Not even sure where to begin this one. Each of us came to this amazing set of historical fiction novels on our own. It’s what brought us together actually.
When Outlander (the TV show) premiered on Starz, I invited some similarly minded friends to join me for a little premier party., knowing each of them had read the book. I attempted (and failed) at trying to make Scotch Eggs (read: sausage disaster zone), and three other ladies joined me for whisky and shortbread, and thus began a magical adventure. The four of us just clicked. We discussed everything from the nuances of weaving history into riveting fiction, to the many theories surrounding the mysteries of Game of Thrones. Our own little wolf pack was formed that day, but alas… I digress. This is supposed to be about the book…
This novel doesn’t need another review out in the world. It’s been read, reviewed, and now made into a TV series. But for the sake of our comprehensive list of NGBC favorites, here we go…
Outlander – by Diana Gabaldon
NGBC Rating – Must Read
What would you do if you stepped into a world that was so different from you own, and yet somehow familiar? It’s the setting for most of the sci-fi and fantasy genre, allowing the author and reader to explore the complexities and emotions of “real life” in a distant, perhaps more objective setting. Outlander is no different.
When Claire, an independent and brilliant WWII nurse, steps back into 1743, she’s thrown from her 1945 world to essentially an alien planet. No electricity, hot water, women’s rights, medical advancements. It was a world of witchcraft, long journeys on horseback, bards, religion and the power of might. Claire goes back in time while married to her academic husband, Frank, but ends up entangled with a young, charismatic Scot, with a price on his head.
Many who first hear about the story arc are skeptical – there are so many places where a novel with this premise could fall into the typical, trite tropes of so many a fantasy or romance novel. Time travel. A love triangle. Highlanders, for god’s sake.
But Gabaldon is a gifted author, and manages to craft a character driven, intensely descriptive, and beautiful epic about the journey of Claire through a dangerous time, with intense emotion and painstaking historic detail. There are no obvious twists, or unsupported emotional turns, each moment is refreshing, especially the interactions between Claire and Jaime. There are some highly unexpected plot points later in the book, that are handled with care and investigate an emotional journey most authors would dare dream of, let alone explore with their readers.
Outlander has been read by more than 20 Million people worldwide, and for good reason. It’s riveting, emotional, and has raised the bar on what historic fiction can be. Outlander is the first in what is currently an 8 book series by Gabaldon (the 9th is hopefully forthcoming).
Absolutely. It’s a fantastic tale of adventure, love and human nature, told from a refreshing female perspective. Gorgeous narrative and rich description, with enough Highland swashbuckling and politik to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Why is this a great book for smart women?
Because it brings together a smart, tough, sexual woman, with a strong narrative and a oddly believable and yet surprising set of circumstances. Claire is a heroine we’ve been waiting for, and Jamie… is something else.
Also, it’s worth reading – before/after/during the TV series. There’s enough nuance, fantastic missed scenes, and introspection that are missed on screen, that you’ll revel in the excess.
Claire. Jamie. Every other character. The exploration of feminism in a time/times when it wasn’t a priority. The way the author investigates of love, marriage, sadism, masculinity, war, family, politics, etc, etc, through a somewhat sci-fi lens, but with a realism and an almost scientific probing. (NB: Gabaldon is a scientist herself).
Whether the sadism experienced by Jamie needed to be so sexual in nature. Also, Claire’s “cure” sometime later felt somewhat thin to me. The dark place the book explores, in my opinion, probably needed a longer, less “silver bullet”-type journey out of it. (said knowing that in later books this journey is explored further).
My advice to friends on this series is always: Read 1, Read 3, or Read ’em All. Be careful what you wish for with these books, they’ll suck you in, and worm their way into your heart and mind, so much so that you can’t stop thinking about them.