  Few people are born that evil…and for the most part, I whole-heartedly believed he was.  He lacked everything that makes most of us human…like he had a ‘humanity switch’ he just simply turned off.  Readers of these books, I hope, will understand what I’m trying to say.  And those who have yet to experience the story, will hopefully understand my conundrum when they do.

I never wanted to visit Scotland more than I do now…at a much safer time, I might add.  I adored the vivid descriptions of the people, places and events told through Claire’s eyes.   I found it effortless to connect with her and her plights.  She is another heroine who sets the bar very high for others to follow.

The love story was complicated and yet EPIC.  The love that grew between Claire and Jamie felt SO real it was almost impossible to imagine.  It was ust a precious thing between those two.

This book IS intended for a mature audience.  There is some very graphic violence, including rape.  The acts of love, however, were beautifully written and not overly graphic.

I’ve used the word ‘epic’ a few times to describe my feelings for this book, and that was purely intentional.  I’m so glad I finally experienced this EPIC story.   Now I finally understand why this story is a favourite amongst so many of my book friends.  For me, it will definitely be listed amongst my favourites…but I will stop just short of saying it IS my favourite.  There were times when the pace was a tad too slow for me…but I’m also going to chalk that up to the fact that I was becoming impatient because of my lack of reading time.  I’m sure if I had read the story in much bigger chunks, I would better understand the fanaticism some people have towards this story.  I’m not there…yet.

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.


  1. Oh wow, this definitely did take you a long time to read but that is allowed because it is a reasonably big book! I have never seen the show but I really want to read this... it sounds epic.

  2. Yeah...it's definitely not a quick read and life got in the way big time, but do check it out...it's an amazing story!


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