Author: Diana Gabaldon
Quite possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. That is how I would like to open this review. From page one of this novel the reader is bombarded by an assortment of characteristics that immediately attack the senses. The richness of the language used, the colourful characters, the scenic landscapes that you can vividly imagine, the charm of the Scottish and most importantly the intense, passionate love story that is the heart of this novel, lays the groundwork for this epic best-seller by the author Diana Gabaldon. Wow. This is a book that truly left me breathless from the outset and throughout.
So what is it about? As plainly as I can put it without giving too much away, Outlander is a story based around the strong willed character of Claire Randall, who throughout the novel both infuriates and delights me with her brazen, domineering personality. At the start of the novel we meet her as a world war two nurse who has finally reunited with her husband, Frank Randall, for a much needed second honeymoon, after being separated due to their duties in the war. The couple decide on Inverness as their honeymoon destination as Frank is trying to trace an ancestor of his by the name of Captain Jack Randall. Whilst his head is stuck in the books, our self assured heroine decides to wander around the area, in search of flowers and plants and visits the infamous ruins of standing stones by the name of Craigh na Dun. Claire touches one of the stones and faints, the stone turns out to be some kind of time travelling machine and when we next meet Claire she wakes up in a completely different era, the 18th century to be exact. (history recap, it’s the eve if the Scottish Jacobite rebellion)
After a being assaulted by a man who looks oddly like her husband, she is rescued by a band of kilted Scots,led by a grumpy but captivating man called Dougal MacKenzie, who naturally upon hearing her accent presumes her to be a spy for the British, a ‘Sassenach’ meaning outlander. Claire tries to prove her worth by using her medical training to re-align a dislocated shoulder of one of the Scots, a Jamie MacTavish (or Jamie Fraser as he is later known). Jamie of course becomes the second half of the novel’s love story but all will be explained in time. Claire is taken back to their Clan leaders home, Castle Leoch. Here Claire has to prove herself, using her medical knowledge, to persuade the Clan leader, Colum MacKenzie, Dougal’s brother, that she is not a spy. However Claire’s headstrong qualities result in her ending up in the most dangerous of situations,as she tries to escape the suspicious Scots to try and find her way back to Craigh na Dun. Her bids for escape become more and more futile, and desperate, Claire feels utterly and physically lost, but she has an unlikely ally in the dashing, brave and charming red head, Jamie, who has secrets of his own. With this in mind, the two strike up an interesting friendship and Claire keeps finding herself utterly drawn to his company.
And so begins one of the greatest love stories of all time. Torn between her loyalty to her husband in the 20th Century, but emotionally and politically tied to Jamie (trying so hard not to give too much away), Claire is ultimately faced with a choice, does she use her knowledge of history from the 20th century and chose to live a life in 18th century Scotland? Or does she remain loyal to a husband that she has been parted from for years due to the Second World War?
Oh the suspense! This book is fast paced, but at the same time takes forever to get through, as there is so much back story, characters introduced and plot thickenings, that you must concentrate in order to get your head around it all. The story supplies you with everything you would want in a novel: adventure, mystery, romance, history, murder and lots and lots of drama. The romantic moments are often so intense that one might find themselves blushing and thinking that Game of thrones has nothing on the love scenes in Outlander!However everything fits right in this book, the romance between Jamie and Claire is so enlightening and really over turns male/female roles at times. Claire is the teacher and Jamie is the student. However their passionate arguments also portray Jamie in a truly macho, man protects the woman role too. It’s all utterly contradicting, it’s brilliant!
What truly shocked me about the novel however, is the depth of violent happenings that occur throughout the novel. From witch trials to rape to female beatings to public whipping, I was left sick to my stomach with the graphic nature of these scenes. The reader is truly left gasping for breath, It’s shocking in nature and how the author captures the depravity of these situations is truly genius. I have read a lot of books in my time, and never have I come across such harrowing accounts of violence and such emotionally charged scenes. This is what sets Outlander apart from any other type of novel in this genre. With most books one begins to predict how the story will conclude, but I can assure you most certainly, you will never, ever predict this one.
This leads me to question what I like and dislike about the book itself. One issue I always return to, is my liking of the main character Claire Randell. On a whole, she is everything a woman would like to be, she has a career, she is smart, educated, charismatic and attractive sounding. However as Claire is sent back in time to 18th century Scotland, issues with the character begin to appear. Yes she is clever, but really for that particular day and age I don’t think she should have been so outspoken. In many scenes in the book she comes out as rude and insulting to characters that are quite high up in the pecking order and could annihilate her in mere seconds. And yes I understand her need to return to her real world and be reunited with her husband, but after she invests so much emotionally and physically with Jamie, I find it hard to sympathize with her character when she acts so stupidly and disregards things Jamie has done for her. As to the other characters, they’re all fantastic, well rounded beings that all play a pivotal role in the story. Jamie is perfect as the hero of the story, and the author perfectly balances his ego with a glimpse of innocence now and then. However another issue that I must raise is this so called ‘innocence’ of Jamie, again without giving too much away, I found it very hard to believe that in that day and age, he would be so uneducated about the goings on in the world. Don’t even get me started on how he must punish Claire in one of the scenes of the book, which I’d love to get feedback on people’s opinions of this particular event. It was shocking and unethical but I suppose that is the aim of the author.
Overall however, this book is the most provocative, thrilling, stimulating, intriguing, dramatic, breath taking, shocking, spine-tingling, rip-roaring (I could go on with the adjectives for days) book I have read in a long time if not ever! The author magically gives us this time travelling world that is both realistic and magical. She gives us this epic love story which is the heart beat of the plot, these two characters that are so charismatic, we feel as if we know them. The historical aspect also adds to the drama and flair of the era and provides the reader with an insight into life back then, Also the use of the Scottish accent and dialogue adds to the charm of the novel and really makes the reader want to pack their bags and head to the highlands as soon as possible.
I could not recommend this book enough and I am thoroughly eager in awaiting comments/opinions from anyone who has also read this book and enjoyed it as much as I did. I would also like to point out that by the end of the book I was trying so hard to slow down my reading speed so I could savour the story while it lasted a bit longer.
I await your comments with delight!
The Busiest Bee.