Happy Hump Day Readers! I’ve found myself in a weird re-reading books I read a super long time ago phase right now and this is the first of those I’ve finished. I put in a ton of requests into my library and the first to come through was Unwind by Neal Shusterman, which I read about 5 years ago. I read Outlander at some point in college as well but I don’t think that was the right time for me and this book and I’m very happy to have revisited it.
I doubt many readers don’t already know about Outlander – whether it’s from it’s cult following, it’s 4.22 rating on Goodreads, or it’s over half-million reviews, or it’s Television adaptation – you’d kind of have to be living under a rock to not already know about this book. So while I doubt many of you need a real synopsis for this book but bear with me, cause you’re gonna get it.
Claire Randall (Beauchamp) is on her second honeymoon with her husband Frank. Frank Randall is a good man and he loves Claire deeply, and she him. Claire and Frank have both been tied up in WWII, Claire as a combat nurse while Frank trained as an officer. When the war ended, Claire and Frank traveled to Scotland to reacquaint themselves with one another after many years apart – sometimes only seeing each other once or twice a year. While they’re in Scotland Claire and Frank not only get to know each other once again, but they get to know the Highlands. The lore, the folktales, the history – both magical and brutal.
There were moments, of course. Those small spaces in time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and the light, and when both and neither surround you
When Claire decides she wants to go back to the standing stones known as Craigh Na Dun, where she and Frank saw local witches performing a ritual to retrieve some plants, she unwittingly sets herself on a journey that spans not just space, but time as well. For when Claire touches the stones, she falls through time from 1945 to 1743. Immediately jarred by her experience, it takes Claire a bit of time to realize what has happened. Not only is she being chased around the fields by strangers dressed as Red Coats, but she’s being shot at as well.
It isn’t until she stumbles upon her husband Frank, also dressed as a Red Coat that she realizes something is amiss. For it’s not Frank she’s run into – but his ancestor Captain Black Jack Randall – a real bastard of a human being. Claire is saved by a Scotsman and after tending to a young Scott named Jamie, she cements her place as a mysterious possible spy the Clan McKenzie is not willing to let go. As Claire travels further and further away from the standing stones of Craigh Na Dun, her story becomes increasingly complicated and she must face the fact that she’s not in her time anymore but rather 200 years previous and she must find a way to survive.
Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.
Where do I even start with this story. First, it’s incredibly unique and steeped in interesting historical information about the Scottish Highlands and the lore and magic surrounding the area. If you’re a fan of historical fiction in general, this baby has a lot of that going on. Gabaldon paints a bright and vivid picture of the area and it’s customs both in 1945 as well as 1743. The sheer amount of research and detail that went into this first installment is staggering. However, as I’m sure many people will agree what shines the brightest here is the love story between Claire and Jamie. I’m not sure I’ve ever swooned quite so hard over a character in a book as I have Jamie Fraser.
I actually read this book many years ago but just couldn’t connect to it, or really get through the dense historical information. That’s not totally negated this second time around. Fair warning to anyone reading this that the first 200 or so pages are very dense with detail that I didn’t find particularly necessary or interesting. At times I loved the historical and contextual information we were given, at others I found it tedious and I had to step away and read other things instead. However, that is my only gripe about this book because otherwise, this story is sweeping, and heartbreaking, beautiful, lovely and devastating all at the same time. The amount of emotion Gabaldon was able to poor into this story left me breathless at times.
“When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”
Literally just writing this review makes my heart swell because the love between Jamie and Claire transcends the page and nestles itself within the reader and if you give this a shot (and make it past the first admittedly more sluggish part) you wont soon be able to let it go. The depth of their dedication to one another and the purity of it all was just overwhelming for me. Past that, the character development and overall story arc was incredible. Gabaldon didn’t just put finesse and detail into the setting or the history of the lands and it’s people but into each and every main player and their entire life’s story. Claire was an incredibly likable, strong willed and honestly bad ass MC and I enjoyed reading with her and connected to her in many ways.
I’ve seen *and love* the TV show version of this, but if you’ve talked to anyone who has read the book and watched the show, what you’re likely to hear is that the incredibly handsome actor (Sam Hueghan) who plays Jamie just doesn’t do him justice and I can’t say that’s false. I’m not sure in all my reading I’ve ever read something quite so painfully romantic and I know this series is going to break my heart over and over again and I’ll happily dive into head first because I have to know how they’re story ends.
“Ye werena the first lass I kissed,” he said softly. “But I swear you’ll be the last.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of sweeping romances, historical fiction, incredible writing and anyone generally interested in the Highlands!
Music Mood: Next to Me by Emeli Sande
Have you read Outlander? What did you think? What about the TV show – how does it compare, or what do you think about Jamie and Claire’s story? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!