Outlander was originally published 20 years ago! 20 years! I am heartbroken that it has taken me this long to find this series. But, the good news is that Diana Gabaldon is still writing books so I can read and enjoy the next six books in this series without waiting YEARS to get to the next one like so many of her fans.
Review May Contain Spoilers –
Claire is in Scotland on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank in 1945. They’ve been married for several years but she has been working as a nurse with the English Army (WWII) so they haven’t spent much time together. Frank is researching his family history and Claire is exploring the countryside. One day she goes to one of the local henges (ring of stones), Craigh na Dun to gather herbs and flowers. She is taken back in time 200 years and finds herself in the middle of a very different Scotland. The Highland clans are still in power and she becomes a prisoner of the Clan Mackenzie (after meeting and being attacked by an English officer who looks so much like her husband Frank that she is momentarily fooled). One of the Mackenzie men who saved her from the English / kidnapped her as a spy is a young man named Jamie Fraser.
Diana Gabaldon made me feel like I was in Scotland and travelling right along with Claire. The writing is beautiful and intricate. There is a scene very early in the book where Frank sees Jamie (or a version of Jamie) looking up at Claire in a window of the B&B. At the time, you don’t know that it’s Jamie, but that’s the beauty of the story. The connection between Jack Randall (English officer in 1700s) and Frank Randall (Claire’s husband in 1945) make the story that much more interesting and emotional. Gabaldon’s description of castle life and the politics of the time fit so well and add a layer that so many authors wouldn’t have given us.
There are a few scenes or plot points that seem to have turned off some readers. For me, they made the book more realistic – I don’t expect (or even want) the characters to be perfect. Their mistakes and struggles are part of their story.
Yes, Claire did marry Jamie even though she was already married to Frank. They didn’t meet, court and fall in love. The marriage was one of necessity for both of them. Did they fall in love and become more than convenient spouses? Yes – can you blame them? I don’t think so. (Let’s just be honest – even when Claire has the chance to go back to Frank, she chooses Jamie saying that he is her heart and soul. Jamie loves her so much that he is willing to let her go if she wants but she stays. There is something to be said for fate.)
OK – now on to the infamous spanking (some say beating) scene. This one is tough. I didn’t like Jamie hitting Claire. He warned her that there would be consequences if she ran off and endangered the men. She did just that (I agree that she had to and I even think Jamie agreed that she had to give it a shot once he knew the full story). Jamie was also in a tough situation. The men expected repercussions for Claire’s disobedience and at this time in history, Jamie couldn’t lose the respect of these men without potentially horrible consequences to himself and those he loved (i.e. Claire.) I don’t believe that Jamie enjoyed hitting Claire – I believe he enjoyed the fight she gave him. He loves her strength and this would be attractive to him. After this happened, I wasn’t sure what to think of Jamie. But, Claire made it clear to him that he would NEVER hit her again. He agreed and she forgave him and moved on. As a reader, I did the same.
Lastly, the torture of Jamie at the hands of Jonathan Randall was the hardest section for me to read. Beautiful writing about horrific acts. I expect that we will continue to see repercussions of this through the rest of the series. Claire is one tough woman though. Breaking in to a prison to save her man! Loved that.
Overall, I loved this book. It was one of my favorite reads in 2012 and I’ve already started the second in the series. I cannot wait to learn more of Claire and Jamie’s story. 5/5 stars. Recommended to anyone who can handle the violence – you will get some romance, history and sci-fi all in one book!