Book Reviews

Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Chick-Lit Meets Alternate History

Recently I put it out to my friends on Facebook for book recommendations. I had run the gamut of stories with my usual favorite authors and was looking for something a little different.  One of the recommendations I received was for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  It was the first book in a series of stories.  The reviews were mostly positive so I picked it up and added it to the books I’d take on my cruise with me.  I am so glad I listened to the recommendations.  Outlander is in some ways a form of alternate history which I absolutely love combined with romance and adventure.

The adventure begins following World War II as Claire and Frank Randall are trying to get to know one another once again following their separation brought on by the war years.  Their vacation of sorts takes them to the Scottish Highlands where Claire suddenly finds herself transported back to the mid-18th century caught between one notable relative of her husband and the Scottish clans of the time.  Yearning to get back, she attempts to survive using the skills she learned as a nurse during World War II but soon finds herself having to wed James Fraser, a nephew of the clan leaders, as a form of protection while he is an outlaw as well.

The story is told from Claire’s perspective which can be trying at times. I found it had a distinctly feminine voice and was quite detailed to the point of tedium at times.  However, that was made up for by the excellent sequences which kept my rapt attention to the point that I didn’t want to put the book down.  This dominated the book and I couldn’t wait to see how the story ended.  Claire has to choose which life she wants as well as fight to survive versus many foes, all of who question who she is.

The attention to historical detail was something I greatly appreciated.  This was a time before the Jacobite uprising which ended with the destruction of the Scottish hierarchy of Clans.  Claire knows this and is torn by her feelings toward some of the people surrounding her and the knowledge she has.  This makes for an interesting conflict as well as her inability to take much of what is going on around her at face value.  Outlander is loaded with intrigue and betrayal.  Clearly, the only person Claire can depend on is Jamie, who has sworn an oath to protect her.

Outlander is long, coming in at over 800 pages in paperback.  Fans of alternate history might not like the romantic side of it and there are many graphic sexual scenes and violence in the book.  If that’s not off-putting to you, I can highly recommend it as was done for me.  I’m glad I read it and I can’t wait to start the next book in the series.

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