Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon 
Series: Outlander #1 
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy 
Publication date: June 1, 1991 
Rating: ★★★★

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.

So anyone who has been following me closely knows that my journey through Outlander was ‘bumpy’ at best. It got me in a huge reading slump and it was a real struggle to get through it. But – despite everything I loved the book. A lot. So please don’t get discouraged by the length. It took me over a month to read Outlander but it was worth every second. Here’s why.

I love historical fiction and it had been way too long since I’d read anything of the sort. As much as I love YA, there are some things the genre doesn’t quite cover. And that’s really not a bad thing, but I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed this until I started reading Outlander. Everything was so accurately described, well explored and layered. Do you get what I mean? This kind of book is just different. The complexity is astonishing. There are so many characters and storylines and yet somehow the author manages to bring them all together and to tie everything up perfectly. I greatly admire this kind of writing.

But just then, for that fraction of time, it seems as though all things are possible. You can look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before. And it's as though knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary.

As I said, there were a lot of great characters, but I’m only going to talk about the main ones. Otherwise this post will become a book on its own and it’s better for you to get to know them yourself anyway.

Claire Beauchamp is the main character. She’s a nurse in 1945 England when a miracle brings her back two hundred years in time. Lost and without anything but the clothes on her body, she suddenly finds herself in the Scottish Highlands in 1743. She loses everything she holds dear, most importantly her husband Frank who she’d just reunited with after the war.
I liked her a lot. She was sharp, intelligent and not about to let anyone decide her life for her. She stranded in a world where women are hardly more than property, but somehow she managed to hold her own. To win respect and friendship in a world ruled by power-hungry men.

Did I mention this book focuses mainly on romance? Well, I’m doing it now. Somewhere along her journey, Claire meets Jamie Fraser. He’s young, full of strength and somehow able to throw her already messed-up life completely upside down. She’s drawn to him in a way she doesn’t want to acknowledge, but before long she is undeniably and completely lost.
I wasn’t as taken with Jamie as she was. Not in the beginning at least. To me he seemed a bit of a brute at first. He was nice enough, but then there were things that really made my skin crawl. But – as I got to know him better I started appreciating him a lot more and by the end of the book I wouldn’t want Claire to be with anyone else.

“Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you're mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”

Which doesn’t mean I have forgotten the things that made me angry. I did learn to grudgingly put them in perspective. The setting feels very authentic. Life in 1743 Scotland was still very medieval and so were the people. So sword fights were just as common as rape and the burning of witches. Unfortunately. There were times I really wanted to hit Jamie in the face, I was SO ANGRY, but I had to remind myself that his behaviour was understandable given the time. Which does not mean I have forgiven him. I’ve definitely grown to love him and I can understand, but it still doesn’t entirely justify his actions in the beginning.

Oh, and there’s also a lot of sex. Like – a lot. You should decide for yourself if that’s good or bad. ;D

That's what marriage is good for; it makes a sacrament out of things ye'd otherwise have to confess.

Note: Has anyone seen the tv show yet? I really want to watch it but I don't want the second book to get spoiled. But if I have to read the entire series first... well, it'll take me a while. Let me know!
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