Thursday, March 22, 2012


Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
List: #160 on BBC Top 200
Worth reading? Yes!

Outlander, known as Cross Stitch in the United Kingdom, is a book that is hard to classify. In part, its foundation lies in science fiction (or possibly fantasy) because within the first few chapters the main character travels two hundred years back in time. But besides that moment of time travel and the discussion about that event that pops up occasionally, the novel is in large part a work of historical fiction set in 18th century Scotland just before the Jacobite Rising of 1745 (where supporters in the British Isles, including many Scottish clans apparently, were trying to place Bonnie Prince Charlie, aka “The Young Pretender,” on the English throne). The remaining parts of the novel, where the author focuses on the relationship between the two main characters, are perhaps best classified as romance.

Apparently the author wrote this novel as “practice” for writing fiction, which explains why there are so many themes, and never intended anyone to actually see it. But people did see it and now it is part of an eight book series, the last (I think) of which is set to be released in early 2013. There is also a sort of spin-off series (the author says they are actually part of the main series and calls it a “sub-series”), which focuses on a different character and includes one of the main characters in Outlander.

And, based on the first book, I can definitely see why the series has been so successful. It does not matter what type of book Outlander is, what matters is that once you pick it up, it is very difficult to put back down. It is a captivating novel with a fast-paced plot that is written in a very modern manner. And understandably so because the main character and narrator, Claire, comes from 1945 and keeps up her blunt manner of speaking and acting even among the Scottish clans of 1743. Claire is very likeable and part of her charm is that she maintains her independent personality while also trying to fit into 18th century Scottish life.

I think that I can’t go into too much of the plot because I don’t want to give anything away—it was just too much fun to see the story unfold. But I can say the novel includes swordfights and gun battles, bad guys and good guys and okay guys, capture and escape and rescue, injuries and illness and recovery, trust and distrust, daring, bravery, loyalty, sacrifice, adventure, and, of course, lost love and found love.

I think this book is definitely worth the read (and I am planning to read the rest of the series as soon as I have time and they become available at the library). It is fast-paced and attention-grabbing (and holding) and very easy to read. I think the author said it best on her website: "What I used to say to people who saw me sitting outside a store with a pile of books and asked (reasonably enough), 'What sort of book is this?', was, 'I tell you what. Pick it up, open it anywhere, and read three pages. If you can put it down again, I’ll pay you a dollar.' I’ve never lost any money on that bet."

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