Outlander (Outlander #1)

I joined the hype.

I had seen Outlander around but never picked it up because I had never actually heard of it before.  In my defense, that makes sense since the first novel of the series was published in 1991, which is a year before I was born. This summer I had seen many commercials for the series on Starz.  Once I realized it took place in Scotland, I knew I had to get the book. Since studying abroad in Scotland last Autumn, I have decided that one of my favorite places in the world is the Scottish Highlands.  This book was the perfect way for me to be in Scotland without having to spend money on a plane ticket.

Rating: 4 Stars
Published: January 1991
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Favorite Quotes:

“There were moments, of course. Those small spaces in time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and the light, and when both and neither surround you.”

And one that made me laugh out loud from the sheer ridiculousness of it…

“No wonder he was so good with horses, I thought blearily, feeling his fingers rubbing gently behind my ears, listening to the soothing, incomprehensible speech. If I were a horse, I’d let him ride me anywhere.”

Outlander is the story of Claire Randall née Beauchamp who goes on Holiday with her husband, Frank, after WWII is over. They travel back to the Scottish Highlands, a place of sentimental value to them. During the war, Claire was a nurse and Frank worked for the intelligence office in London. Being of English decent, they enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Highlands as well as the superstitious charms of the people residing there. After a trip to Craigh na Dun, Claire finds herself in 1743 amidst a battle of sorts between the redcoats and clansmen.  Suddenly a sassenach, or outlander, Claire just needs to bide her time before she can find her way back to the standing stones and get back to her own time.

Adjusting to life in the 1700s isn’t always easy for Claire.  She soon falls into pattern of healing those who are injured.  Lacking proper medicine, she makes due with her knowledge of plants.  More often than not, she comes across Jaime Fraser, a tall, red-haired outlaw.  The more time she spends with Jaime, the more she battles with thoughts of going back to her own time especially once she makes a place herself among the Scots. Will Claire choose to go back to Frank and the life she is accustomed or will she stay with the Scots and Jaime helping them with the knowledge she has of the future?

Once I read page 2, I was hooked. I had no idea what kind of writing this was, nor did I realize that it was technically a romance novel. Oops. Usually I’m much more thorough in my researching a book before I buy it.  But I blame the fact that it took place in Scotland. I was blind to everything else.

Having been to Scotland and seen some of the places mentioned in the novel, I was filled with beautiful imagery of the places that Diana Gabaldon describes. The constant use of the Scots accent has been slowly seeping into my own tongue.  Between a semester hearing those words and a week spent reading them, I’ve found myself occasionally saying words like “Aye,” and “ye ken”.  I find myself longing to go back to land of the Scots just to immerse myself in the language and culture.

Besides my own nostalgia for Scotland, the novel is compelling and the characters are well described and developed. You will find yourself hungry for more interactions between Claire and Jaime.  Claire’s precarious situation will find you rooting for her to make the decision that you feel is right. The setting is described so well that you will feel like you’re back in the 1700s, too, without proper showers wondering how they deal with bad breath and body odor.

The romance-y bits are quite steamy, so if you are wary of that kind of thing, I would prepare yourself to skip some pages. Don’t get me wrong, this novel isn’t ENTIRELY filled with sex. I mean, it is. But a lot of fighting, kidnapping, traveling, and imprisonment happens in the book, too. I’d take this over Fifty Shades, any day.  At least this has strong characters, some action, and plot development in between sexy times.

To sum up, I would put some Julie Fowlis (or any other Scots singer/folk songs) on your ipod, open a bottle of wine, and settle down to read Outlander. When you’re finished, open another bottle of wine and enjoy the TV series on Starz.

The reason that I am hesitant to give this novel 5 stars is because of SPOILERS.

YE HAVE BEEN WARNED, SASSENACH! 

What I didn’t like about this book was that Jaime beat Claire. He beat Claire, and liked it. Even after knowing what it feels like to get whipped, etc, himself, he still chooses to hurt Claire that way. Granted, in the context of things, I understand why he did it but he didn’t have to be as harsh as he was. But also, it’s not really done again so in a way, it’s unnecessary (for the plot) for it to be done in the first place.  It’s just not something that I like to read, historical fiction, or not.

I also don’t understand some of the things that Claire didn’t know about childbirth especially because she is a nurse.  One might make the argument that yes, she was a wartime nurse, but she also says that she witnessed a few births in a hospital. I don’t care how many drugs you give a woman, she is going to be in pain. While this may have a result of the time the book was written or set in, I have a hard time getting over the fact that a 28 year old women didn’t know the pain and labor a woman goes through during childbirth.

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