I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...
In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she innocently touches a boulder 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 border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning 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 passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. (source)
The wonderful thing about books is that each book has the potential to be a new favorite. It very rarely happens, but every time you start a new book, it could end up being one of the best you've ever read. And on the rare occasion when this does happen, it's absolutely magical. This is the experience that I've had with Outlander. I am very late to the party on this (the book was published in 1991), but I'm so very glad that I've finally been able to read this book. I've stumbled upon a new favorite series and I can't wait to continue with it.
To begin with, the plot of this book is pretty much perfect for me. It's historical fiction with romance and a touch of magic blended in, set in the Scottish highlands in both the World War II era and the early 18th century by virtue of time travel. Though romance is certainly prominent, the plot is well-developed outside of Claire's love life and at times, romance is only a subplot - which, in my opinion, is the best possible scenario.
Each character was superbly crafted. Claire is one of the best heroines I've ever encountered. She's imperfect, but still very much likeable, even though at times I wanted to strangle her for some of the choices that she made,
Gabaldon was also very good about straddling the line between making Claire a damsel-in-distress and making her invincible. Claire is definitely in no way prepared to be running around with Scottish highlanders, and there are many, many times when she needs to be rescued. But she also does a fair bit of rescuing herself, and she has her own unique skills to bring to the table (hello, 20th century nurse training). As for Jamie, he is most definitely my all-time favorite male love interest in all of literature so far. Yes, even exceeding my previous favorite, Rhett Butler. Like Claire, Jamie expertly avoids being too perfect, but is still absolutely wonderful. As much as I liked Claire, I think Jamie has to win Favorite Character of the Book Award. Also, I was so happy with how Gabaldon developed their relationship, starting with a strong foundation in friendship and then getting to know each other before finally starting to fall in love, even though the steps in between were a bit out of order. For them, it worked wonderfully, and I greatly appreciated it. The secondary characters were just as well-developed, from the despicable Jack Randall to grumpy but sweet Murtagh, from feisty Jenny to cunning Geillis. I loved these characters (except, of course, Jack, but I loved to hate him!) and I can't wait to meet more as I continue with the series.
This book is very, very long - my copy was around 850 pages. Personally, I've never been one to fear lengthy books. Some of my favorite books are in the 500+ page range and I love them for it; I found the same with this one. But I will admit that when I saw how long this book was, I was skeptical and worried that a lot of it would be fluff. If I'm being honest, I do think that this book could definitely stand to have some parts cut out, as they're truly not all necessary -- BUT I would not want them to be. Outlander's major plot is fantastic, but what truly makes this book great are all the little parts that don't come off as important. These little parts are where Gabaldon shows you the heart of her characters and the heart of her story. Because of that, this book does not feel like an 850 page long book. It feels like a delicious story that just keeps giving you more to love - and what reader doesn't want that?
On the subject of plot, I have to commend Gabaldon for how much work she must have put into not only this book, but also the rest of the series (assuming, of course, that the other installments are as fantastic as this one). Just planning the story alone must have been an back-breaking task, and the care that it must have taken to develop the finished product must have been exhausting. Not only did Gabaldon create an original and thrilling story, but it's clearly well-researched - she did her homework, and it shows.
I am so happy that I've read this book, and I can't wait to continue with the series - and hopefully watch the TV series, once season 1 is released on DVD since I don't have Starz and I'm afraid to watch shows illegally online, haha. If you like historical fiction, romance, fantasy, or are simply looking for a good book that will captivate your imagination, I highly recommend Outlander. I do want to place a warning for those who might be sensitive to this - Outlander is extremely graphic at some points, and it does include abuse and rape. The rape issue is especially gut-wrenching in this story, but I think that Gabaldon handles it well. This story is emotionally exhausting at some points, but so satisfying and completely worth the time it takes to finish reading.