Outlander, Book 1
by Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell/Random House
Many editions and printings
Original Hardcover: June 01, 1991
Also available in Mass Market or Trade PaperBack, E-book or Audio (narrated by Davina Porter 33:08)
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Unrivaled storytelling . . . unforgettable characters . . . rich historical detail . . . these are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages.
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 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.
I read a lot and always have. But it is a testimony to the excellence of this book that I can remember when I first bought it, and where in the now defunct bookstore I bought it. Furthermore, I remember going back there again and again waiting for the next book in the series.
I always thought I remembered a lot from my first reading. But, even reading through the last couple of books in the series, I realized I had forgotten an awful lot of the details, had some out of order, and thought different characters did different things. So about a week and a half ago I began rereading the story.
There has been a lot of contention since the series came out about whether it would stick to the book in plot and character. And, I have to say that it has really kept to the book, the last couple of episodes in this first season took some not unwelcome liberties, but all in all it has.
In rereading this book I can tell you that it is genre crossing. It is a time travel book, but after the initial trip through the standing stones, Claire is faced with everyday life and very little in the way of magic aside from one witchy chick’s trouble making. So it crosses the lines between speculative fiction, romance, historical fiction and it jumps into the realm of literary fiction because of it’s intricate plotting, well-developed characters, and the degree of research and continuity. Plus it has simply amazing flow.
One thing I remembered was very explicit sex. And there is sex, but it is not explicit or graphic. And yet, it is verra, verra hot. I also remembered Frank being someone I didn’t like. And, that is one of Diana’s brilliant plot devices leading to later books in the series. How do you reconcile your emotional reactions to a man you love with his evil ancestor?
Something I found very interesting in the story was that Claire isn’t going back in time from the period contemporaneous to the publication of the book, but just post WW2. This is an interesting choice I really wish I could ask Diana about. In fact, I stopped and wrote her an email about it. If she responds I will post her reply. So, the upshot is that I don’t know why Diana did it, but it offers a lot of added complexity to the story. First is that as a former combat nurse Claire has a lot of medical skills; in a war where there would be a lot of similar types of injuries. Another is that while women post-war had a lot more freedoms than they had had before that war and definitely before WWI, it was not yet terribly acceptable for women to lead lives independent of their husband’s wishes. In many ways a wife in the late 40s and early 50s of the last century was still much under her husband’s thumb even if not legally bound to obey. The social mores of the time were such that women usually stayed home and did not work; especially if the man had a professional, intellectual position. There were of course, many exceptions to this, but a lot of young women who worked as teachers, nurses or secretaries gave up their positions when they married.
I don’t know if feminism was yet a movement in the late 1940s, but I keep thinking that Claire had an easier time adapting to the way women were treated in 18th century Scotland was easier than she would have had she been a character from today or from the 1990s. There was a lot of tension after WW2 as women gave up their wartime positions.
Do you think that is significant?
I have found very few plot points that troubled me. The one that does stick out is an issue involving a Duke visiting Collum MacKenzie. But, Diana is also very good at tying up loose ends like where clothes come from when you are always running away from something.
There is a lot less Jamie in the first few parts of the novel. He doesn’t appear nearly as much as I seemed to recall. I’ve chalked it up to wishful thinking on my p[art as who wouldn’t rather Jamie than his gnarly uncle? And the paradox of marriage to someone who has not yet been born is still really, really interesting.
This is a long book but really worth the time and money. It is in all likelihood at your local library in a couple of formats. I think it is well-written, engaging, gripping and un-put-down-able — even after the second read. And, I enjoyed reading it even as I watched the series. As soon as I finished OUTLANDER I downloaded the audio for DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.
I call this one a MUST READ.
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