― Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
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 James 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.
First off, let me start by saying this book is INTIMIDATING. It’s pretty massive at 870 pages, which, in a Harry Potter novel suits me just fine, but in a historical fiction/romance/fantasy novel is a little over the top. Not even mentioning the fact that it has 7 books that come after it.
So I approached this book with some trepidation. And the beginning really didn’t make me want to keep reading. Claire Beauchamp Randall, a nurse in 1945 Scotland, was a little bit of a bore. She is outspoken, sure, and an intellectual, but overall, she is vanilla. (In the sense that she is boring like vanilla ice cream without sprinkles.)
As I read, though, she fell through some stones (that was described like a small Stonehenge) and landed in 1743. While Claire was a tad boring for 1945, she was quite interesting in 1743. Her personality came forward, and I could see her in a whole new light. At the end of the novel that I had (the 20th anniversary version), there was an interview with Diana Gabaldon, where she states that she had to stop writing while she could still lift the book. Truth. She also stated that she felt like the novel had three climaxes. Another truth. This novel could have easily been split into three books (and three largeish books at that!)
She gets married (even though she is already married, except she isn’t because that marriage hasn’t happened yet…) and she kills some people and saves a lot more people. This isn’t what kept me reading. I kept reading because Gabaldon sucked me into the world of Scotland in the 1700s where men wore skirts kilts and women kept their eyes down. Claire did not. Claire was outspoken and cursed and hung out with the men and I loved her for that. It was interesting to see a woman from current times placed back in an era where women were their husband’s property. Claire continually acts out against the social norms of the time, which I think is what makes her seem like such a strong heroine in this novel. I enjoyed her antics and her smart-ass mouth and watching her be feminine, but still assertive and engaging. I also loved watching her budding romance with Jamie. Yes, they were married, but under circumstances that no woman dreams about. Throughout the story, though, I was able to see the give and take of their relationship, and I really loved their complete dedication to honesty within their marriage. They trusted each other when they could trust no one else, and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.Now this book could be classified as a romance, because honestly, it gets a bit detailed over and over and over again. (Thinking back, Gabaldon probably could have cut out the love scenes and made the book a bit lighter to carry around.) It wasn’t too graphic though, and I didn’t really mind it.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Claire, once you get her out of the 1900s, was witty and brave and a strong female heroine, like I wanted her to be. The time period is interesting and much unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I think that’s what kept me coming back… The fact that it was so unlike most things I have read.