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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Book Review: Diana Gabaldon "Outlander"

“A book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling.” --eHow

Title: Outlander 

Author: Diana Gabaldon 

Publisher—Date: Dell—1991

Outlander (which is a play on the Gaelic word for “foreigner” or “outsider”) begins benignly in post WWII Scotland. An ex-army nurse and her husband are reunited and enjoying some time together in the Highlands after the long, despairing war. While gathering flowers (her hobby) at an ancient henge (ala Stonehenge), Claire Beauchamp Randall suddenly found herself in 1743. 

Caught between the English and the Scottish in a skirmish she is first captured by an English officer who looks uncannily like his progenitor, who also happens to be her erstwhile 1945 husband. “Rescued,” by the Scottish rebels she is transported to a castle keep and becomes the local “physician,” due to her skills as a nurse. Much intrigue ensues and Claire is married to a Scottish outlaw to save her own neck, as well as his. 

Considerable more strategy and conspiring occurs and Claire is equally venerated, and feared, as a physician and accused of, among other things, being a witch. All the while she tries to return to the original location of her time-travel to return home. She finds purpose in her ability to heal others in this time of blood-letting and leeching; and love in the Scottish warrior she wedded. We are to wonder if she will ever return to her own time or is she destined to be in 18th Century Scotland for the rest of her mortal life?

Was that too much description or Spoiler?

Critical analysis and evaluation of quality, meaning and significance?

There was a lot of research that went into this book. Because I am one of those people who double-checks facts, AND is fascinated by history, I checked some of her information and found it to be better than accurate. As far as structure goes I thought the actual story began when she dropped through time but upon further investigation I realized that this is a Book 1 of approx 7 (to date) and the information provided in the first few chapters does matter during the course of this novel and definitely in later installments. I believe the information could have been provided another way so the first bit of the book was unnecessary, in my opinion.

The style is unremarkable but not obnoxious. Her descriptions of flora and fauna could have been more in depth and descriptive (this is my personal preference, generally speaking). As part of a series I felt it was a great set up for more books, but I won’t be reading any more of them. Her style is not my preference and the story was not truly compelling enough for me. I was impressed with her use of British phrases and inferences (knowing the author is American).

As far as meaning and significance… um, it was an historical-romantic-paranormal-ish, science-fiction work. I really liked that she embraced both scientific, pagan and religious ideologies; that was extraordinary and insightful. I wanted to read this book because I remember my grandmother talking to me about it but she could not remember the author or title of the book. She passed away a couple of years ago and when I was again recommended the story I decided to read it and see what Granni was talking about.

I was not disappointed with the book or the story, I just felt it was a little bit too much suspension of reality on too many occasions. When Claire supposedly kills a wolf with her bare hands… well, my belief took a strong hit. I did not have trouble with the time travel or even with the uncanny resemblance of the antagonist to her husband (he wasn’t really estranged as she was in a completely different time), but I was tested time and again with capture and liberation over and over and over again. Yeah. I don’t think so.

I would recommend this book to those that like historical fiction, especially those with an affinity toward Scottish history. For romance, it was satisfactory. I would rate it at PG-13 at least as far as sex scenes go, if that matters to you. There were some disturbing moments (including male rape) but not so descriptive as to be critically disgusting.

Overall I liked the author, I liked this book but I won’t be reading any more of this series.


  1. I'm with you on this one. I did develop a major crush on Jamie Fraser but the Claire=kills=a=wolf bit was too much of a stretch for me personally. I thought the "witch" she meets was a very intriguing character and did enjoy the book. I was with you on the peril, i.e. does no one in the Highlands have anything better to do than try to capture and rape Claire??? The male rape was too graphic for me. So I quit. Despite my affection for the lead couple. Good review, top notch!

  2. Thank you! I struggled because I liked it but ... I was done. The word I meant to use but didn't was that I felt it meandered a lot. Between captures and evading capture and being rescued from being captured... she meandered.


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