Thursday, May 31, 2012

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Outlander
Diana Gabaldon
Dell
Copyright: 1992
978-0440212560

The amazon.com product description:
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone 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's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning 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 passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Outlander is the first book by Diana Gabaldon in this series, which now comprises ten or eleven books, including the spin-off series about Lord John Grey. There's also the graphic novel, The Exile, which retells the first half of Outlander, but from Jamie's perspective rather than Claire's.

I've read Outlander a few times now, but it has been a few years since the last read, so it was a bit like coming to the book fresh again - I'd forgotten a lot of the details. I also noticed a few different things about the book too - including just how descriptive it is. Diana Gabaldon has managed to make this a very visual book in the way she wrote it. Something I quite enjoyed, as it made the unfamiliar details of the landscape, clothing and peoples faces very vivid. Rather than bogging down the storyline, I found that all the details just made it better.

Not only that, but the author has a knack for making you laugh. There were so many different points where I found myself laughing - especially at bits of dialogue and some of Claire's thoughts. One of my favourites from the first pages of the book:
Dinner the night before had been herring, fried. Lunch had been herring, pickled. And the pungent scent now wafting up the stairwell strongly intimated that breakfast was going to be herring, kippered.
The entirety of Outlander is from the perspective of Claire, and it's kind of neat to see historical events honestly through modern eyes (or relatively modern as the case is). Too often in historical fiction I've found that the characters feel as though they're modern characters in ancient dress. In this case, that's not an issue as that is exactly what Claire is. She's been transported from 1945 to 1743, so her modern attitudes and knowledge works.

Honestly, this book is a bit hard to categorize. At first glance and the blurb it seems as though Outlander is a historical romance, but on reading it, the book doesn't fit that pattern at all, but at the same time, it's not quite a straight on historical fiction piece either, as that would exclude the time-travel. I just call it fiction and don't try to categorize it too hard, rather I just enjoy the story and it's many focuses.

The first time I read Outlander, I didn't realize that it was the start of a series. I only discovered that fact after I finished the book, and then I was going away for several weeks. I remember finding it hard to settle for any of the books I had, wanting to find the sequels to this one, but having to wait until I got home again. I've got something of the same sort going on right now, as I no longer own the middle books in the series, just the first one (kept because it's a signed copy) and the last few.

If you haven't read Outlander yet, and you like good historical fiction, I'd definitely suggest giving it a try. All I can say is that I've loved reading it several times over now, and I'd love to one day go to Scotland and actually see the place for myself.
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