Outlander is first and foremost a time-travel story. Claire Randall, a young married combat nurse in 1945, is whisked away,back in time to the Highlands of 1740’s Scotland. She and her husband were visiting Inverness for their delayed honeymoon. The war had interrupted their new marriage and prior to this they had barely seen each other in five full years. The honeymoon was planned as a relaxing vacation and time away for Claire and her husband Frank to reconnect, but it became a place of almost complete disconnection instead, in ways that neither of them could ever have imagined.
During an outing alone, Claire is thrown into a time before cars and planes, before tanks and machine guns, before antibiotics. If women had little voice in the 1940’s they had none in the 1740’s! Within moments of arriving, breathless and confused, she faces imminent danger and she is whisked away from her arrival point, not knowing if she can or will ever find it again. We follow her life as she is forced to adapt to her new surroundings, and meet new people, making the best of her situation but making enemies as well as friends along the way; as she is a ‘Sassenach’ – an outsider with an English accent, who may never truly ‘fit in’ or be fully trusted by the born Scots.
When she meets James Fraser, an unlikely friendship begins, and the most unlikely (yet somehow believable) romance follows. The book synopsis states that: ‘James Fraser shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire- and two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives’ I have to agree and couldn’t put it better myself!
Will Claire ever get home again? Will she still want to? These questions and more followed my path through the pages and kept me spellbound until the end. I thank goodness that it took me so long to discover this series, as I don’t think I could cope with not knowing how the story would progress in future installments. Imagine reading the first book and having to wait a year before you could find out what happened next?
It took me several attempts to get into ‘Outlander’ I have to confess, but I’ve learned since then that quite a few readers also suffered teething problems with this first book. However, once I was ‘in’ I couldn’t pull myself away from it, so I’m so pleased that I persevered. My problem was that these books demand your full attention. I couldn’t read them whilst the T.V was competing in the background, or when people were distracting me. Usually this never bothers me and I can tune out background distractions easily, but with these books, I found that I needed total peace in order to fully immerse myself into them. Once I had, the rewards were great.
Gabaldon’s writing is very detailed. She can take pages and pages to describe a scene that would be only short moments in ‘real time’. Yet her talent lies in those details. In my opinion, her ability to describe every aspect of a scene is nothing short of alchemy itself. Perhaps that is why I needed total silence and zero distractions while reading her books. I needed to focus on the words completely and needed to be fully relaxed in order to sink into the story and permit myself to be fully captivated by it.
Be warned, these books are not for snacking on. Starting at 627 pages long, (Outlander Hardback) they are a full meal; in fact they are a veritable banquet. Outlander is packed full of meaty conflicts between clans, brawls between the British and the Scots, and the tenderest morsels of romance too. There is never a dull moment.
True, some critics complain that there is an overindulgence in sexual violence, and at times I think it can shock; as details are brandished about in all their Technicolor glory, (or perhaps that is my own imagination working overtime?) and we are never in any doubt about ‘what exactly happened’; but then others have argued that this is only Gabaldon painting a very clear picture of those brutish times – and Gabaldon is nothing if not authentic in her details.
I felt the heartburn acutely by the last page. In fact I’d say that I suffered indigestion for the full two days that it took for Amazon to whip out the desert to me: Dragonfly in Amber- hardback at 743 pages.
In that day before delivery I was suffering from a severe book hangover, and I found myself manically scouring my bookshelves for something light and fluffy to cleanse my palette between courses. A quick sip of silly later, I was fortified once more and couldn’t wait to crack open the next installment of this huge Scottish saga.
And so when I open the first page of Dragonfly in Ember and discover that I am back in Inverness, I gasp. When I note that it is now 1968, I am now shaking. What? When? How?…. Claire?
To find out, I strongly suggest you pick up this series soon.
Lots of love, Sally xxx