Flashback Friday Review – Outlander

Flashback Friday is my new blog feature where I’ll review an older book that’s been published for some time.  I’ve got lots of great books sitting on my bookshelf that I read years ago.  Books that hooked me on a genre or ones I like to revisit.  It seems like new books get all the blog love these days so this is my chance to highlight some old favourites. And I’m kicking this off with one of my all time favourite books.outlanderTitle: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Release Date: June 1, 1991
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Find it: Amazon | Indigo | Goodreads
Genre: Romance / Historical Fiction
My rating: 5/5

Summary:

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.

Originally published in 1991 I don’t think I first read Outlander until sometime around 2002. This turned out to be a good thing as it meant I didn’t have to wait to dive into the next book. The series is now eight books long, with three novellas and a spin off book series chronicling Lord John. In addition there’s the Outlandish Companion with all sorts of extra information, an Outlander graphic novel, and the books have inspired a cookbook that features recipes inspired by the series. To top it all off there’s now a television series that is in its second season and has been renewed for two additional seasons! To say that this is a well-loved series is probably understating it. And because of that, I’m not going to give you a typical review of the book. There are lots of those that you can read. I will say this is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve re-read it more than once and doing so is like visiting with an old friend.

So here are my reasons why I love Outlander:

1) It’s beautifully written – I know that Outlander is sometimes cast as a romance novel, and while there is romance it’s also just an epic story. And a well written one too. The scenes are descriptive, the characters are well developed and the writing is just all round good. Most of the secondary characters are also well developed and you’re likely to have a few favourites among them too (Ned!). The book is meticulously researched and that comes across the page. It’s the kind of book that sucks you in and makes you lose track of time.

2) James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser – Ahh Jamie! He’s my ultimate book boyfriend. He’s got the whole strong warrior thing going, while also being incredibly sensitive. What I really love though is his sense of humour, his sense of justice and his political savvy. His ability to think on his feet and avoid a number of political pitfalls is sexy. What can I say, I like a hero with a good brain who looks good in a kilt.

3) Claire Randall – I have mixed feelings about Claire. I love her moxy. She steps back in time and doesn’t hesitate to tell a room full of what appear to be highland barbarians what to do. But there are times I feel like she would drive me nuts if we were friends! None the less I love her. She’s smart, strong willed, and able to be independent, while still forming lasting relationships.

4) The wedding night – so, bit of a spoiler, Claire and Jamie get married. And the whole wedding day is one of my favourite parts of the book. I love their wedding night, it’s sweet and funny and incredibly sexy.

5) Scotland – Okay mostly I just love Scotland, but the setting is a bit of its own character, especially as we travel the countryside with the characters. I thoroughly enjoy feeling like I’m visiting the country without having to leave my home. It leaves me wanting to do one of those Outlander tours and following the characters journey.

6) Time travel (sort of) – I generally like a good time travel story, but this one makes the time travel aspect so secondary to the rest of the plot that if you’re shying away because you aren’t into the time travel /sci fi aspects, don’t. Claire travels back in time through standing stones, and much of the book is her trying to find her way home, but it’s really a historical fiction. And I felt the time travel part was done very well and allowed you to suspend disbelief.

7) So much story – this is a long book…896 pages long. Don’t let that scare you off. You’ll be so glad it’s long when you get to the end and are wishing for more. The book tells the full story arc and in the style of other epic reads, like The Thornbirds, you don’t want it to end.

8) External conflict – the love story between Claire and Jamie is central to the book, and yet it’s the external plot that drives the book forward. Set during the years leading up to the Scottish uprising where there is a lot of political turmoil, Claire is quickly caught up with Jamie in his role. Her knowledge of what are past events for her and current events for everyone else means that she has to decide how much she wants to try to influence the future. There are so many things that happen and so much action in this story. It’s a real epic adventure with villains, fights, prison breaks and of course a spot of cattle rustling thrown in for good measure.

9) It’s an epic love story – maybe I should have lead with this one. Claire and Jamie have one of my favourite love stories. It’s not all perfect. They definitely have some bumps along the road, and there are certainly disagreements, but they have that deep, lasting love and watching it develop is delightful to read.

10) Diana Gabaldon – I’m pretty sure Diana has some sort of super power. I don’t know how she keeps up with the amount of stuff she does. She writes extensively, and has been working on a number of Outlander related things for the past few years as the TV and merchandising has taken off. She’s active on social media and between that and her website there’s lot of extra information to be found if you want to dive deeper into the Outlander world. Just be warned…book 9 is in the process of being written and so spoilers for the first 8 books abound (it’s been 25 years…I think it’s safe to assume if you’re late to this party you’re going to have to work harder to avoid spoilers).

If you haven’t read this yet I highly recommend you pick up a copy right now! If it’s been sitting in your TBR pile for a while move it to the top. You won’t regret it. If you have read it, did you love it?  Have you watched the tv show? What do you think?

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