Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Publication Date: July 1st 2014 (This edition. First published in 1991)
Publisher: Random House
Length: 850 pages

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.

Unless you have completely avoided the internet for the last year or so, you will have heard the word ‘Outlander’ bandied about at some point. This is due to the insanely popular TV series on Starz that started airing its debut season in August 2014 and is currently airing the second half of the season on Saturday nights.

Based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon, the novels have suddenly received a new surge of interest due to the tv series as a whole host of people turn to the books to fill in gaps, find out what happens, and generally sate their unquenchable appetite for the incredible love story between Claire and Jamie.

I was one of these people. I watched the first eight episodes and promptly demanded all the Outlander books immediately. Because reasons. I stormed through the first book and it both sated all my Outlander needs and made the wait for the second half of the season to air nigh on unbearable, because this series is incredible.

Let’s start with Claire, the driving force behind the story. She is an incredible heroine – headstrong, feisty, determined and full of love and loyalty. She is a modern woman thrown out of her own time and forced into a time and situation where her gender plays heavily against her. She brings modern thinking and ideas in like a whirlwind and sweeps everyone up along with her. It is because of her that the book is so compelling to read – she drives the narrative and you cannot help but fall in love with her and want to know how she survives and thrives in this alien world she has stumbled into.

And then of course there’s her counterpart… Jamie Fraser has now set a new standard for fictional heroes. He’s young, yes, and filled with the ideas and status quo of the period he has grown and lived in, but he is also loyal and gentle and prepared to listen to Claire as an equal and adapt and grow so that their relationship is a truly modern affair with both of them holding equal power instead of Jamie ‘owning’ Claire. He loves her – that much is obvious – but the depth of feeling and emotion depicted in the book swept me away. He is the epitome of the romantic hero, full of fire and daring and love and whilst he desperately wants to protect Claire he also acknowledges she is a strong and independent person in her own right. They compliment each other perfectly, which serves to make the romance and relationship one of the strongest in fiction and one of the highlights of the novel.

The first section of the novel is a little slow to get moving, but once you are into the bulk of the story and are following Claire through the trials and mishaps of being a very modern woman in a very unmodern time you become completely immersed and swept up in the tale. I couldn’t put the book down and stormed through it in a night. Gabaldon has a rare talent of combining compelling and interesting characters with a well-researched and thoroughly realistic look at life in 1743 Scottish Highlands and all that that entails. The politics, the clans, the day to day existence – it’s all beautifully rendered in a captivating story that thrills along at an incredible pace. It is a world populated with fascinating and realistic characters and I found myself utterly enthralled as it touches on everything from the bigger politics and shifts of a time when Scotland was desperately fighting to regain its independence to the smaller pieces of life, the superstitions and traditions. I love Scotland and this furthered my love of the country and its history and brought it to life for me in a way other fiction and mediums haven’t yet captured. Despite the magical idea of time travel this is a novel very much rooted in real life, and other than that one breach of reality to get Claire back to 1743 the novel feels real, which makes it even more terrifying to experience some of the scenes later on in the book when hysteria and a lack of understanding whip events up into a frenzy of terror.

I cannot recommend this book (and subsequent series) enough. Coming to the series now you’re also spoiled for choice as the Starz production of the first book is lovingly brought to life with an incredible cast and absolutely stunning scenery. It’s such a faithful adaptation that satisfies long term fans as well and offers a second entry into the imaginative and captivating story that Gabaldon has created. If you’re still not convinced, check out my article detailing five reasons why you should watch the tv series here.

This is an incredible book, one that became an instant favourite and one that I will return to again and again. It is so many things and not just a romance, but the love story at its heart is one that will stay with me forever.


  1. 850 pages. Wow. I mean, I knew it was big, but WOW. I'm still only on episode 7 of the show. *hides in shame* I NEED TO GET BACK TO IT. I'm pretty sure I was like, right in the middle of the wedding sex too haha. This was such a fantastic review, Rosy!

    1. GET TO IT! It is SUCH a good show, I love it! But also mahoosive trigger warning for the final two episodes. It is an absolute door stop of a book, but unlike some other massive books I flew through this one, it's very accessible writing which helps. THANK YOU <3 :)

  2. I really, REALLY want to read this, but I'm just so daunted by its size! Sounds like it's definitely worth it, though...

    1. It really is, it's fantastic! And I know it's huge, but it's much easier to get through than a lot of other books this size - the writing is really accessible and I just flew through it. I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up!

  3. Yes! This book is so fantastic. I read it years ago and I'm going to be rereading the series this summer, if I can find the time. My mother read these books as I was growing up and I read them when I got old enough. They are so good! Jamei and Calire's relationship throughout the books is so touching and realistic. I love following through the decades, still as in love as ever. The only issue with the books would be that they do tend to have slow parts and there is a ton of rape and almost rape. But they are so good! I recommend just about anyone read them. :)

    Vicarious Caytastrophe

    1. Yes, there are quite a few slower scenes and some very hard parts to read, but the relationship really drives it. It is such a wonderful and loving relationship to witness. I hope you find time to come back and re-read it over the summer!