OUTLANDER
Diana Gabaldon

 


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Delacourt Press, July 1991
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
 
OUTLANDER is the first novel in a stunning historical series featuring Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser. Claire Beauchamp is an English woman from the year 1945 and Jamie Fraser, a Scotman from 1743.
 
Claire Beauchamp Randall is enjoying a holiday in Scotland with her husband, Frank Randall. Seven years earlier they had been married in Scotland, but the war had separated them--Claire worked as a Royal Army nurse and Frank in military intelligence. They are hoping to spend some time getting reacquainted in Scotland before Frank takes up his appointment as a history professor at Oxford. While staying at Mrs. Baird's Highland bed-and-breakfast they discover some strange goings on. The locals still practice some of the ancient feast and old Druid superstitions. Near Beltane--the spring equinox--Frank and Claire witness a secret ceremony at the Craigh na Dun standing stones near Inverness. Hidden in the bushes they watch while the village women conduct their Druid rituals. On the following morning Claire returns to the standing stones to gather an interesting plant she spied as they watched.  When she enters the sacred site she finds herself trapped by the screaming stones and tumbling through time.
 
At first Claire believes she is caught up in a reenactment of a historical Highland battle or on a movie set. When she is captured by an English Redcoat, Captain Jonathan Randall, who is the image of her husband Frank, he quickly and violently dispels that theory. But just as quickly she is rescued from the Englishman by a band of Scotsmen. Now Claire finds herself on the run across Scotland with a band of outlaws and MacKenzie clansmen. She is suspected by both the English Captain and her Scottish captors of being a spy, yet Claire can give no reasonable answers to any of their questions. She is taken to Castle Leoch, where the MacKenzie Laird plans to hold her for ransom as soon as he can discover who to demand the ransom from. Claire carefully bides her time, looking for an opportunity to return to the stones to try to return to her own time.
 
Claire is asked to give medical help to one of their injured clansmen, an outlaw named Jamie. James MacKenzie Fraser is the young laird of Lallybroch.  He's been hiding out with his mother's family, the MacKenzies  because he can't return home. There is a price on his head for killing an English officer. When he is seriously injured in a skirmish with English Dragoons, Claire treats his wounds. Jamie is fascinated with the mysterious Sassenach, a Scottish term for outsiders. Later when Claire is commanded to appear before the English by Captain Randall at Fort William, the MacKenzies can find only one option to keep their captive. She must marry one of their clansmen. Jamie steps forward as the answer to Claire's troubles--if she marries a Scotsman, she can ignore the order to appear. The longer she remains lost in time the more complicated and dangerous things get and the more torn she is between her two lives.
 
OUTLANDER is a rousing, richly textured, romantic adventure, but to call this tale a romance is in some ways misleading.  It is filled with passion, drama, romance and danger, but what you may not find is a happily ever-after ending. The love story of Claire and Jamie is powerful, and at 627 pages it is compelling enough to warrant over five volumes being written about them. They are my all time favorite fictional couple. The stakes are huge for Jamie and Claire, and the bleak obstacles they must face cause them in the end to become larger-than-life characters.
 
Claire is a resourceful woman who readily adapts to the incredible changes she is faced with. The risks and demands placed upon her are staggering and readers will enjoy watching her grow into the fierce woman she becomes. Jamie is an extraordinary hero; his private vulnerabilities and untamed strengths make him a fascinating and unforgettable character. His ability to recover from injuries alone is quite astonishing. I guess it's lucky for him Gabaldon gave him a woman who knows a bit about modern medicine. 
 
Gabaldon is a powerful writer -- her storytelling ability is seductive and her sense of humor lightens the misery of painful events. The series consists of six books, OUTLANDER (1991), DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (1992), VOYAGER (1994), DRUMS OF AUTUMN (1997), THE FIERY CROSS (2001) and A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES (2005). This story contains several graphic battles and torture scenes and explicit sexual descriptions.
 
February 2005
updated/revised October 2005

 

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