Book Review: Outlander

“But just then, for that fraction of time, it seems as though all things are possible. You can look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before. And it’s as though knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary.”
― Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
Book Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publication Date: 1991
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.12 Stars 
My Rating: 4 Stars

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.

“There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye—when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I’ll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save—respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?”

“Ye werena the first lass I kissed,” he said softly. “But I swear you’ll be the last.”
“The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through rough country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man. At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn’t rain. By the standards I was becoming used to, it was quite dull.”
“When I asked my da how ye knew which was the right woman, he told me when the time came, I’d have no doubt. And I didn’t. When I woke in the dark under that tree on the road to Leoch, with you sitting on my chest, cursing me for bleeding to death, I said to myself ‘Jamie Fraser, for all ye canna see what she looks like, and for all she weights as much as a good draft horse, this is the woman.”
“There comes a turning point in intense physical struggle where one abandons oneself to a profligate usage of strength and bodily resource, ignoring the costs until the struggle is over. Women find this point in childbirth; men in battle.”
“Overall, the library held a hushed exultation, as though the cherished volumes were all singing soundlessly within their covers.”
“I meant it, Claire,’ he said quietly. ‘My life is yours. And it’s yours to decide what we shall do, where we go next. To France, to Italy, even back to Scotland. My heart has been yours since first I saw ye, and you’ve held my soul and body between your two hands here, and kept them safe. We shall go as ye say.”

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