I do not recall ever having read a novel with a total of 627 pages prior to reading "Outlander.” Each one of those 627 pages was totally enjoyable if you set aside the notion that it is partially science fiction and could never have happened.
This story, written by Diane Gabaldan, is completely narrated by the main character, Claire Randall, a World War II nurse whose husband, Frank, served in the army for six years, during which time they were never together. At the end of the war in 1945, the couple traveled on vacation as a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland where Frank was interested in searching his family roots. Claire was interested in researching plant life, as her medical background taught her the value of herbs for healing.
Author Diane Gabaldan
Their adventure took them to an ancient circle of standing stones (one might imagine Stonehenge was the locale) where they observed what they discovered were witches dancing in front of the stones. Claire returned alone to the spot later to retrieve a local plant which she had observed there. And our story begins.
Claire fainted after hearing a strange buzzing sound coming from the stones. She found herself in the presence of one of her husband Frank’s ancestors, Captain Jack Randall, who bore a strong resemblance to Frank. Claire was rescued from the clutches of the Captain by a Scottish redhead named Jamie Fraser along with two of his uncles, Colum and Dougal MacKenzie. In the brawl that took place, Jamie Fraser dislocated his arm. Claire’s nursing experience allowed her to put Jamie’s arm back in place, for which Jamie was filled with gratitude.
Claire slowly became aware that she had been transported to the past. She was now living in the 18th century, precisely 1743, two hundred years before her time. She could not forget her husband Frank, however, and wondered if she could somehow slip away to the standing stones to return home.
Map of Scotland, showing Inverness (6)
Claire was regarded as an Outlander, the Scottish word for this being “Sassenach,” a nickname with which Jamie Fraser always used to address her. The MacKenzie clan began to respect her for her healing powers, but Colum wondered if she might be an English spy. They want to keep her from the clutches of Jack Randall, and suggest to her that she should marry Jamie Fraser which would be her best protection against that enemy. Jamie, twenty-three years old, was not against the idea.
The wedding took place, and Claire became the castle healer, taking care of the ills of all of the workers and the clan members. At the castle, she was befriended by another healer who claims to be a witch, Geillis Duncan, who is married to the procurator of the area but is pregnant with Dougal MacKenzie’s child. Claire became aware that Geillis had also traveled back in time when she noticed that Geillis had a vaccination scar.
A series of conflicts took place, putting the lives of Claire and Jamie in jeopardy. However, from the time of their marriage, every page of “Outlander” relates their love-making as the two recognize the deep love that has occurred between them. The love scenes are portrayed quite delicately, and should not be offensive to anyone. But be prepared to read about this on every single page.
Claire is often chided by other women in the court for not getting pregnant, which is difficult for her to experience. Some of these women resent her for marrying Jamie, an eligible bachelor who could have had any woman he wanted.
“Outlander” is the first of a series of eight stories which continue with the same characters as they move forward with their adventures. The seven sequels are: Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. I have not yet read any of the sequels.
A version of “Outlander” has been adapted for television, extending its appeal to a larger audience. The novel was initially published in England with the title “Cross Stitch.”
New York premiere of the first season of the TV series Outlander
Cutting across a variety of genres, “Outlander” is primarily a romance novel, but has characteristics of several genres, such as science fiction, time travel, medicine, war, historical fiction, family relationships, and escape from harm. I was able to enjoy this novel over a period of a few months, having received it as a Christmas gift.