Category: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Fantasy – Paperback: 850 pages – Publisher: Dell (Random House) – Source: My own shelves
First Published: 1991
In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.
A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats – and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie 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.
This book counts for the BBC Big Read reading challenge.
This book is a whirlwind of just about every genre of novel writing and yet it really, really worked for me.
The lead character, Claire, vanishes from 1945 while on second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband Frank. They married just before WWII and have come back from the war very different people, he has been a soldier and she is now a war-hardened nurse. They need time to get to know each other again and re-build their relationship and lives. Claire vanishes after feeling dizzy on a visit to a stone circle.
At first she thinks she has passed out and been woken by a very realistic film crew or re-enactors society, rather reluctantly she realises she has popped out in the middle of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1743. She has no idea what she did to trigger the time travel and is captured by a bunch of Scots warriors who take her far away from the stone circle that links her to her own 1940s life. As the days pass and she realises she can’t escape home and may never return to Frank she finds herself falling in love with one of the warriors, Jamie, and building a life in the very different world of 1740s.
So, in this one book there’s time travel, Scots history, romance and passionate sex, plenty of sword fighting and swash-buckling and a story about having accept the loss of a loved one (Claire is as cut off from Frank as if he died in WWII and it’s hard for her to deal with), religion and clan loyalties. It’s a truly unique book and Claire is an amazing heroine – equal to any male hero of historical fiction – and a very rare lead female character as a result. Gabaldon used to say she challenged readers to pick a page at random and she’d give them a dollar if they didn’t want to continue reading when the got to the bottom of it, she never lost a dollar. It is one huge technicolour romp through the two worlds and it sinks its hooks in deep, this is a story that is incredibly easy to got lost in and love. Recommended. Even guys love it, despite it being all sorts of weird and normally-pitched-at-women genres.
Rating: 8/10 (My Book Review Scale)