The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is 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 stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
MY RATING: 5 STARS
I’ve reviewed this before on GoodReads and my old blog, but I reread it a few weeks ago and decided to change up a few things. My rating, for instance, has gone up one star since I first read it.
The time travel aspect still boggles me, as it does for most time travel stories. The whys, whens, and what-times still threw me off-kilter for a bit, though I’ve made my peace with that. On the other hand…800 pages? I’m torn here, because my instincts as a writer say that this thing could have been heaps and bunches shorter by cutting out anything and everything that did nothing to further the plot. But then, I get all mixed up because this doesn’t really have a plot, per se. And on top of it all, my sensibilities as a reader wouldn’t hear of cutting anything out, because I liked it all. I spent half the book in titters at all the humor, the last quarter in near-tears because of the turn of events, and all the rest of it racing as fast as I could onto the next page because I was dying to know what was coming. True, it took me a second to get through the first hundred pages or so because I realized how uninterested I am in Frank Randall, but still, I loved everything! Even what a harsher editor would call unnecessary!
Claire doesn’t get on my nerves so much. The little bits about her I didn’t like when I first read the book have grown on me and I’ve filed it more under “spunk” now. The more I analyzed her, the more I was impressed with how she handled herself and admired her spirit. She’s been dropped two hundred years into the past where life is vastly different than what she’s used to, and she adapts pretty well. She would have to, or she wouldn’t survive. I still don’t quite understand her being torn between Jamie and Frank, but I rule that down to MUCH more time being spent with Jamie and not enough with Frank, to see more of the latter’s merits and personality. Heck, given that they were apart for the first eight years of their marriage, I REALLY don’t understand! I suppose I’ll get over it, since she chose Jamie anyway, right?
And then we have Jamie…holy God and Jesus at Olive Garden, Jamie. Thank God he was human, as opposed to the stereotypical romantic hero, or I would have lost my self-respect for swooning over him the instant he arrived on the scene. He was mainly responsible for all the humor with all those jokes he was fond of making, and his genuine love for Claire was amazing. Lest we think he’s flawless, he’s also proud and stubborn and sometimes can’t keep his fat mouth shut, which goes a long way towards making him feel more realistic. Don’t you hate heroes in romance novels that are too good to be true? Not the case here! I’ve still got the urge to ramble on and on about how much I loved him, loved him to pieces, but I’ll skip that part and get onto the rest of the review.
A word about dialogue: I’m picky about it, as there’s nothing more annoying than reading conversations that never go anywhere, and while everyone does a lot of talking in this book, it’s always active. If it’s not contributing to the plot, it’s expanding on the characters, providing insight/entertainment, etc. Props for that. And we can’t go anywhere without a word about the sex…once it started happening, it didn’t really stop, and yet each scene didn’t feel like Jamie and Claire doing it just for the sake of it. They achieved some kind of growth through it and came closer together, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. Major points for that! It goes to show that it doesn’t have to be quantity vs. quality, you CAN have it both ways. It was never even too explicit or graphic. Ms. Gabaldon plays lots of mind games and leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination.
And did I happen to mention that Jamie is so awesome? I did? Well, then, moving on…
I wasn’t impressed with Jonathan Randall. He was a good villain, ruthless and intelligent and a horrible human being, but I think it was a little overdone for him to look so much like Frank. I get it, it adds to Claire’s emotional upheaval for him to look so much like her beloved husband, but for him to be a sadist on top of it was a bit gratuitous. What better way to push her towards Jamie than to make Frank less appealing by extension? It was too easy! And I have to wonder if the whole episode at Wentworth Prison was necessary. Maybe I’m too attached to Jamie, but I think that was going a bit too far playing with the reader’s emotions.
I get where the haters are coming from, but I freaking loved this book. The first time I read it, I turned around and read it again immediately after, which is pretty rare for me to do, and I think I love it even more every time I go back to it. For every nitpick I have about it, I have about three praises for it, so it’s not just a wash but a winner. And to think I almost didn’t read it in the first place! Horror!