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Review: Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Outlander
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #1
My rating: {★★★★☆}

Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Published July 26th 2005 by Dell Publishing Company (first published June 1st 1991)

Source: Purchased
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.
I was forcedasked to read Outlander by a very good friend and reading buddy who was convinced that I would really enjoy at least the start of this series - and I'm happy to report that she was correct! For a large and time consuming read it was worth it and I will be continuing this sweeping tale.

Historical Fiction Romances aren't really my normal kind of read however this book wasn't one that I could easily and simply categorise. There's no cut and dried formula or recipe followed here with the plot or the romance or ANYTHING really and while getting used to Gabaldon's prose was something of a slog at first, I grew to appreciate her carefully crafted sentences and descriptive scenes with precise attention to detail.

There's quite a lot of graphic content included but this IS an adult book and takes place mostly just prior to the Jacobite rising of 1745. There are whippings and torture, raids and skirmishes and sex (both of the consensual and non-consensual kind) and a lot of this is in explicit detail which can be difficult for some readers to bear. I have absolutely no idea how accurate the setting/events are but I like to think that the book is well steeped in real history. The world building is rich and magnificent and the characters are well thought out to the point of being intense in their complexities.

The story really follows two main characters, and while the story is told from Claire's POV it is as much Jaime's story as it is hers. Both characters are flawed, sympathetic and incredibly compelling and really just such fun to read about.

Claire is a twentieth century field nurse who falls back in time to eighteenth century Scotland. She's resilient, adaptable and I really enjoyed her character. Her choices aren't always ones that I liked seeing her make, but I felt that everything made sense and her motivations were generally clear.

Jaime is a Scottish landowner and soldier and is basically a quintessential good guy but is also a product of his times. Fiercely loyal and honourable there really isn't much about Jaime that I didn't love. He's definitely the hero of the story and one fit for the heroine, and not least because they are both possibly as stubborn as the other!
“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone,
I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.
I give ye my Spirit, 'til our Life shall be Done.”
The plot is both engaging and meandering so there were parts of the book that flew past and then there were times when I struggled. Although, I have to admit that for such a large tome it was fairly fast paced. There's also some quietly unexpected humour that made me laugh out load at times and it just made the book and the characters that much more endearing.
I had one last try.
"Does it bother you that I'm not a virgin?" He hesitated a moment before answering.
"Well, no," he said slowly, "so long as it doesna bother you that I am." He grinned at my drop-jawed expression, and backed toward the door.
"Reckon one of us should know what they're doing," he said. The door closed softly behind him; clearly the courtship was over.
It's definitely not a book for everyone, but I think if you enjoy it you will REALLY enjoy it and if it sounds like something that would interest you then I encourage you to pick it up.
“Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you're mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”