Outlander: A Love Story That Transcends Time
Caution: some spoilers! Outlander by novelist Diana Gabaldon is a flawless fusion of romance, history, and drama - with a drop or two of action. Last December, I was determined to find a romance novel that wasn’t Nicholas Sparks or John Green. I wanted something mature, yet adventurous. I wanted a piece with body; something I could sink my teeth into and feel the actual heart beating, something that radiated sentiment. That is exactly what I found in Outlander.
I had heard the title of the book various times before, but was always intimidated by the size of the thing - 850 dense pages! When you are a slow reader, 850 pages takes up at least a year of your life. Boy was I wrong! After the first couple of pages, I could not put it down. I took the book with me everywhere, just in case I had a minute or two to myself where I could peek at the pages and maybe get a glance at what was going to happen next. It’s 850 pages of pure thrilling fantasy.
Outlander is set in two different time zones - post World War II, 1946 Scotland and 1743 Scottish Highlands. The novel begins with British army nurse Claire Beauchamp, the novel’s heroine, and history professor and husband Frank Randall’s postwar honeymoon. After a long separation during WWII, they vacation in Inverness, Scotland: in hopes of rekindling their love and marriage. While on vacation Frank becomes interested in his family’s genealogy and discovers that he had an ancestor, Captain Jack Randall, who played an important role in the Jacobite Risings of the 18th century. Meanwhile, Claire busies herself exploring the Highlands and learning about botany.
During one of Claire’s expeditions, she encounters an ancient circle of standing stones - similar to Stonehenge - and decides to come back later with Frank, knowing that he will be interested in this historical site. On a special Scottish holiday, the feast of Beltane, Frank and Claire observe from behind some shrubbery a group of women, or Druids, singing and dancing in the circle. After the ceremony, the couple leaves, but Claire returns later that day to investigate some intriguing flowers she saw inside the circle. When she returns, she touches one of the standing stones and is transported back in time two hundred years.
Dazed and confused, Claire wakes up in a pasture right in the middle of a battle between British soldiers and Scottish men. In a weird turn of events, she stumbles upon Captain Jack Randall, her husband’s ancestor. He suspects her to be a British spy and resorts to violence and assault. While 18th century Captain Randall could be her husband’s doppelganger, he surely does not resemble him in attitude and behavior. He is a sadistic pervert and incredibly ruthless. Just before any real harm comes her way, Claire is saved by a Scotsmen and taken to where the rest of his clan is hiding out.
Claire is taken to a small cottage, where she meets the handsome (and godlike) Jamie Fraser, a Scotsmen who was injured in the battle. It is there, in that small cottage, that she meets the man that will turn her world upside down. That same night, Claire and the group of Scotsmen depart to Castle Leoch, where she will spend months as their guest and healer. During her stay at the castle, she develops a friendship with Jamie that later escalates and becomes one of the most coveted, pure, and passionate romance stories in fiction.
Outlander isn’t like the cheesy Twilight saga books or the unrealistic romance story of Fifty Shades of Grey. It encompasses so much more than just love and sex. Diana Gabaldon goes all out with her characters. It quickly becomes evident that she dedicated time and effort in developing the storyline and imagining the scenes. Her descriptive imagery and her colorful and vivid language brings the Scottish Highlands to life. You are transported into a world of tension, anxiety, profound love and sexuality, violence, and fear of the unknown. However, what is most impressive is that Diana Gabaldon has three degrees in science and decided to write a novel as a hobby.
Yes, Outlander is a lengthy read, and there will be plenty moments where all you want is to know what Claire will do. Will she stay in 18th century Scotland or return to a post-World-War-II world? Will she choose Jamie or Frank? With every page you read a new question will arise, and your hunger for what’s next will keep growing. But don’t fear, those 850 pages will make you fall through time with Claire Beauchamp.
Many dangers lurk in the darkness of the Highlands, and you will feel like you are right there with Claire Beauchamp, treading unknown territory and looking into the eyes of a beautiful Scottish man. Outlander’s popularity escalated quickly and the demand for more material motivated Gabaldon to extending the series and allowing us to live in this world a little bit longer.
The novel has even been adapted into a television series by Starz. It aired last fall and has received many positive reviews. Although, I am a bit skeptical when novels are adapted into screenplays, I feel that the energy and spirit of the novel communicates brilliantly on screen. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the pilot of the show and am now obsessed with Outlander (both the book and the tv series). One book down, eight more books to go!
Use caution when reading this book: you may soon want your other half to start calling you ‘Sassenach’.