May 2, 2015

Review | Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon {website}
Publication Date: 1991
Publisher: Dell Publishing

Series: Outlander {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just 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 circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

This is one of those books that is so wildly popular that I’ve been terrified to read it. There’s an aura of mystique that surrounds this book, a secret fan club that gets a knowing look in their eyes when they see you carrying this book around (and it’s a tome, reaching over 800 pages). The girl at the book store began raving about it when I stepped up to pay, claiming, “It’s magical. You’ll LOVE IT.” (I swear she italicized and capitalized her words when she spoke. It was that intense.) I expected to like it, but I didn’t. I LOVED it (Yes. With caps).

Now I need to be honest – this book sat on my nightstand for a good week. I got through a few pages a night, but that hook wasn’t there quite yet. It was a great premise – how on earth is she going to get herself out of this mess? – but it didn’t grab me.

Then I found season one of Outlander at the library.

I needed the context, the faces to put to names, to fall truly in love with this story. The show intrigued me, but it was the book that caught me. After that, I couldn’t put it down. I read while I did my makeup (a tricky thing, let me tell you), while I cooked dinner (only burned one pork chop), during my lunch, and late into the night. I couldn’t get enough.

When I returned to the book, I found myself fascinated by Claire’s struggles, and boy, she has enough. Her core struggle, the yearning to find her true place in life, got to me. Most of us don’t face falling through the rabbit hole every day (or in this case, the faerie hill), but Claire’s struggle to find a place for herself is something many of us deal with every day. Her life in 1945 isn’t quite as satisfactory after the war is over; I feel like she detected a great joy from being useful, being helpful, and felt a bit at loose ends when she and Frank journey to Scotland. 1743 Highlands isn’t her own time, but it gives her a chance to work at her trade, to get her hands dirty, and to be useful. Watching her struggle between that satisfaction and attraction to Jamie and the loss of her old life and husband pulled at my heart, and I had to know what choices she’d make, what she’d do. 

The other theme that made me fall in love is rather a bit more simple: true love. No, don’t roll your eyes: this isn’t exactly the Disney true love. This is the heart-wrenching, real-life, brutal and beautiful true love, the kind that knocks your breath away and steals your heart. I’ve read a fair amount of romance, but Outlander is one of the few that forces the romantic heroes to make the tough choices, to actually show the depth of true love instead of simply stating it. There are some things Jamie and Claire do for each other that I don’t know I would have the strength to. On many of those scenes, I had to skip ahead to know it would be okay, then go back and read. Gabaldon addresses true love as it should be: heart-wrenching and glorious with your best friend and partner. 

While the narration didn’t grab me in the beginning, I started tearing through those 800 pages, sunk into the smooth narrative and unwilling to climb back out to the real world. I could hear the quiet of the Highland nights, the laughter in the castle, the neighing of the horses. It was simply immersive.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to immediately reread a book, but Outlander makes me want to revisit it again and again. The next time someone spots me reading the book, like the checkout girl at the bookstore, and gets that glint in their eyes, I’m going to “OH, I KNOW.” It’s that good.

Posted May 2, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

2 responses to “Review | Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Haha I did a post on Outlander a while back, this past summer… and even did a fashion post on it, too, for College Fashion!


    I'm glad to hear that you liked it… it was a little lengthy for me (or maybe I was just a little too impatient to get to some of the other books I wanted to read), but I thought the historical/cultural side of it all was pretty fascinating. Maybe I should give it another go?

    • Ooh, I'll have to check that out! 🙂 Yeah, it's a bit long, but the pace keeps it moving forward, which helped a lot! Honestly, I wouldn't put a deadline on this one, like I normally do – this is a book that's better read when you feel like it, if that makes sense.

Leave a Reply