Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...
In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder 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 border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning 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 passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. - Amazon
About a month ago, I had no idea what Sassenach meant, and now it’s clearly defined as and outsider within the Scottish Highlands, or an English person... or a most knee weakening pet name when spoken by the devastating James (Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie) Fraser. I couldn’t have imagined how much Outlander would have turned my literary life upside down with over six hundred pages of Scottish enchantment.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the historical time travel adventure of a woman named Claire Beauchamp, who during a ‘second honeymoon’ with her husband Frank in Scotland, finds herself transported from 1945 to the 18th century. There she meets James Fraser and the lot of Clan Mackenzie in a world weighted beneath revolution and civil conflict with the English, and more specifically, Black Jack Randall, a treacherous English Captain consumed with eradicating traitors.
Diana Gabaldon is a wondrous writer. I read somewhere that she wrote Outlander as a study to learn to write novels, thus allowing her imagination to flood the pages that have multiplied countless times over. One of the things that I found truly compelling was Gabaldon’s extraordinary eye for detail in her development of Clan Mackenzie, it’s various people, and the Scottish cultural folklore that saturates the entire novel. The task of realistically depicting, not only a historical time period, but one involving gaelic and Scottish dialects of English seems daunting at best. But Gabaldon commands her historical and cultural knowledge of Scotland so beautifully.
Claire Beauchamp is such a dream protagonist who devoted her time to nursing soldiers back to health during World War II, has a keen mind for botany, and refuses to take on the role of a demure woman. Her boldness is all the more stark once she is transported back to the 18th century, giving Jamie and the Clan Mackenzie a run for their money. It’s not often I’ve experienced a historical female protagonist who is celebrated for their intelligence and strength. What I found compelling was Claire’s process of adapting to an entirely different time that is both the antithesis of who she is, yet also compliments her a bit better than the 1940s.
Jamie Fraser *cue cheesy grin* is one of the most adorable male protagonists I’ve read in a long while. He is incredibly courageous, moral, and stands strong with such integrity. Paired with his strength is his vulnerability that shines through in most of his interactions with Claire. They have such a wonderful relationship because it is forged from friendship and mutual respect. It’s really beautiful to watch them fall for each other over the course of the novel. Unlike her marriage to Frank Randall, which seems to have simmered to a routine, she and Jamie have this incredible push pull relationship capable of growth because they teach each other a plethora of lessons about themselves.
Although, Outlander is very romantic, it doesn't shy away from savage realities of the time period such as its treatment of women, or the brutality of one cultural view versus another. Frankly, I was pretty surprised at the boundaries Diana Gabaldon crosses, especially by the end. I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for Jamie's experiences, in particular, but it makes me admire Gabaldon all the more that she did not merely write a romance, but one telling a very grand human story.
Bare in mind: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon contains sexual content, profanity, violence, and disturbing scenarios.
So much can be said of this novel. That it is a beautiful romance, a homage to Scotland and the magic that grazes their scenic landscapes and waxes lyrical in spoken Gaelic, or that the waterhorse exists, or that it allows us to take in the possibility of what can happen when one woman is transported back in time to aid a man and his clan. It is a monolith of a book that has its mundane moments, but not enough to overshadow its brilliance.
All I can really say now is that I totally understand why this saga has captured so many hearts. I can't wait to have a Scottish Adventure all my own one day. Once again the United Kingdom calls.