This is one of my all-time favourite books. I’ve read it three times – no, actually four times now. With the Starz series due out this spring/summer, I wanted to have the story fresh in my mind.
If you haven’t read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander yet (It’s been out for 20 years, now), here’s what you’re missing.
Claire Randall, fresh from World War II as a field nurse, is celebrating the war’s end on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. But in a strange turn of events, she finds herself transported back in time to the year 1743, where she is promptly accosted by her husband’s ancestor, the truly villainous Black Jack Randall, and rescued/kidnapped by a band of unruly clansmen. They take her back to Castle Leoch, the seat of Clan MacKenzie, preventing her from returning to her own time. There she gets to know her captors, brothers Colum and Dougall MacKenzie, their charming nephew Jamie, and a host of other characters while she sets up a modest medical practice.
Faced with the problem of what to do with this “Sassenach” or Outlander, Dougall forces Claire and Jamie to marry to save her from falling into Captain Randall’s hands, whereupon they fall in love.
It all sounds – dare I say it – outlandish when you put it that way.
But Outlander is so much more than the sum of its parts. Romance, history, action, medical drama, mystery, fantasy all blended together in a magical combination.
The characters are all wonderfully multi-dimensional. Claire is a fascinating heroine: strong, feisty, smart, and sympathetic. Told in first person, the book is her story. Jamie is a perfect foil to Claire, and a very normal, albeit larger-than-life, male. Their relationship, from its inception, is refreshingly realistic. They fight, they make up, they laugh and cry. And so does the reader.
Gabaldon’s chief strength is in her willingness to dive deep into the treasure trove of human feelings. Even after four reads, she still has the power to pull me along with her characters into all their experiences. As she herself said at a recent fan event: “This is how you actually show character: by putting people through a really hard time. And I have no qualms about doing that.” Outlander is proof.
Because of that, she doesn’t shy away from anything. So be it 18th century warfare or the aspects of a marriage, there’s a lot in this book that might make it unpalatable for sensitive readers.
Other than that, it’s well worth a read and it just might end up on your favourite books list, too.
Here’s a trailer for the show, too, to give you a better idea. 🙂