SUMMARY (from Goodreads): The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon – when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach – an "outlander" – in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
I cannot believe it took publishers in Slovenia twenty years from its first release to discover Outlander. However, better late than never, as this is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. The translator could do better rendering the Scottish accent, but overall the translation is good and reads as smoothly as I imagine the original writing does.
It took me about a hundred pages to really get into the book, but once I did, I could hardly stop reading for the remaining eight hundred pages or so. Despite being an enormously thick book, Outlander is a fast read.
Gabaldon’s setting is amazing, her descriptions take the reader right to Scotland and its stunning nature, castles and villages. Her writing is noticeably well-researched from historical data, weapons and fighting techniques to medicine, clothing and culture. A little bit of magic just adds to the atmosphere of the eighteen century she so vividly recreates.
The characters in Outlander, not only the main protagonists, but also minor characters, are well-developed and multidimensional, which enriches the book further. Claire is an exceptionally strong female character. She appears a little dry in the beginning, because she is an analytical, rational person due to her being a nurse. This very attribute makes her not only able to survive, but also thrive a little, in such a harsh world she is thrown in. Only a person who has experienced the horror of World War Two is able to cope with the harshness of the world two centuries earlier and adopt to the position of women at the time. Her medical and historical knowledge helps her, too, naturally.
However, Claire is also a compassionate and romantic person. She is a free spirit and she enjoys her adventure. Claire is the kind of person who wants to make the best of her situation while waiting for the opportunity to get out of whichever predicament she finds herself in. Claire is also a very loyal person. She is always trying to do what she is supposed to do. Her persistence to find her way back to her husband seems a little strange since their relationship did not seem to work well, because they did not have a lot in common and Frank seemed somewhat inconsiderate towards Claire and her feelings. Claire’s sense of loyalty is admirable and it takes a lot for her to change her feelings.
Frank being a scholarly and quite dull personage, Jamie is the very opposite of him. Jamie is a fierce warrior who would do anything to protect the people he loves. He has a strong sense of honour and always keeps his word. He is an open-minded person, which is an absolute necessity for his relationship with Claire. Speaking of it, I liked it that their relationship was a slowly growing and well founded one. Claire and Jamie are a great couple and their love is based on mutual understanding, trust and many things they have in common.
The chief villain in the book, Jonathan Randall, is one of the most terrifying villains ever. Sauron, take a bow. It is a big difference between a sinister mythological force and a tangible evil of a human being. Randall is a cruel, sadistic man, bent on ruining Jamie and there are no limits to his pursuing of his goal. However, Gabaldon makes Randall a complex personality, giving his psychopathic behaviour a background and reasons, so I could not help myself feeling sorry for him for a moment or two.
Gabaldon’s approach to love scenes is very subtle, which is nice for a change, but she does not spare the reader with violence. Her descriptions of violence and subsequent injuries are graphic, forcing the reader to face the horror and the characters’ feelings.
There is no pretence about historical reality in Outlander. Gabaldon presents human nature authentically. Alongside reading, one realises that human nature has not changed over the centuries. The world may have changed its appearance, but the essence remains the same.
RECOMMENDATION: Outlander is definitely not a book for everyone. However, for the people who enjoy a mix of history and love together with a pinch of magic and can stomach violent scenes, this book is a must-read.