What if your future was the past?
1946, and Claire Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. It’s a second honeymoon, a chance to learn how war has changed them and to re-establish their loving marriage.
But one afternoon, Claire walks through a circle of standing stones and vanishes into 1743, where the first person she meets is a British army officer – her husband’s six-times great-grandfather.
Unfortunately, Black Jack Randall is not the man his descendant is, and while trying to escape him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Scottish outlaws, and finds herself a Sassenach – an outlander – in danger from both Jacobites and Redcoats.
Marooned amid danger, passion and violence, her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
Having already watched the Outlander tv series I knew I’d most likely love the books and I was so right! So while I was already familiar with the plot and characters, the book offered much more detail and there were quite a few differences between the book and show adaptation which offered something new. I read this book in like three days and couldn’t put it down, I was so engaged in the story and I fell in love with the sweeping Scottish Highlands, the love story and the various characters all over again.
While the story itself is compelling, the writing is so addictive and easy to follow. I loved the descriptions of Highland life, the characters and the various natural scenes, Gabaldon has such a talent for creating an immersive story. While there are many great lines of dialogue – some extremely funny, or ridiculous and others so beautiful and poetic, I find that Outlander has it all. I also felt that Gabaldon has taken great care to include historical accuracies and it felt authentic as possible. There’s undoubtedly some anachronisms here and there but it didn’t take away any enjoyment for me.
The story is focused on Claire Randall as she is thrown back in time to 1743, away from her time and her husband, Frank. I loved the whole time travel aspect of the story and really enjoyed reading as Claire comes to terms with her situation and the time period she finds herself in. Claire is nothing if not resourceful and intelligent, despite the suspicions of her Scottish hosts, she manages to find her way and establishes herself as a trusted healer. Claire is a compelling protagonist and I sympathised for her as well as understood her inner conflict. It’s an impossible decision she has to make – go back to her ‘actual life’ or stay in her new reality where she’s fallen in love and found more happiness than she could have foreseen.
“You forget the life you had before, after awhile. Things you cherish and hold dear are like pearls on a string. Cut the knot and they scatter across the floor, rolling into dark corners never to be found again. So you move on, and eventually you forget what the pearls even looked like. At least, you try.”
While this is definitely Claires story, I also liked the other characters we were introduced to over the course of the novel. Of course my favourite is Jamie Fraser, this guy sets the bar so high for fictional males, not only is he strong, courageous and handsome but he’s utterly smitten with Claire and is so considerate towards her. More than that, he’s a genuinely likeable character in his own right and has an interesting backstory too. While there was one controversial moment which felt out of character to me, it made sense for the time period and situation but that was just one moment which I didn’t like. Overall, I found him to be a charming and ideal partner for Claire, who is a strong and moral character too. I also really liked Murtagh Fraser, Jamies godfather as well as Jenny, Jamies fierce older sister and her sweet husband Ian Murray. I loved the family dynamic and the protectiveness they all had for each other, which also includes Claire, no questions asked.
“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,
I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.
I give ye my Spirit, ’til our Life shall be Done.”
I wouldn’t be able to complete this review without mentioning the powerful and passionate love story between Claire and Jamie. Not going to lie, this was one of the reasons I was drawn to the show and book, who doesn’t love a good romance? Combine that with lots of angst and an arranged marriage trope with underlying tension, and you have the perfect recipe. Despite the fact that Claire is technically married in the future and feels conflicted, it’s obvious that Jamie is her soulmate. Their connection is undeniable and grows stronger as the story progresses.
“I was born for you,” I said simply, and held out my arms to him.”
A few things, I didn’t like were the constant instances of sexual violence and rape in the novel. Claire is subjected to many near rapes and assaults through the course of the story, and while I recognise the dangers of the time period, it felt excessive. I also found it really hard to read the part in the novel where Jamie is tortured and raped by Captain Randall, who is definitely one of the vilest and most sadistic characters I’ve had the displeasure of reading about. The discussion has come up time and time again when it comes to instances of rape in fiction and it feels relevant here; rape is not a plot device and characters don’t have to be assaulted to grow stronger. I would advise any readers who are triggered or sensitive to these topics to avoid this section of the novel particularly.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Outlander, minus the last point mentioned and I already have the second and third books ready to read. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, an all encompassing romance as well as a great heroine and hero. While this book may not be for everyone, I was totally into it and enjoyed it for what it is; an interesting story.
Until next time,