For years – and years! – I have been hearing good things about Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and its sequels. I bought myself a copy a very long time ago, and it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. I really did want to read it, but it’s hard to find time for an 850-page epic. That’s the beauty of my Big Book Summer Challenge; with both of my regular book groups taking the summer off, I have no reading obligations and plenty of time to tackle hefty books like this one that I have been wanting to read.
I read Outlander over a 3-week period while we were on vacation, and it more than lived up to all the hype I’d heard. It was perfect vacation reading: the story pulled me in and kept me reading – yes, through all 850 pages!
It’s the story of a young British woman named Claire who, in 1945, is vacationing with her husband, Frank, in Scotland after the end of the war. Frank worked in intelligence during the war, and Claire worked as a nurse, so they are reuniting after a long separation. Frank is into genealogy and is taking advantage of their time in Scotland to gather more information about his ancestors.
The excitement begins when Claire visits an ancient stone circle in the area and is somehow pulled into the past: far into the past. Stuck in the 1730’s, Claire does her best to survive and blend in. She meets one of her husband’s ancestors whom Frank had been studying, Jonathan Randall, and he turns out to be a nasty, sadistic British officer. She also meets a young Scot named Jamie who has inadvertently made himself Randall’s greatest enemy. Of course, Claire’s modern medical training is extremely useful in the 1730’s, though as a woman, she is viewed with suspicion as much as gratitude.
This is an epic novel, filled with battles, castles, warriors, heroes and villains, and romance. It is also a very graphic novel, with some exceptional violence and explicit love scenes (and, disturbingly, sometimes the two intersect). In fact, my husband read Outlander a few years ago and found a scene toward the end just too disturbing – that kind of ruined the book for him. As for me, I’m no fan of violence, but I enjoyed this compelling novel in spite of its graphic nature (I do understand that violence was a part of life during that time in history). I came to really care about Claire, caught between two worlds, and I was rooting for her. I often enjoy time travel stories, but this one is also so much more. I think I need to find time to read book 2!
850 pages, Bantam Dell