“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

“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.”  (Goodreads synopsis)

Despite discovering this series of books fairly recently (within the last year) I have completely fallen in love with eighteenth century Scotland and the relationship between Claire and Jamie. As probably many book enthusiasts will know, while it is a very popular series I feel a lot of people will be phased by the sheer length of the series (8 books which are all fairly hefty, this book having 863 pages). Having seen so many of posts on Instagram about this series though I had to give the first book a try and I’m so happy I did! For lovers of romance, adventure, history, sci fi and danger Outlander covers it all. As the synopsis describes, the story revolves around a young women Claire Randall who when on a trip to Scotland with her husband Frank after the Second World War, is transported to 1743 Scotland. Immersed in the Highlanders way of life Claire is forced to adapt to this alien world inamongst danger and passion.

One of, if not the most appealing thing about the book and indeed the series, is the aspect of escapism it gives to the reader. Gabaldon’s writing is wonderfully immersive with rich descriptive language. The unique blend of a somewhat sci fi theme (with the time travelling element) fused with the historicism and romance makes for an enthralling read. The plot being so complex further adds to its immersive qualities and is partially a test for the reader in trying to remember everything! I ended up taking a very long time reading this due to having to read other texts for uni and came back to it a little overwhelmed forgetting where I was. I actually bought the Starz adaptation of Season one of Outlander to watch alongside which helped rejog my memory aswell as it being interesting to compare the adaptation alongside the actual plot (which I actually found quite accurate to the text, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe do an amazing job depicting the relationship between Jamie and Claire). Another aspect of the book I loved was the complete sympathy and loyalty you end up feeling (or at least I did!) for the Scottish clans. If you’re keen on this period of history it’s known through the book that the imenent rising of Culloden will be the end of the Scottish clans and a lot of the culture that the book revolves around. I somewhat found this a disturbing and unsettling force in the novel, but definitely made me question my opinions on colonisation of culture and how life shattering it can be for those who experience such a thing. Being a History student up until A level, I’ve always had the opinion that ‘English are best’ and have alligence to when I learnt about battles or invasions. This book actually help me sympathise and shed a new light on my own preconceptions.

One reservation I could give about the book and specifically the adaptation is the graphic nature of some of the scenes. Not only does Gabaldon put explicit emphasis on the physical side of Jamie and Claire’s relationship but also on the amount of blood shed in various schisms between the Scots and Redcoats, definitely not a book for the faint hearted!

Ultimately the novel has inspired me to slowly attempt to complete the rest of the series (I actually bought the second book Dragonfly in Amber about halfway through the first book!).

I’d love to hear about other people’s opinions on the book and series, feel free to contact me about it and get a discussion going 😊

Happy reading! 📖

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