Author: Diana Gabaldon
No. of Pages: 850
First Released: 1991
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “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.”
Comments and Critique: Where has this book been in my life, and why has no one demanded I read it until this year? Seriously, I was absolutely stunned by the deliciousness of this book. Even though it came very highly recommended to me by others – I believe many mentioned it was their favorite book of all time – I remained dubious and tried to keep my expectations low. That may or may not have played in my favor. All I know is that this book left me an emotional and mental wreck; my heart raced, my stomach churned, and I could not get Claire and Jamie out of my mind the entire time I was reading the book.
Speaking of Claire, I love the fact she is such a strong female main character. She is not afraid to make the tough decisions, even though she knows how much trouble it may cause. However, I was left wondering if this were more her character itself or the generation into which she was born. Another question that kept running through my mind is whether she truly loves Frank. She doubts his fidelity during the War; she mocked his interests/passions and did everything possible to ignore them. To me, I did not see the love there, especially when compared to her love for Jamie.
As to Jamie, all I can say is “Hot Damn!” He has a childlike abandon to life that is very endearing, but the reader is never left with any doubt that he is ALL male. One can’t help but fall in love with him and weep over his plight. His pragmatism is both frustrating and yet one of his best characteristics. And let me just say how nice it is to read about a major male lead who has chest hair. I get tired of reading about all these smooth chests and arms. Granted, that may be my personal preference, but it also seems more realistic to me.
Captain Randall is the villain we love to hate, isn’t he? I also liked how Frank’s research of him differed from the true man. If that isn’t a not-so-gentle reminder that history can easily be distorted through the years and that we should not believe everything we read in history books, then I don’t know what is. It also serves as a reminder not to romanticize the past. Unfortunately, because of the romanticization of Black Jack, his appearance, in my opinion, makes it impossible for Claire to choose any other path than the one she chose. If she had gone back through the stone circle, she would have never been able to forget either Captain Randall, and subsequently Jamie. Because of their physical likenesses, her attraction/love for Frank would always be tainted by her experiences with Jack. It is an interesting conundrum but adds great tension to the book.
One can’t discuss the book without mentioning the backdrop, as they are very much another character. The Scottish Highlands are charming but tough, beautiful but extremely dangerous, mystical but yet realistic. They reflect the characters of the Scots themselves. The dialect was easy to understand and made me feel like I was really in Scotland. I would get a rude awakening each time I finished reading, and someone would speak to me without using a Scottish lilt. I was completely immersed in the book, and I feel it is due in large part to the realistic portrayal of life in the Scottish Highlands in 1743.
Overall, if you can’t tell by now, I feel that this was one of the best books I have read all year, if not the very top of my list. I will gladly put this in my top ten favorite books of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book and cannot wait to read the rest of the series. Thank you to all my friends who recommended this to me. You all were absolutely correct in your estimations of it. This is the last book for my Fall Into Reading Challenge. I definitely saved the best for last.