“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

outlanderartemisiconThis is about the first book, not the entire series as I am currently only 3/4 of the way through the series.

To be honest, it’s quite a long and convoluted story as to why I started reading the book. Back before I worked at a book store I used to work in a little general store out by my parents house. It was common for me to go hours without customers and cleaning only killed so much time, so I started bringing a book. An older lady caught me reading one day and every few days after that either brought me a book or came to tell me about a book she just read. She’s the reason I got into James Rollins, and why I can’t stand Clive Cussler. She also tried to tell me about Outlander, but it didn’t do the book justice and actually turned me away from it. “She goes through a rock back into time and is torn between her love of two men” as a person who can’t stand romance, this really turned me off of the book, I don’t care how much she loved it.

Several years later when I started working in the book store, several people kept asking if I had read Outlander and kept telling me how amazing the book was. And it is classified as a FICTION and not a Romance, so that kind of rose it up in my standards …at least a little. But it still wasn’t enough to get me to read the book, and by then my to-read list was huge (and we tried to keep up on popular books cause people usually asked about those).

I love buying used books, so I DID buy myself a copy of Outlander, but tucked it onto my shelf and promptly forgot about it. I had only heard good about the book, but no one would give me details or reason beyond the romance of it. So still, I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t until I MOVED OUT, and by now it’s been a good 4 years since I was first introduced to the series, I went home for a visit and my mom was watching the TV show adaptation of Outlander. It was like, episode 6 or 7 or something so I had no idea what happened leading up to it or anything, but even my mom was raving about how amazing the show was. And, admittedly, the episode was really good.

So, finally, FINALLY, I opened the worn and yellowed pages of my second-hand copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. And never looked back.

I’m always slightly turned off of first person, but Gabaldon’s main protagonist Claire is so amazingly well written it doesn’t take away from the story to have it in her perspective. Because everyone raved about the romance in the book I expected Claire to be the standard romantic heroine who is in love with the hero the moment she sees him and is gushing and head-over-heels and frankly, annoying as all hell. Man, was I wrong.

Now, I’m getting ahead of myself. Claire is a second world war nurse, who was raised by her Uncle and traveled around the world with him on his archeological digs. Because of everything she has been though Claire is incredibly mature and independent. She is the strong female, the way they should be. She’s not portrayed as basically a man with breasts, she is still identifiable as s woman. She marries a man she met during the war and after it ends they go on their belated honeymoon to Scotland (Claire is British). They explore old ruins and meet historian friends of her husband. His interest in history draws them to old ruins of Craigh na Dun while a group of pagans are performing a ritual. Nothing magical or fantasy based, this is simply an old druid-like ritual that is probably still performed today. Another day, while her husband is busy with an associate, she wanders back to the ruins and that is when she travels through, 200 years into the past.

By here I was so hooked to Claire’s character I couldn’t put the book down. She is so different from heroines I’m used to, even just the way she perceives the world around her.

Stunned and confused, Claire tries to make it back to Inverness (the city her and her husband Frank were staying in). She happens upon British soldiers, one in particular that bears a striking resemblance to her husband Frank. It turns out to be the descendant Frank was currently researching.

Instead of being a scared heroine who is confused the entire time, Claire quickly realizes the situation and whips up a story to explain why a woman is alone in the wilderness in only her “slip”.

To not spoil too much of the story, Claire is quick on her feet and when she is introduced to Jamie and the rest of his clan, she is not immediately in love with him, he is just someone stopping her from getting back to the rocks and getting home. She is quick witted and intelligent, but not to the point where she seems fake. She looks around at her settings, quickly evaluates and comes up with a solution.

One of the things that impressed me the most about how Claire is written is she doesn’t look at Jamie and explain how “attractive”, “muscular”, whatever he is, she looks at every character and explains them all literally and equally. If Claire is looking at a woman who is beautiful, she will explain her as so. If a man is attractive (and not the hero) she will explain him thus. Gabaldon doesn’t put other characters down to raise her protagonists up, it makes the story as a whole feel more real. There is no “mean girl” character, and everything with a penis isn’t lusting after Claire.

And the main plot of the story is Claire trying to survive long enough to make it home to her husband. To save her own life, and stay in Scotland and out of the British’s hands, she is forced to marry Jamie. She didn’t become some giddy school girl, it was something she had to do to meet her end goals and survive. It took almost half the book for her to even start LIKING Jamie.

Even though she does need to be saved a lot, it’s not the damsel in distress formula. Being a woman, she is weaker physically than the men, but she is usually able to talk her way out of most dangerous situations and is not opposed to using weapons. When she does need to be saved she is either physically over-powered, or over-powered by numbers.

With her nurse’s training she makes herself useful instead of just sitting off to the side pining after the hero and becomes a kind of medicine woman for the Clan. This trait has not only saved many lives, but her reputation was also used to reunite herself and some of the Clan with Jamie when they are separated. Admittedly, it also gets her into a bit of trouble later on in the story.

I could rant for days about how amazing this series is, and how amazing Claire is, but for now, I will just say that it is a fabulous series and I wish I had started it years sooner.

Also, because of my refusal to read the book, I didn’t get to meet the cast of the show. I go to Fan Expo every year (except last year, sigh) and one year the majority of the cast of Outlander was there. And because I didn’t care about the series by then, I didn’t go, and they’ve never been back since. I do in fact kick myself for it every few days. Believe me.


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