Five stars (of five)
Outlander provides the reader with an intimate view of the early journeys of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, sure to be highly energetic and heart-wrenching, all created from the stellar mind of Diana Gabaldon. Claire and Frank Randall begin the tale on their honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, during the latter part of 1945. Together, they explore the countryside and use free time to hone Frank’s amateur genealogy skills, as he searches for the stories of his numerous ancestors in the region. While out and about on her own, Claire ‘falls through’ a collection of stones and finds herself tossed into the middle of a struggle between British Red Coats and Scottish outlaws. It is only after she’s taken in by Clan MacKenzie that Claire learns that she’s actually travelled through time back to the 1740s. Claire’s nursing skills prove useful, but raise many questions within the Clan and those in surrounding areas, none more than fellow clan adoptee, Jamie Fraser. He remains on the lam from the Reed Coats and Captain Jonathan Randall, his arch-nemesis. This revelation stuns Claire, as Randall is Frank’s six-time great-grandfather and has crossed paths with her early on during her time after the ‘cross-over’. While Claire is an Outlander, or Sassenach in the Gaelic tongue, she soon forges a relationship with Jamie. Their interest is briefly platonic but quickly blossoms into more and eventually they are bound to one another, for the safety of both parties. It is only at this point that the spark between them ignites and the story moves into its duel purpose narrative; to show the historical differences Claire faces and build the passion between the two main characters, both of which Gabaldon does effectively. As Claire travels and forges a life with the Clan (and Jamie), she learns that her fate as it relates to a twentieth-century life is anything but certain. The connection with Jamie is undeniable and their passion soon spills over onto the page, where love and lust co-mingle with survival and personal growth. Can Claire not only survive two centuries before she’s to be born, but also keep herself alive with all the medicinal knowledge she possesses? Gabaldon lays out an extremely powerful openly volume in what seeks to be an epic collection. A must-read for history lovers who can handle a lot of passionate descriptors of personal growth (pardon the pun).
Any sensible reader would take a look at this book alone and steer clear of beginning the Outlander series. However, with some Gabaldon experience, I can assert that while the novel (and its subsequent volumes) is massive, the story plays out both as a large themed work and a collection of vignettes or personal encounters both Jamie and Claire have with a number of different characters. The attentive reader can tackle the smaller occurrences and then weave them into the larger narrative. This fosters a better understanding of how Claire and Jamie portray themselves as characters and theme-builders. With a number of other characters peppered throughout, the story builds momentum without ceasing as each page passes, leaving the reader enmeshed in the middle of this wonderful story, which has only just begun developing itself. Patience is in order for any reader, like me, who wishes to scale the mountainous collection, but it is that perseverance that makes it all worthwhile.
Kudos, Madam Gabaldon for opening my eyes and mind to such a wonderful idea. Let us continue this epic journey and see what you have in store, with the sturdy foundations laid.