Narrator: Davina Porter
Series: Outlander #1
Published by Recorded Books on July 13, 2006
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Length: 32 hours, 38 minutes
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This stunning blend of historical romance and time traveling adventure has captured the hearts of millions of readers around the world and catapulted author Diana Gabaldon to the top of the New York Times best seller list. Outlander introduces an exhilarating world of heroism and breathtaking thrills as one woman is torn between past and present, passion and love.
In 1945, former combat nurse Claire Randall returns from World War II and joins her husband for a second honeymoon. Their blissful reunion is shattered when she touches a boulder in an ancient stone ruin and is instantly transported to 1743 Scotland, a place torn by war and raiding border clans. Will Claire find her way back to her own time, or is her destiny forever linked with Clan MacKenzie and the gallant James Fraser?
There is no better way to say it, but Outlander is EPIC. Och Aye, it is one of my favorite books/series of all time. Its sheer size makes reading it a bit of a commitment; however, for lovers of historical fiction and romance, it is worth every minute of the investment. The recent release of the ninth book in the Outlander series and a serious case of ‘droughtlander’ (the wait time between seasons of the TV show), inspired me to re-start from the beginning. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon embodies what I love most in a book; romance, history, and a fantastical reality. It sets up a multi-generational saga which begins at the end of one war and the beginning of another, and follows the intersecting, branching lives of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser. I want to detail all of the beloved supporting characters, conflict, and gritty details about life in 1700’s Scottish Highlands, but in the interest of time and word count, I’ll be circumspect and focus on the outstanding main characters.
Claire is a heroine worthy of the title. She’s smart and strong and her pragmatic approach to life resonated with me. She takes every circumstance in stride; even being flung back in time. I’d like to imagine that is how I’d respond if it happened to me (who’s to say it won’t?). Claire provides much of the narrative exposition, putting the motivations and actions of the 18th century players into perspective for the modern reader. Raised all over the world by an archaeologist uncle, she has a wealth of cultural and historical knowledge. This is augmented by her practical training as a WW2 nurse. She is cool in a crisis and thinks strategically. She doesn’t let the cultural norms of the time hold her back and uses nuanced tactics to achieve her goals. While she manages to face the physical and environmental challenges of her new surroundings head-on, I found her greatest challenge was internal; understanding love and family, and discovering how to be the truest version of herself.
Jamie is no less deserving of Hero status. “A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.” He’s remarkably enlightened, traveled, and educated for an 18th century Highlander, and seems about able to do anything. He is fierce and loyal and it is evident in his actions, as well as his words how much he loves Claire, his family, and friends. This is not to say he is without fault. He makes some serious mistakes, behaves like a brute, and is notoriously stubborn. It is interesting to see how the influence of Claire, time, and events shape him; how parts of his personality remain uncompromised no matter the circumstance. While Claire’s emotional journey takes more time, Jamie’s love for her is almost immediate and unwavering. He doesn’t hesitate to say what she means to him and is the source of many swoon-worthy quotes. “My heart has been yours since first I saw ye, and you’ve held my soul and body between your two hands here, and kept them safe.”
I held out for a long time on reading Outlander because of how I felt about two details that appeared to be tenets in the story arc; marital infidelity and time travel. Claire is married to Frank when she is tossed back in time. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I’d be OK with her falling for Jamie. Ms. Gabaldon spins a tale where the black and white of married/not married is suffused in grey and allowed me to get past that moral stumbling block.
As for time travel, I dislike this plot device in any genre of fiction. I prefer my worlds to operate in a linear function. I worry about the science behind it, paradoxes, and inconsistencies, but mostly, I just see it as ‘cheating.’ I don’t think it is spoiling the book to say Ms. Gabaldon successfully uses time travel in Outlander to not only set up a compelling historical romance, but to establish element of mystery with series arcing implications. I felt that Claire’s time travel was simply a piece of super-natural element that can (or does) exist in the real world.
The three hundred and five thousand words of Outlander tell a fascinating, eloquent story of love and sacrifice. But dinna fash! Its elegant writing, compelling characters, and amazing landscapes will make you wish the book was even longer!
If reading a book of this length is holding you back from Outlander, it is the perfect reason to try the audio. Davina Porter is a master narrator and does justice to every character in the novel. She seamlessly slips between the British and Scottish accents, and does a phenomenal job with the Gaelic. I listened for the first time at normal speed, where I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I listened at 1.25x this last time, and was easily able to follow.
Listen to a clip: HERE
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