Paperback, 896 pages
Published 2005 by Dell Publishing Company
I started reading this book together with Cindy. A buddy read for August…while we both just finished watching the first season of Outlander. It soon turned into a DNF for Cindy, who just couldn’t get into it, and thought the pace was excruciatingly slow. I, however, being a stubborn twat and all, persevered and put it on my list to finish before winter kicks off.
The reason it took so long for me to finish was mainly (about 95%) because I was reading about what I had already seen a month before. I thought it was very well written, though, with a pleasant focus on detail. Something perfectly suitable for reading before going to bed as well, because I already knew the plot and didn’t have to deepen my frowning wrinkles any further due to it being such a relaxing read. So what I’ve been doing for the past months is reading a bit every night before turning off the lights. Hence, it took me over 3 months to get here, writing this review. Be warned: ridiculously poor Scottish slang incoming!
When I first read the synopsis on Goodreads a few years ago, I wasn’t excited to put it on my TBR-list to be honest. I had read some reviews about it being so explicit in a sexual way and, combined with the synopsis, I was like “yeah, this seems like complete smut”, something I’m not particularly fond of. However, then someone recommended watching the TV series, and so I did, aye, so I bloody weell did. Turned out I fucking loved it! So don’t be put off by the description and negative reviews like I was because you’re going to miss out on a lot of fun then!
“The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just 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 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 is catapulted 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 love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”
When Claire (finally, a female character I can relate to!) walks through the stone, she ends up in the middle of combat between a group of Scotsmen and soldiers of the British army. We are introduced to the main characters right away: men of the MacKenzie Clan and Captain (Black Jack) Randall. All characters are extremely well developed. Not once was I confused about who’s who again; everyone has their own distinct personality. The female characters were also very well depicted; strong, realistic women who are, for once, not whiny and in need of a knight in shining armour.
We’ve got Claire, a brave lass with a strong will, resourceful spirit (I think I’d honestly go mad if I’d been trapped in a different time all of a sudden) and a great sense of humour! She’s not afraid to step up to anyone, let alone the Scottish warriors who could easily finish her off with a flick of the wrist. She’s also a self-taught botanist, which is very convenient when having to use her nursing skills in the 18th century. I thought that aspect was awesome, but I might be a bit biased here because I love everything regarding herbalism with the emphasis on plants that heal.
Then there’s Gailie Duncan, also a botanist/herbalist, and pretty much a self-proclaimed witch. Her accent annoyed the living crap out of me in the series, but I think she’s totally awesome in the book. I secretly hope she will return in book 2 as well. Who knows!
There’s Mrs. Fitzpatrick, the cook/housekeeper/healer/pretty much everything else of Castle Leoch ( home of the MacKenzies); the typical stout, good-natured woman whom all the men respect like a mother.
A little later in the book, we meet Jennie Fraser, Jamie’s sister, another strong female who’s in charge of the Fraser estate, heavily pregnant, and knows how to milk her own breasts while being on the path of war (yes, you read that correctly).
As for the men: the main character is Jamie (James) Fraser, a giant 20 something-year-old Scot with red hair and a broad smile. Despite being as strong as an ox, and an excellent fighter, he’s verra kind and good natured as well. Sometimes, and with one scene, in particular, I didn’t really know what to think of him when he was being a total dildo to Claire and/or his sister. Then again, I guess he was just written that way to emphasize his stubbornness. Plus, it’s the 18th century; no warrior would have been a total doormat back then I suppose. It does help that Claire is such an independent woman who totally kicks his ass back if she needs to.
Two other important characters are the MacKenzie brothers: Colum MacKenzie, who is the Laird of the MacKenzie clan, and also happens to be Jamie’s maternal uncle. He shelters Jamie and Claire from the English, but not without a price. He suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome, making him unable to participate in any physical matters, such as leading his men into battle, and collecting rents throughout the MacKenzie lands. Luckily for Colum, there’s his younger brother, Dougal MacKenzie, who functions as Colum’s legs basically. I have to say I liked Dougal way better on the screen than in the book. He seems like a much tougher asshole here.
We only meet Frank Randall, Claire’s husband in the 20th century, in the first chapter of the book, but he plays an important role throughout the rest of the story. He’s a history professor with a deep interest in his genealogy and heritage, which brings me to a very important male character: Captain Jonathan (Black Jack) Randall, a direct ancestor of Frank. According to Jamie Fraser, the ‘Black’ refers to the colour of his soul, and boy, is he right! There hasn’t been a villain which made me feel such intense hatred for a long time. My god, he’s an evil bastard! Every time you think he’s showing a sensitive side, BAM, he’s even more of a sadistic son-of-a-bitch than you thought before! He looks almost exactly like Frank, which makes it very confusing for Claire, seeing the physique of her beloved husband acting out such vile deeds.
Here I feel like I should mention that the actor who plays both Frank and Captain Randall in the TV series, Tobias Menzies, couldn’t have been cast any better; he plays them both brilliantly. The nose sniffing nervous tic makes the whole thing even more believable.
The storyline is pretty drawn out and, as I said before, full of detail. I thought it was pleasant this time (there have been other books in which too much detail made me want to quit them prematurely), but I can imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Nine hundred pages can be a long ass read when it’s very descriptive all the time. I’ll admit that I got pretty bored during a couple of the last chapters. A whole chapter, mainly filled with talk about carps, and the meaning of life, was a bit too much for me as well.
Another thing was the abundance of sexual content. I knew this was about to happen, but
Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! I wrote down a note at some point saying: “Oh FFS, always the sex! I thought he would embrace her for once without swaffeling her right away.” A bit crude, perhaps, but I think it sums it up pretty well for me.
There’s also a lot of violence in the book: rape, torture, murder, mutilation, you name it. I could handle those things pretty well, but I’m sure the faint of heart will be less impressed. There’s a quote that shows the importance of most of it, though:
“There comes a turning point in intense physical struggle where one abandons oneself to a profligate usage of strength and bodily resource, ignoring the costs until the struggle is over. Women find this point in childbirth; men in battle. Past that certain point, you lose all fear of pain or injury. Life becomes very simple…”
I think this describes the core of the book really. Apart from the steamy sex scenes and eternal love of course.
I’m definitely going to read the sequel (I’ve got all of them on my Kindle since the beginning of this year actually, you know, just in case I liked the first book), and can’t wait until season 2 of the TV series kicks off next year!
Links to the book:
Amazon US (Box Set Book 1-4)
Amazon US (Box Set Book 1-8!)
Amazon UK (Box Set Book 1-4)
The Book Depository
The Book Depository (Box Set Book 1-4)
Bol.com (Dutch retailer)
Bol.com (Dutch retailer [Box Set Book 1-4])