I’m not a great reader of romance novels. But I do like historical fiction, especially if it’s interspliced with some fantasy. And since it’s incredibly hard to find bad reviews of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I thought I’d give it a try. And I loved this book. I never made it through volume 2 but I could reread Cross Stitch immediately.
Published: Arrow, 1994 (first: 1991)
Series: Outlander #1
My rating: 8,5/10
First sentence: People disappear all the time.
In 1945, Claire is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently, she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.
A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats – and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and 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 own the UK paperback with the incredibly cheesy cover shown above. But I came to love this by now tattered thick paperback so much. While Claire isn’t what I’d call a contemporary characters, she still comes from a time far more advanced than mid-18th century Scotland. Her knowledge in medicine doesn’t just help her out in some dangerous situations, it was also very interesting to read and – while no expert in the field at all – it felt like Diana Gabaldon has done her research well. Claire was easy to love and identify with and maybe that is why this book is so dear to so many people. Because while you read it, you are Claire, and like her, you are torn between the desire to go back to your time and your wonderful husband, and this exciting new world of adventure and passion for Jamie Fraser.
Knowing nothing much about Scotland, I dove into this novel and was blown away by the imagery of the Scottish highlands, the political tension, and the day-to-day life one used to lead. The author has managed to bring the setting to life on the pages and suck you into a time you really shouldn’t want to live in but kind of do… I must admit the political aspects of the book were less intersting to me (probably because of my ignorance on the subject) but I could still fear for Claire and Jamie whenever there was a fight or the threat of danger. They don’t always get out unscathed and it’s wonderful to see their characters develop and changed by events like getting married, severely injured, or kidnapped. Yes, there is a lot of action in this book.
My biggest surprise was probably how much I cared for the romance. It is not so much the thought of “Will the good guy get the girl?” because – and that’s not a spoiler – that happens fairly quickly. It is watching these two people grow and develop a true relationship. Anybody who has ever been in a romantic relationship can relate to certain scenes, be they in the bedroom or little every day fights. To me, it felt believable and tore my heart out several times.
The only thing that bothered me in this entire, chunky novel was probably one fantasy element that I could have done without. I won’t say which one for fear of spoiling but when it happened, I had to hold back chuckles, it was so ridiculous – and unnecessary! I wish I could say I have devoured the entire series but I didn’t. I started on the second book right after finishing this one but it lacked the quick pace and easy-to-follow story arc of its predecessor. Nonetheless, I can recommend this wholeheartedly to anybody who’s ready to fall in love with Scotland and a certain redhead highlander.
I may buy the graphic novel adaptation of Jamie’s perspective of this story – or read the spin-off series about Lord John. Because I really don’t want to give up completely on this universe yet.
THE GOOD: A gripping tale of romance, rich in history and adventure, as well as edge-of-your-seat action.
THE BAD: Hardcore feminists won’t like this.
THE VERDICT: A wonderful book that will not let you do anything but read for a while. And I dare you not to fall in love with Jamie Fraser!
RATING: 8,5/10 Excellent
The Outlander Series:
- Dragonfly in Amber
- Drums of Autumn
- The Fiery Cross
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes
- An Echo in the Bone
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood