“There’s no place on earth with more of the old superstitions and magic mixed into its daily life than the Scottish Highlands.” – Frank Randall
As the story goes, author Diana Gabaldon’s first editor once said, “These have to be word-of-mouth books because they’re too weird to describe to anybody.” I don’t know that ‘weird’ is quite the right word – I’d prefer ambitious – but there is no question that Outlander is a genre-bending literary trip unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
The book opens in 1945 with former WWII combat nurse Claire Randall and her academic husband, Frank, on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Having been separated for three years by the war, Claire and Frank are quite eager to rediscover each other and begin a family. What Claire discovers, however, is something she could never have imagined.
While out strolling in the countryside one afternoon she comes across an ancient stone circle. As she wanders through it she feels a distinct sense of displacement and unease and, upon regaining her bearings, realizes she’s no longer in 1940s Scotland. She has, in fact, been transported back to the war-torn Scottish Highlands of the mid 1700s.
Taken in by one of the Highland clans, Claire puts her skills as a nurse to use as their new healer. Though she tries her best to adjust to the bizarre circumstances, initially Claire always has one eye on finding a way back to her time and her husband. But when circumstances force her into a marriage of convenience to one of the clan members in order to avoid being arrested by the English, Claire soon finds herself torn between her old loyalties and the dashing young Highlander, Jamie Fraser.
Outlander may sound like a straight-up historical romance, but there is much more going on. The warring between the Scottish clans and English military is depicted in several intense battles, the challenges of daily living are vividly brought to life, and the brutality of the punishments handed out to law breakers is graphically described (English Captain Jonathan Randall is a particularly nasty piece of work). There’s even a good old fashioned witch trial.
Clocking in at 650+ pages it’s safe to call Outlander an epic tale, that’s for sure. Interestingly enough, however, the book ‘reads’ much quicker than that. I’ve read 600+ page books that felt as though they’d never end, but Gabaldon has packed so much action and intrigue into Outlander that by the time I took my first break from reading I was already on page 250 – the entirety of some shorter novels – with no effort at all.
Gabaldon has crafted incredibly engaging central characters in Claire and Jamie, as well as painting a wonderfully descriptive portrait of the 1700s Scottish Highland; it’s hard to imagine anyone who reads Outlander not being drawn into the continuing adventures of the Outlander series.
– CONTEST: Win “An Echo in the Bone” –
Speaking of which, as part of the celebration of the trade paperback release of An Echo in the Bone, the 7th book in the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon’s publisher has been kind enough to offer one of my readers a chance to win a copy of An Echo in the Bone.
To be entered, just leave a comment below stating whether you are already reading the Outlander series – and if so what book you’re on – or if this is your first introduction to it. Please include your email address or url so I can contact the winner. Contest open to US/Canada (no PO boxes), and runs through August 14, 2010.
As part of the celebration of the trade paperback release of An Echo in the Bone, TLC Book Tours is putting the whole Outlander series on tour. Be sure to check out all of Diana’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, August 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 4th: The Literate Housewife Review (Voyager)
Monday, August 9th: Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Outlander)
Wednesday, August 11th: Starting Fresh (An Echo in the Bone)
Thursday, August 12th: Under the Boardwalk (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 16th: Planet Books (Outlander)
Thursday, August 19th: Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 25th: MoonCat Farms Meanderings (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 30th: Hey, Lady! Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)
Tuesday, August 31st: The Brain Lair (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 1st: My Two Blessings (Outlander)
Thursday, September 2nd: Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)
Tuesday, September 7th: That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)
Monday, September 13th: Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)
Tuesday, September 14th: Luxury Reading (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 15th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)
Thursday, September 16th: Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)
Friday, September 17th: Devourer of Books (Outlander)