Review of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Printed 2004, 866 pages
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Recommendation: A must read for any fan of romance, drama or just a good story.

Outlander. My first thought is: not for the faint of heart. That said, if you’re willing to take on such a large story–which is the first of a (currently) eight part series–then you won’t be disappointed.

(Disclaimer: I am writing with the assumption that if you’re looking for a review of this story, you’ve not read it. Therefore, my review of the story will be brief and not detailed, as I don’t want to ruin the story for any of you.)

People disappear all the time.Ask any policeman. Better yet,ask a journalist.  
Disappearances are bread-and-
butter to journalists.Young 
girls run away from home.  
Young children stray from 
their parents and are never 
seen again.  Housewives reach the end of their tether and 
take the grocery money and a 
taxi to the station.  
International financiers change their names and vanish into the smoke of imported cigars.
Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. 

Disappearances, after all, have explanations.

Usually.

-excerpt from Outlander, by D. Gabaldon

SUMMARY:
Claire Randall is an ex-military nurse in 1946, struggling to reconnect with her husband, Frank, and resume a normal life after their lengthy separation during World War Two. The pair vacation to Scotland to rekindle their love, restore their souls and begin again. While on a day excursion to see the various relics of the Scottish Highlands, they stop at the standing stones at Craigh na Dun, an unbeknownst portal for time travel. Claire is whisked back in time through the magic and mystery of time to the tension of 1743 pre-Culloden Scottish Highlands, where she meets two men that will change her life: Jamie Fraser, the handsome young Scot who selflessly saves her, marries her and falls in love with her, and Blackjack Randall, the sadistic British Captain intent on her capture who is also her husband Frank’s distant relative.

WHAT I LIKED:
The story, when boiled down to its basic summation doesn’t do it justice, and makes it sound so much more run-of-the-mill than it is. What Diana Gabaldon accomplishes in this novel is amazing. The rich detail of the life, the culture and historical context, the struggles of life in the time period, and the honesty and emotion in the relationships she creates make this stand out from other time travel or romance stories. Her characters are “fantasy” enough that you’ll wish you had your own Jamie Fraser, and realistic enough that you’ll experience a range of emotion with each–from love to frustration. The love story that unfolds between Jamie and Claire is one not one that is typical of most in the romance genre–no stock alpha male and simpering miss. Their characters are both attractive and irritating, which is the element that makes them so real: Jamie and Claire struggle, they fight, they laugh and they love. They face the challenges of the time, of the differences of who they are and the time periods they’re from. There is sincere passion, not just lengthy written sex scenes. It is also of note that Gabaldon fills the story with these types of well-developed characters, which adds to the richness of the world she creates. Even in regard to the antagonist Blackjack Randall, who stands out as probably one of the most terrible characters I’ve read about.

WHAT I COULD LIVE WITHOUT:
Again, I’ll repeat that this book is not for the faint of heart, and mostly for this part of the story line. Blackjack’s character is arguably Gabaldon’s best written character of the story, in my opinion, because he is atrocious in every way possible and you hate him with such passion. I struggled with the Blackjack character, though he adds to the depth of the story and certainly the development of Jamie and Claire’s characters. It is just so….intense. (If you are squeamish, or sensitive to violent sexual situations, have caution. It is still worth the read, but contains some disturbing scenes toward the end.)

I had my moments with the heroine, Claire. She is a strong female, which is not a bad quality. However I found her character a bit bossy and irritating from time to time. That was one element that was a little unrealistic (yes, I realize it was a time travel book…so other than that part), I don’t believe that in the 1740s a woman would truly be THAT outspoken. Even if she is from another era. Other than that, there is not much to dislike.

RECOMMENDATION: Yes!
Overall, Outlander is a lot of things. Ambitious, lengthy, deep, uncomfortable, fantastic. But most of all, it is a story about relationships, about struggle, about the risks that you will take for another person, and most of all, it is a love story.

And it is a lovely love story at that.

 

Intrigued but not ready for the book? Outlander has been brought to the small screen on the Starz network, starring Catroina Balfe (Claire Randall), Sam Heughen (Jamie Fraser) and Tobias Menzies (Blackjack Randall). Season 3 will premiere sometime 2017.

 

 

 

 

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