I’m struggling with what to say about this book. I just don’t know where to begin. Let me just say for starters that I now know why everyone is plastering my Facebook wall with praise over the Outlander series on television. If it is anywhere near as good as the book, I can understand their admiration. I, myself, haven’t watched it. I don’t subscribe to that channel but now that I have read the book, I would like to see it.
It’s a huge book. When I started it and looked down at my e-reader and saw that it said I had over 40 hours left in the book, I thought that maybe I had left the app open and on one page for too long so it had adapted my reading speed incorrectly, but as I read on and the hours stayed the same, lowering by how long I had read, I realized that it was going to be a long book and I was a little overwhelmed. I just finished another book that was similar in length, not quite so long but just about, but usually I read books that I finish in less than a day. I am a fast reader so for a book to have 40 hours in it, it has to be long. After a few pages and then a few hours, I was hooked. I didn’t mind at all that it was so long.
Praise to the writer, Diana Gabaldon! Wow, what a writer! She had my emotions going all over the place but she mostly made me laugh. Even in the most dire of situation, the main character had me laughing with her sarcasm and smart remarks. I felt like I was right there with the story. I was definitely emotionally involved.
It starts out in 1945 with Claire Beauchamp Randall and her husband Frank on vacation in Inverness, Scotland. They were married seven years earlier just before the outbreak of the war and have spent very little time together. They were separated during the war with Claire going into nurse’s training and then going on to be a combat nurse and Frank going into MI6 for the English military intelligence. They saw each other three times over the years. Despite living apart for so long, they still love each other dearly and get along great. I liked the way they were together even if I did think Frank was a little reserved. They still laughed and joked with each other which made me really like the couple.
I especially liked Claire. I don’t really know how to describe her personality but she laughed a lot and her outlook on life was practical but positive and a bit prickly or maybe I just think of all English women as prickly. She saw people for who they were and she just accepted it with humor and didn’t begrudge them for anything. I liked how anything she was thinking showed on her face and how she cursed like a sailor when she was upset or excited.
Frank is into genealogy and is using his time in Scotland to follow leads on his family tree. It is obviously something he loves to do and as a fellow genealogist, I know what is like to find a juicy tidbit on one of your ancestors. Claire, however, gets bored. I cracked up when he was explaining about one of his ancestors and Claire says something like it was his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather and flops on the bed and pretends to snore. I thought she was being funny and adding extra “greats” just to be snarky but I think he was really talking about the man who was six generations back named Jonathan Randall or Black Jack Randall. Frank was trying to figure out where he got his notorious name and thought maybe he had stirred up some trouble with the local Scotsman to weed out Jacobite’s since he was a captain in the English army. Frank had found evidence that Jack Randall caused problems but none of the complaints against him were ever investigated nor ever became actual legal complaints. Frank figured he must have had backing from the Duke of Sandringham to make complaints disappear like that.
A local man shows Claire a circle of standing stones or a henge while out hunting for herbs and local flowers. She goes back there alone to get clippings of a certain flower she saw growing in the circle of stones and she is transported back in time. At first, she doesn’t understand that she has gone back in time and when she sees men fighting…some in redcoats and some in kilts, she thinks someone is making a movie so she tries to do the polite thing and circles around into the woods to stay out of their way. Someone grabs her in the woods and she mistakes him for Frank at first because he looks so much like him but he has longer hair and is not much of a gentleman. He thinks she is a whore because of what she is wearing but she looks down and thinks her dress is perfectly acceptable. He thinks she is in a shift and has lost the rest of her clothing. He introduces himself and Captain Jack Randall. He tells her she has to come with him but then someone knocks him out and kidnaps her. She struggles with the man but he cracks her on the head. When she wakes up, it is dark outside and she is on a horse riding toward a small cottage.
In the cottage, she meets a few other men. The obvious leader, Dougal MacKenzie, questions her about who she is and if she is an English spy. She tells them her name is Claire Beauchamp and that she is a widow because she thinks if they know about Frank that they will use her as a hostage and try to get money for her. At this point, she is thinking these people are out of their minds because they are filthy and are barbaric. There is a wounded man, Jamie, who was shot with a musket which she thought was odd but still didn’t associate it with time travel. She ends up helping relocate his shoulder and dress the wound. The leader decides that she will be useful and orders her to come along with them. He tells her if she tries to escape or starts any trouble that he will cut her throat and she believes him.
She rides on the same horse with Jamie and they start a long journey. They are ambushed by English soldiers the first night. Jamie is stabbed by one of them but says nothing. When he falls off his horse and Claire discovers the stab would, she sits on top of him cursing about how stubborn he is and he better live while bandaging him up again. By the time or just shortly after they reach Castle Leoch, Claire realizes she has somehow gone back in time and starts wondering how to get back to the circle of stones to go back to her time.
Castle Leoch is the home of the MacKenzie clan. Dougal is the younger brother to the laird, Colum MacKenzie. He tells her she is a welcome guest but she knows she is a prisoner. They call her Sassenach which means English or Outlander and nobody trusts and Englishman.
Claire, being who she is, adapts easily to life in the 1700s and becomes known as a healer. She works in the large herb garden and starts making friends. She is closest to Jamie because he seems to accept her for who she is and he is constantly getting into trouble where she has to heal him and set broken bones.
Jamie is somewhat of a mystery. He is fun-loving and has a great outlook on life even though he has had terrible things happen to him. He was taken from his home by none other than Captain Randall who turns out to be Frank’s sixth great grandfather. Captain Randall is a horrible man who took Jamie from his home, and raped his sister. He flogged Jamie and almost killed him and Jamie tells Claire that Randall enjoyed it. He tells Claire also that he is an outlaw because he is accused of killing an English soldier but he didn’t do it.
There is so much in the book that happens but I’m going to skip over most of it and try to just hit on the most important details.
Dougal decides to take Claire along with him while he collects the rents from the MacKenzie tenants. He says she will be useful with her healing skills. Towards the end of their journey, he takes her to see Captain Randall because Dougal still doesn’t trust her and wants to know where she really came from and if she is an English spy. He wouldn’t want her ruining things for him since Dougal is a Jacobite although, his brother is not. Dougal goes downstairs while Randall talks to Claire. Claire said some sarcastic comment that Randall did not like and punches her in the stomach. She could barely breathe afterwards. Dougal sees that something obviously happened to her and has words with the captain.
He takes Claire back to the Inn they were staying at and tells her that Randall is demanding that he take her to Fort William in a week for questioning and his kind of questioning would probably include pain. Since she is English, Randall has the right to question her but if she were to marry a Scotsman, she would no longer be obligated to go. He gives her the choice between Rupert, a disgusting older man yet loyal to the MacKenzies or Jamie. Well, he doesn’t really give her the choice more than orders her to do it. She tells him she won’t do it at first and then asks him why would Jamie marry her. Dougal tells her that Jamie will do anything he tells him to do for the good of the clan. She talks to Jamie and he tells her that he is not being forced to marry her and he has his own reasons for doing it but he can’t tell her the reasons right now.
They marry and they agree to always be honest with each other. They know each has secrets but rather than lie about it, just tell the other they can’t tell them about that part of it. Claire feels guilty for being with Jamie and marrying him because of Frank but she is really unsure if she will ever get back to Frank or not. She wants and plans on escaping at some point but chooses to live in the moment to survive. But she ends up falling for Jamie. He is so different from Frank in every way. Where Frank was polished and an experienced lover, Jamie is inexperienced but exuberant. There were a lot of differences.
The story goes on and I start wanting Claire to stay with Jamie who obviously would do anything for her and has. He has saved her life a few times, even from Randall once even though it could have cost him and his men their live. We learn that Randall has a sick obsession with Jamie and wants him sexually for himself.
Actually, the story of her capture was the source of a lot of tension between the two. Jamie has been trying to meet up with an English deserter named Horace for a while because Horace supposedly knows who really killed the English soldier who Jamie is accused of killing. He finally gets a meeting set up with him and leaves Claire in a copse of trees to go meet with him. She argues because she wants to go but he tells her that it is too dangerous and if he is worried about her, he can’t concentrate on other dangers. He leaves her alone and tells her not to leave the copse of trees or he will whip her arse. After he leaves, she realizes that she is only a little way away from the standing stones and this is the first time she has been left alone since she had been captured so she decides to leave. She leaves her horse there and starts down along a rocky cliff to a river or burn as they call it. She ends up slipping and almost drowning but an English soldier saves her but unfortunately, it is Randall’s corporal who takes her to Randall at Fort William.
Jamie saves her just as Randall is trying to rape her. After they get back to an inn, the men are all rude and really pissed at her. When they get into their room, Jaime tells her that if a man or even any other woman were to have done what she had done and put them all at risk, they would have been flogged or even killed but since she is his wife an new to their way of life, she will get off easily but he warned her that he would punish her if she left so he has to follow through. He told her that he would only give her so many lashes unless she fought. If she fought, he would hold her down and lash her until his arm got tired. He made her bare her butt so he could spank her with his belt. I love Claire. She did not go down easily. She fought just like I would have but in the end, Jamie lashed her.
I had so many different feelings about that but sided more with Jamie on the issue because of the time period. In no way, would that be acceptable today but he had to do it. The men expected it and probably would have rather seen her more severely punished so spanking her helped their resentment of her. Also, up until then, Jamie had been nothing but nice to Claire and even seemed to be a bit of a pushover but he showed her that he only could put up with so much. He also had to show her he was good for his word.
Claire was mad a Jamie for a long time after that but also understood after a while. The men were funny afterwards. They kept finding reasons to pat her on her behind but they at least, stopped resenting her. They even gave her a lot of breaks while riding back to Castle Leoch.
I think my favorite part in the whole story was when Jamie tells Clair about how he had wanted her from the beginning, right from the time she had sat on him and cursed at him when he fell off his horse on the way to Castle Leoch. He told it in a way that was emotionally beautiful and funny.
The story goes on and too much happens that will give too much away if I write about it but at one point, Claire tells Jamie the truth about herself and Jamie takes Claire to the standing rocks and tells her to go. He loves her too much to ever not give her the chance to go back.
I have read A LOT of books about the Highlands, most of them written long after this book was written. Some of them were even about time travel but none of them beat this book for its powerful ability to draw me into the story and manipulate my emotions nor have I ever adored two characters more and wanted them together as much as I wanted Claire and Jamie together.
Even though the book was EXTREMELY long, I relished every moment of it and wished it could go on even longer.