Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)

outlander

EBOOK; 864 P.
DELL PUBLISHING CO., 1991
SOURCE: PURCHASED

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.

TV and film adaptations truly have the power to pick-up backlist books and make the bestsellers again. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been enthralling readers since 1991, but I think it was only after the release of the trailer for the TV adaptation that the younger generation of readers became aware of it. In fact, Outlander is one in a long series of stories to take on new mediums of storytelling – The Song of Ice and Fire, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, The Martian, Room. Although book lovers generally prefer to read the book before seeing the adaptation, it must be admitted that these films and TV series often encourage non-readers or casual readers to return to the realm of reading. And yes, I confess that I probably wouldn’t have read Outlander if I hadn’t watched the pilot episode and got invested in the story.

Outlander is a historical fiction novel that begins in 1945 when the protagonist of the novel, Claire, travels to the Scottish highlands with her husband Frank from whom she has long been separated due to war. The trip to Scotland ties together with Frank’s upcoming post as a history professor and his interest in tracking down his heritage. Claire, however, is using the trip to reacquaint herself with her husband and think about her future now that the war is over. Fate, however, has other plans for Claire: visiting one of the many historical sites, she touches a stone and falls 200 years back in time only to run into Frank’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather and there after taken by Scottish countrymen who are planning to rebel against the English rule. Lost in time, Claire tries to adapt herself into her new surroundings whilst looking for a way to return, but finds herself attached to a young Scottish stable lad.

Sounds like your everyday time-travel historical romance novel? Think again. Outlander is a confusing, surprising and conflicting book. The beginning of the story introduces the characters, the time period and the surroundings, and in my opinion it was the point in the story that I enjoyed the most; I can definitely see why so many people have fallen in love with this book. I gobbled several hundred pages in just a few days. However, after the excitement of the new situation started to wear off, the book began to fall apart. The main focus suddenly shifts to the sexual tension between the two main characters which escalates in a span of few chapters, and almost as a counterbalance to all the romance, the book get violent – assault, rape, murder, torture, trauma, you name it. Violence itself doesn’t turn me off a book, per se, except when it’s used for no apparent reason than just adding more pages to the story. I mean if you thought Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life was torture-porn, steer clear of Outlander!

Aside from the violence, what confused me in Outlander was the lack of an overarching storyline. Usually books have several storylines, but there tends to be always one that is stronger, more emphasised, and that carries throughout the novel. In Outlander, however, none of the storylines seem to stand out; it’s more like a series of storylines that sometimes overlap, but mostly stay separated from each other. Having grown used to the overarching type of stories, reading this book was both distracting and fresh. I found the story hard to grasp at times, and especially towards the end the book started to drag on and on without any indication of coming to an end.

All this being said, what I loved about Outlander was its take on heros and heroines. The book steers clear of some of the most common tropes of the genre and doesn’t shy away from the cultural clashes between gender roles in different time periods. The book also takes acknowledges the aspects of both physical as well as psychological healing. Overall, I’m sad to say that Outlander wasn’t my cup of tea, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series. However, if you’re interested in historical fiction, Scotland and don’t mind violence or descriptions of sex, you might want to give this a try. I wouldn’t recommend this to younger readers, though, as it is rather graphic.

3/5

Seen without the suddenness of surprise, there was nothing frightening about the dead man; there never is. No matter how ugly the manner in which a man dies, it’s only the presence of a suffering human soul that is horrifying; once gone, what is left is only an object.

Have you read Outlander or watched the TV series, and if yes, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear other opinions on this book.