Date begun: June 16th, 2012
Date finished: June 20th, 2012
I'm breaking one of my own rules here, by reviewing a book that I haven't just read once before. This is actually the fourth time I read Outlander, but as it stands up so well, and is still one of my favourite novels of all time, I pretty much had to review it on my blog. Besides, I've completed the main Cannonball Challenge for this year months ago, so I can do what I like!
Claire Randall, a nurse, is on a second honeymoon with her historian husband Frank Randall in the Scottish Highlands in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Claire spent the years of the war patching up wounded soldiers, and the couple have barely seen each other for the last five years. They're trying to rekindle the spark of their marriage, when Claire is unexpectedly thrown back in time to 1743, not the safest of places for an unaccompanied Englishwoman of mysterious origins.
Can Claire ever return to her own time? Can a lonely Englishwoman stay alive in the tumultuous time period that is Scotland shortly before the final Jacobite Rising? Claire's fate becomes intertwined with that of a young Scot by the name of Jamie Fraser, and the longer Claire stays in the past, the harder it gets for her to convince herself that what she really wants is to return to her own time, and Frank Randall.
Mrs. Julien, one of the wonderful contributors and regulars on Pajiba, discovered Diana Gabaldon's epic series a few months back, and proceeded to read the epic (so far seven book) series (none of the books are under 750 pages long) in little over a month and a half. Because she and many other book blogging Pajibans discussed the book at length on the Cannonball Blog and Facebook, I was inspired to re-read the book for the first time in what must be at least seven, maybe eight, years.
I adore this book. I discovered the books in 1998, shortly before I was about to graduate high school, and I still thank my lucky stars that there was a teachers' strike that year, so I didn't have to do my final exams, because I'm honestly not sure how well I would've done on them - I was so obsessed with the series (the fourth book had just come out in paperback). I can honestly say that they contributed to my studying Scottish history in my first year of Uni in St. Andrews, and thus saving my degree, as it turned out I was much better at writing History essays than English literary analysis ones.
I love the research that Gabaldon has put into the books. I love that an episode of classic Doctor Who gave Jamie his name and gave Gabaldon the idea for the time period she wanted to set her novels in (and when I first read these books I'd never heard of the show, or seen a single episode). I love the characters - even though Jamie Fraser's awesomeness throughout the series ruins you for all other men, fictional or real. Even the villains are wonderful - and Claire is an amazing heroine.
The book has been classified as many things. Science fiction (although apart from the fact that Claire is sent back in time, there is nothing much sci-fi about them). I frequently find them in the fantasy shelves in bookshops and libraries (I guess it's pretty fantastic that Claire travels back in time). Romance, obviously, it's impossible to deny that at the heart of the story is the absolutely amazing love story between Jamie and Claire. But I would still classify them as historical fiction first and foremost, as they give wonderful insight into a time in the past, and over the course of the series, Gabaldon really does get to show off her research skills. I've learned about a huge number of things from 18th Century Scotland and later other parts of the world (don't want to spoil it for anyone).
Do yourself a favour. Join the many readers of Cannonball who have either newly discovered or in the past enjoyed this book. It's an amazing piece of fiction.