Okay. I've been putting this one off for a long time. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is literally my FAVORITE book and series. I don't even know where to begin talking about it! I will say I've read the entire series twice (these are ginormous books, guys, you don't even realize the time commitment there) and reread the first book probably four or five times (it's saved on my phone so I can always read Outlander when I'm bored). And then bits and pieces here and there for pick me ups when I'm having a crappy day ;) It's just that kind of homey, feel better book.
Outlander is about our main character Claire. She is an English World War II nurse who accidentally time travels to 18th century Scotland. If you're already scoffing about time travel, I would be too, but trust me it's not your typical cheesy time travel thing. In fact, the author, Diana Gabaldon, has said she had no intention of putting time travel in her story but her 18th century female protagonist was far too feisty and "modern" to fit the time period, so she had to find some sort of explanation for that.
“The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through rough country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man. At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn't rain. By the standards I was becoming used to, it was quite dull.”
― Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
So we have Claire. In 18th century Scotland, which is a scary place to be when the mean old English are running around reeking havoc. Claire winds up meeting Jamie, a very tall, very redheaded, Scot. They get along. He appreciates her inappropriate candor and watches out for her as she gets into all sorts of endless trouble.
Then circumstances force them to marry (small spoiler, but really, it's not...), but the small snag for Claire is that she already HAS a husband in her own time, whom she is desperately trying to return to.
Let the complication unfold.
Honestly, the story is huge, especially when you consider the whole series and the many years that pass. There is a vast amount of history that drives the plot forward. Claire arrives in Scotland just before the Rising rebellion against the English, which she knows is going to fail and decimate Scotland. So what does she do about that? Does she tell people and risk being the town nutter, who... you know, is likely to be burnt at the stake or something. She has to wonder if she even CAN change history, or if she should just run for the hills.
Claire is fantastic. I've been noticing lately how terribly some authors/movies portray women. Like they're either very feminine or very not. Mixing them and showing different facets of a strong female protagonist seems rare. Claire feels very real. She might be terrified sometimes, pissed off, irrational, right, wrong. She can be anything, yet it all fits with who she is. Her personality is consistent and she's a witty narrator, which I love.
"You--you--oaf! How dare you do that to me? You think I haven't got anything better to do with my life than trot round after you, sticking pieces back on?"
Jamie is... hm, there has to be a word for it... perfection? He's very strong and masculine, like you'd expect a Highlander warrior to be. But his humor, raw honesty, and respect for Claire and her independent thinking is what makes him so appealing to women (and men) of all centuries. He constantly has to save Claire when she's gotten herself into trouble (usually with her strong opinions) but does it in a way where she is clearly no damsel in distress.
"He will let you go because he thinks you are helpless. I know you are not."
Yeah, he always knows the right thing to say.
But he comes with his own past, family, and issues. I learned a lot about Scottish clans and the politics of that from Jamie.
There are other great characters, but the heart of these books are Claire and Jamie. And their relationship is fascinating.
"Sassenach," he said against my shoulder, a moment later. "Mm?" "Who in God's name is John Wayne?" "You are."
I don't want to go into too many details in case you haven't read the book and are as anti-spoiler as I am, but I'll just say it's nice to see a story that doesn't end at "they got married and lived happily ever after." Claire is married when this book starts and her life is just beginning. This is not a story about Claire and Jamie falling in love, though that obviously does happen. But that doesn't make for an eight book series (it's not finished yet). And it would make for a super cheesy story, and believe me, I know it sounds it, but it's really not. The story is more about the adventure of this time period, about reconciling Claire's past with where she is now, I mean it is OBVIOUSLY safer and smarter to return to modern times if she can... even Jamie knows that. So there come points where they wonder if she should just go.
There's a lot of conflict. A LOT of story. And it's all very worth it. I have to cut the ramble now because I could literally write forever about this series and not do it justice. It's one of those stories that doesn't fit neatly into any genre. You could call it historical fiction, adventure, romance, fantasy... and not be wrong, but not be completely right either. It's just everything. And you'll learn some history along the way :)
OH and the super exciting part is that Outlander is finally becoming a TV series! I think Starz wanted something to compete with HBO's success in Game of Thrones (also an awesome story, but the books... meh. Love the show though). You can watch the trailer for the show here:
It looks like it's going to very well done. I can't wait for August 9th :)
Have you read Outlander? What do you love about it? Leave me a comment, so we can become Outlander friends!