“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,
I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.
I give ye my Spirit, ’til our Life shall be Done.” – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
My oh my, this book. Where to start. Well, let’s just say that Outlander definitely did not cure my wanderlust for Scotland. I was there for a week and a half in January and this novel gave me major cravings for the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
I honestly did not know what to expect diving into this book. I had heard tons of praise for it, and obviously some producer somewhere loved it enough to format it into a series on Starz, but I wasn’t completely sold. However, I have been missing Scotland so much lately, that I decided the book’s setting was enough for me to pursue it. And man, am I glad I did.
Outlander follows the story of Claire, a woman living in 1945 who’s embarking upon a second honeymoon with her husband Frank after being separated from him during World War II. Flash forward to the couple’s immense curiosity about the Scottish Highlands’ so-called “witches”, who are performing a ritual at a stone circle nearby and sure enough, they decide to stay in the shadows and watch. Following the ritual, Claire and Frank explore the stone circle themselves and what do you know, somehow Claire winds up in 1743, in the midst of the war-torn Scotland. The novel then follows Claire’s journey in 18th century Scotland, where she works to uncover the truth of her time travel while also attempting to stay alive. That’s where Scotsman Jamie Fraser comes into the picture–a man who may, in fact, be Claire’s only chance at answers and survival.
That being said, Outlander is a love story, and if you know anything about me, I’m a sucker for romance. However, I think that what truly impressed me about Outlander is that it isn’t all about love and flirtation. Love is merely a coincidence here, as surviving the brutality of a warring nation is the main priority. There’s plenty of action to offset the romance, which maintains a steady balance throughout the 627-page story.
Speaking of romance, let’s talk about how life centuries ago is often romanticized nowadays. Sure, living off of the land, visiting castles, and venturing off with a mysterious stranger seems perfectly wonderful from our modern perspective–but this is a trap for historical fiction. These generalizations of such a romantic, peaceful lifestyle can often fill the pages of any historical fiction work. Yet I didn’t feel that way with Outlander.
The research that Gabaldon performed in order to describe the true violent, unpleasant environment that was the world during the 18th century makes this story fresh. Life then was often dark, cold, and dirty–and even protagonist Claire realizes how vastly her 20th century life differs from what she experiences two centuries prior. That’s not to say that the whole novel dwells on the harsh realities of life back then, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. Claire and Jamie experience many things together, not all of which are shiny and pretty. At one point Claire even says,
“Not for the first time, I reflected that intimacy and romance are not synonymous” (573).
And in this novel, that is definitely the case. There are quite a lot of lovely romantic scenes, but that’s not all the book has to offer. It goes much deeper and gets much darker than your average romance-infused novel would.
In regards to depth, this book is dense. But that’s not a bad thing. There’s so much detail that it’s not surprising that Outlander clocks in at over 600 pages. And that’s not even including the mass-market paperback edition that has over 800 pages. However, that much detail is completely necessary. The plot is constantly twisting and turning, which causes a whirlwind of emotions but it is totally worth it. It took me, in total, about a week and a half to plow through this book, because my reading speed was reduced to about 50-ish pages a night, versus my usual 100+. Despite my slow reading pace, I remained so excited to pick up this book and explore Scotland with these characters night after night.
All in all, I believe that Outlander is one of the best works of historical fiction that I’ve read to date. It makes me unbelievably happy that this novel isn’t a standalone, especially since I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of my copy of Dragonfly in Amber. I don’t give grand reviews lightly, so I’m thrilled to give this book 5-star praise.
Outlander: 5/5 stars.
(+.5 imaginary stars for letting me somewhat re-live my Scottish study abroad adventures and making me 10x more obsessed with Scotland than I already was.)