Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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 Jamie 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.*

*Courtesy of book’s back cover.

From the description provided, you might expect this book to be in the Romance section, with a cover featuring Jamie Fraser clad only in his kilt, flaming hair flying back from his face, arms wrapped around a Claire Randall quite in the state of déshabillé, now wouldn’t you? I do promise, however, that this is not the case. Though it has elements of romance, as well as fantasy, Gabaldon has penned an authentic, well-researched series that can be placed solidly in the realms of historical fiction, especially the later books (don’t believe me? – just take a look at her LibraryThing page). Outlander provides unique insight into the beliefs and practices of ordinary Scottish Highlanders in the eighteenth century, as well as the common medical practices during this time period, as Claire puts her nursing skills to good use during her travel back in time.

The thing I find most intriguing about Outlander is the contrast between Jamie, who is the quintessential eighteenth century Highlander, and Claire, who is a thoroughly modern woman, and how they reconcile their differences. Another concept I found fascinating was Claire’s struggle with whether a time-traveler has the power to change the course of history through their presence and their actions, and if so, are they under obligation to do so. It certainly made me wonder what I would do if I were in her situation.

While the plot is certainly action-packed and fast-paced, the biggest draw to Outlander and the series as a whole is the characters. As I’ve said in my other Outlander series reviews, Jamie and Claire and Co. feel like old friends, so while I may scold them as I read for doing stupid things and making poor choices, I’ll keep on loving them. These books are my comfort reads – they’re like the mashed potatoes and chicken soup of the literary world, so far as I’m concerned.

A word of caution, though. Readers Advisor Online has Outlander listed as both Adult and Teen fiction, their reasoning being that many teens have read and enjoyed these books. These are, however, adult books. Though none of the scenes are especially explicit, Jamie and Claire are newlyweds fairly early on in the book and, to put it quite frankly, they do boink like bunnies. This is toned down as the series progresses, but readers should be aware of this element’s inclusion.

Series Information
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums in Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone

100+ Reading Challenge
Outlander Reading Challenge


2 comments on “Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Andrea
    March 28, 2010

    Characters -do become like friends, don’t they? Sadly right now my “character friends” are the casts of Law & Order and Criminal Minds.

  2. Jenn
    March 30, 2010

    Oh, you poor thing! You ought to get one of us to test our RA skills and find you some book characters to love (not that there’s anything wrong with loving the characters on tv).

    Putting aside my unbiased librarian hat for the moment, I’d highly recommend Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series if you want a book with an amazing cast of characters. They’re also not very thick books, which is great if you don’t have a lot of time to read (but Turner certainly packs a lot of story into those pages, so you have to pay attention to every detail while you read).

    They are technically fantasy books, but they don’t have the wizards and dragons and faeries and magic that is common to those kinds of books, so they’d be good for someone who wanted to ease into the genre. They are also technically YA books, but Turner writes with enough sophistication that I think many adults wouldn’t realize they were YA if one didn’t tell them.

    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. They are good books, though . . .

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