Writing a review of Outlander is hard for me. I loved this book and all of the subsequent books in the series with fierce intensity. I also feel like they are so personal that to write about them is baring myself a little bit. Crazy, I know, but true.
I saw a post on Facebook recently that said I wish I never read Outlander so I could read it for the first time all over again. Or something to that effect. In many ways I share the sentiment but Outlander is also a book I never tire of picking up, it’s like coming home. This is my third reading of Outlander and I love it just as much as I did the first two times. My gut clenches, my heart hurts, and I laughed and internally swooned at all the same places.
Gabaldon has created two of the most intriguing, unique, captivating and utterly unforgettable characters in Claire and Jamie. Their story is of an epic love, so deep and so true they would go to the ends of the earth for each other – and do. Yet she makes them so real I like to believe somewhere, sometime Claire and Jamie did exist and maybe still do. I can never get enough of their story, the bonds of love bound so tenuously at first to a fierce and consuming passion for each other.
Outlander begins the story of Claire Beauchamp Randall on a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband Frank. Separated by war, they have come here to renew their love. One day Claire inadvertently steps through the stone circle of Craigh na Dun and steps into 1743 Scotland and a group of Scottish Highlanders fighting off a band of English Dragoons.
Thus begins the tale of Claire and Jamie. Stuck in 1743 with little luck of returning to her time, Claire is kept with the Scots men and led to the Mackenzie lands and to the Castle of Leoch where the chieftain and his brother will try to figure out just who she is, where she will begin a friendship with a young Scot named Jamie and the course of her life is forever changed.
Outlander is not just a love story. There’s something for everyone. The historical detail within the series is incredible. Diana Gabaldon is a phenomenal researcher and she not only has the ability to write a breathtaking epic love story but she places it in context with the times and captures the heart of the unrest of 1743 Scotland. Every step of the journey feels real and Gabaldon creates a setting where you can imagine these characters once lived and maybe in some way, sometime, still do.
When I try to describe the awesomeness of Outlander, I always think of the scene in the movie The Princess Bride when the grandfather is telling his grandson what the book is about. There’s love, intrigue, outlawry, fighting, deception, Jacobites, an evil villain, witches, passion, unrest, family. The list goes on.
Claire is a modern woman, stuck in a time when women were not assertive and did not speak their mind. Intelligence in women was frowned upon and women knew their place. Claire is all of these and none of these, she’s assertive, she speaks her mind and she doesn’t depend on anyone when she can do the job herself. She’s compassionate and willing to risk herself for others.
Jamie is everything you want in a leading man. He’s gallant and strong, protective and even tempered (for the most part). He’s sensitive and unabashedly in love. The things that come out of Jamie’s mouth, the pure sweetness, well it’s better than eating chocolate. Not only does he have the Gaelic and speak with a Scottish brogue but he can slay the reader with his heartfelt feelings for Claire and the way he talks to her. If I lived in that time, well I think I would need a snuff box because I would be swooning all the time.
There was one part that was difficult to get through and I still cringe on every re-read. I wish it could be wiped from my memory much as I imagine Jamie wishes the same but it’s there and it’s not going to change so like Jamie, I live with it. There is another scene in which Jamie demonstrates he is from another time in his actions to Claire. While it may be difficult to understand in our time, this is a novel not about our time. These things happened and the scene puts into perspective that Claire is living in a different time where the same rules don’t apply. Jamie redeems himself in his vow to Claire and the scene gives Jamie even more depth. He showed Claire justice as he was taught and both Claire and the reader unravel another layer of Jamie.
For me, Outlander and the rest of the books are some of the best books I have ever read. I love these books with a fierceness of a mama bear. Just knowing they are sitting on a shelf in my library is comforting, that I can go in a pick one of them up at will, or even just look at them. After I finished the series the first time, I was bereft; I didn’t know what to do with myself. These books suck you in and grip you until you feel as though you are a part of the scenery, a casual observer of the life and times of Claire and Jamie and you believe somewhere, in some time, these lovers do exist and they are together, happy.