REVIEW – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Book Cover Image: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Title:  Outlander

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. 

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14 Responses to REVIEW – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  1. Diane
    December 20, 2009 | 5:25 PM

    I am so glad to see you loved this book. I've heard nothing but positives, yet I still have not read any by this author. Hopefully in 2010 that will change (I joined the Chunkster Challenge…LOL

  2. Kristy
    December 20, 2009 | 9:19 PM

    It's been in my TBR pile for about a year now. I must move it up!

  3. Michelle
    December 20, 2009 | 9:21 PM

    Diane – Actually, if you read this series, you will simultaneously achieve the Chunkster Challenge! I highly recommend this book. I truly was fabulous!

  4. Michelle
    December 20, 2009 | 9:21 PM

    Kristy – Definitely! And let me know when you finish it so we can compare notes!

  5. Joanne
    December 20, 2009 | 9:41 PM

    As a person who has read the entire Outlander series about three times, it is delightful to find someone who has just discovered the first book and loved it! If you think Outlander was awesome, wait until you read book #2 and #3 — they will blow your mind!!! (FYI – there is so much background info and characters in the series, Diana Gabaldon has published “The Outlandish Companion.” I highly recommend it once you get into the series. It contains a synopsis of the first four books, fun tidbits about how she researches and writes the books, an alphabetical list and description of hundreds of characters, etc… I love it!

  6. Michelle
    December 20, 2009 | 10:05 PM

    Oh, Joanne! My self-restraint will only get me so far. With words like those, I have a feeling I will be bringing book 2 with me on vacation after all!

  7. animlgrl
    December 21, 2009 | 1:38 AM

    Ok. So perhaps this makes me a horrible bibliophile, but just the cover of this book and its title would prevent me from reading it. I DO judge a book by its cover (so bad, so bad). BUT, your review makes me want to reconsider. Even the theme (18th century Scotland? blech!) seems horrible to me, but you were SO enthusiastic about how much you loved this book (and everyone else who has read it as well!) that I might *might* have to squeeze it in (sorry all other 400+ books on my shelves waiting your turn!)

  8. Robin of My Two Blessings
    December 21, 2009 | 1:54 AM

    Great review. I look forward to reading the book.

  9. Stephanie
    December 21, 2009 | 7:52 AM

    You know, I've never read this one either. So many people have talked about it, but for some reason I've always lumped it into that dreaded “Romance” column. Guess maybe I should read it??

  10. Michelle
    December 21, 2009 | 8:48 AM

    Brandy – I do know that there are people out there who do not like the story. The Scottish Highlands were fascinating, only because it is 1743, and you really don't read much about the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s; I love history enough to enjoy that aspect of the book tremendously. It is also a love story – lots of sex and turmoil and angst around that. It keeps the story moving, in my opinion, because you can see the main characters grow and change through their interactions with each other. It isn't a happily-ever-after type of book either, which is what I liked the most. I will be curious if you like it if or when you do read it!

  11. Michelle
    December 21, 2009 | 8:48 AM

    Robin – I would love to get your thoughts on the book when you read it!

  12. Michelle
    December 21, 2009 | 8:50 AM

    Stephanie – Yes, it is a romance, but not a happily-ever-after type of romance, you know? The main characters struggle and have to deal with some major issues/situations and they do it in such a way that it is extremely realistic (IMO). I would classify it more as an action/adventure romance rather than just romance. And the historical aspect of it is fascinating. Can you imagine going back to 1743 and thriving? I shudder at the thought…

  13. stacybuckeye
    December 22, 2009 | 3:59 PM

    I am so glad you loved this book! I adore this series, although I'm only on #5. Jamie is pretty much my ultimate romantic hero. My husband even read it (well, okay, I made him) and he liked it too. There's enough action and history and war to keep a man interested.
    I met Gabaldon at a book signing a few years ago and she is lovely and very smart.

  14. Michelle
    December 23, 2009 | 6:11 PM

    Stacy – Jamie does rank up there on the ultimate romantic heroes. I'm still a little miffed at actually spanking Claire. It was the only chink in the armor, but other than that, I just want to put my arms around him and give him a big hug. I can't wait to read the rest of the series. I've been thinking about seeing if my husband would be interested in reading it. I kept telling him how good a book it was. Maybe that peaked his interest?

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