Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: Delta (August 10, 1998)
Genre: Historical Romance
Main Characters: James Frasier & Claire Beauchamp Randall
Series: Book one in Outlander series
Book origin: Personal Library
I read it for The Outlander Challenge hosted by JennJ
The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming reacquainted after the war's long separation. Like most practical women, Claire hardly expects her curiosity to get the better of her. But an ancient stone circle near her lodgings holds an eerie fascination, and when she innocently touches one of the giant boulders, she's hurtled backward in time more than two hundred years, to 1743.
Alone where no lady should be alone, and far from the familiar comforts of her other life, Claire's usual resourcefulness is tested to the limit. The merciless garrison captain so feared by others bears an uncanny resemblance to the husband she has just left behind. Her own odd circumstances expose her to accusations of witchcraft. And the strands of a political intrigue she doesn't understand threaten to ensnare her at every turn.
But of all the perils her new life holds, none is more disquieting than her growing feelings for James Fraser, the gallant young Scot she is forced to marry for her own protection. Sworn by his wedding vows to keep her from harm, Jamie's passion for Claire goes beyond duty. As she struggles with the memories of another lifetime, she is forced to make an agonizing and fateful choice, and learns ultimately that a man's instinct to protect the woman he loves is as old as time.
My Review: How can I easily summarize a tale that is so grand, so intricately set-up, that I lost myself for three whole days and actually will make sense to you all? I wonder how I might express myself for words do not come easily right now to tell you the wide range of emotions I felt during reading this novel. My inner drama queen has been evoked by this story and wants to lyrically speak of the epic romance pairing and of the vast and realistic historical setting. I want to tell you about the vivid characters, the author’s voice who ingrained every page with emotions and the details that really brought all aspects of THE OUTLANDER come to life.
The Outlander is told in seven parts and I started in Inverness 1945 where Claire and Frank Randall try to reconnect during a second honeymoon. In part two I traveled back with Claire to Scotland 1743, spent time at Castle Leoch – home of the MacKenzie clan – escaped with Jamie and Claire to Lallybroch – home of the Fraser clan. I traveled the Scottish roads, visited Wentworth prison and ended up in a French abbey where I had to let Claire and Jamie go. Day to day life in this time period is not without its dangers, secrets and scheming, for a new uprising is eminent. I got to figure out the underlying currents between Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, a Laird who is crippled with his brother who is his right hand, and many wonder to what extent. There was a witch trial, a Clan gathering and then there was the ever present danger of the Dragoons. There isn’t one page that didn’t reflect a historic setting that is done with a realism that provides a stark contrast between both the good and the bad things. The good things are most definitely the romance blooming between Claire and Jamie, and the epitome of the bad became Jonathan Wolverton Randall.
When Claire travels through the standing stones she is confused and quickly meets a group of Scotsmen, including the wounded Jamie. Her nurse routine kicks in to gear as she tries to help them and from that moment a beautiful, gripping romance gradually blooms through the pages. Jamie and Claire married to avoid difficulties for Claire with the Dragoons but it is by choice of the heart they fell in love together. Claire’s voice protrudes immediately from the first chapter. She has a humor, fieriness and inner strength that instantly appealed to me. Jamie however wooed me every time he opened his mouth as he tried to explain his feelings, or himself, to Claire. On his wedding day he didn’t ask for love, he didn’t dare ask, but what he did ask for is that Claire would always tell him the truth. In the spirit of this promise gradually Claire and Jamie confide in each other, Jamie has quite a back story since he no longer resides with his own clan and home, as Claire has got some secrets of her own to reveal.
Jamie is a Scot who is a man of his time; battle-worn, vigorous, loyal to his Clan and country yet with an insight and wisdom that belied his twenty-three years. He understands the dangers of life but still feels everything with a force that made him a hero, that made him a man who is in a league of his own. Jamie Fraser simply commanded my heart just by the man that he is:
Quote Claire:He is a man whose character includes traits like endearing, fierce, brave, wounded, gentle and still I would not have told you all who Jamie Fraser is. He is also a man with a nemesis who is unrivaled and his name is Jonathan Wolverton Randall.
Jamie though, was something different. His extreme gentleness was in no way tentive; rather it was a promise of power known and held in leash; a challenge and a provocation the more remarkable for its lack of demand. I am yours, it said. And if you’ll have me then…
Jonathan Wolverton Randall, he made me glare at the pages in hate with his every action. It isn’t very often that I physically respond to an innate bad character but Jonathan really pushes the hate button. From the moment Claire arrived in 1743 he created havoc with his dark, twisted mind and he thrived on it. He was every bit as real to me as Jamie, Claire, the Mackenzie brothers and many more characters. It is the strength of this novel, everything became so vividly real to me, the Scottish scenery, the customs, the celebrations, the fighting, the fear, the joy and that ever present highlander pride and resilience. A rich and extensive cast of characters pass the different venues, each kept me in this story, traveling along with Jamie and Claire.
I was endeared with the winking style of Jamie, I was aroused by the passionate side of their relationship, eagerly read all the dialogues that deepened their connection and I feared for them both in all the dangers that were so realistically portrayed and reached its pinnacle in Wentworth prison. I don’t think I adequately get to explain what this novel did with me, I think this is a novel that should be experienced by each reader to fully understand the magnificence of it and the compelling nature of its characters. For once I’m just in silent awe, knowing that The Outlander left an irrevocable mark on me with Claire and Jamie being the embodiment of a romance that will last through the ages.
I wonder if this series gets any better than THE OUTLANDER!
“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?” His hand came around my breast. “Even when I’ve left ye, I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting you to touch ye again.”
“Thank god,” he said smiling, “and God help you.” Then he added, “Though I’ll never understand why.” I put my arms around his waist and held on as the horse slithered down the last steep slope. “because,” I said, “I bloody well can’t do without you, Jamie Fraser, and that’s all about it. Now, where are you taking me?”
“I prayed all the way up that hill yesterday,” he said softly. “Not for you to stay; I didna think that would be right. I prayed I’d be strong enough to send ye away.” He shook his head, still gazing up the hill, a faraway look in his eyes. “I said ‘Lord, if I’ve never had courage in my life before, let me have it now. Let me be brave enough not to fall on my knees and beg her to stay.’ “ He pulled his eyes away from the cottage and smiled briefly at me.
“Hardest thing I ever did, Sassenach.” He turned in the saddle, and reined the horse’s head towards the east. It was a rare bright morning, and the early sun gilded everything, drawing a thin line of fire along the edge of the reins, the curve of the horse’s neck, and the broad planes of Jamie’s face and shoulders. He took a deep breath and nodded across the moor, toward a distant pass between two crags. “So now I suppose I can do the second-hardest thing.” He kicked the horse gentle, clicking his tongue. “We’re going home Sassenach. To Lallybroch.”
“I was crying for joy, my Sassenach,” he said softly. He reached out slowly and took my face between his hands. “And thanking God I have two hands. That I have two hands to hold you with. To serve you with, to love you with. Thanking God that I am a whole man still, because of you.”