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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

'Outlander' series by Diana GABALDON



From the ‘Outlander’ blurb:

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’ve re-read the first book three times now (no mean feat when it’s 656 pages) and each time I fall a little bit more in love. This is my favorite series, and ‘Outlander’ is my favorite book.
I am so obsessed with this series that I have marked all my favorite passages, sentences, scenes and chapters and frequently flip through them when I feel in the mood.
I feel so close to this series, and so protective of it that I wasn’t even overly thrilled when it was announced in 2008 that the movie rights were sold and the books being adapted. I would be so upset if the movie didn’t live up to expectations, if my favorite book wasn’t don’t *just* right, that I rather it not be adapted at all… How to explain my obsession and over-protectiveness? Well, let me attempt….

Jamie and Claire are the most magnificent love story I have ever read. It is epic - grand-scale, tragic, passionate, enduring and life altering.
It’s not just that it’s time travel that bought the two of them together – it’s the fact that they fit, complete and compliment one another so perfectly. Jamie himself describes his love for Claire as thus;
“For so many years,” he said, “for so long, I have been so many things, so many different men.” I felt him swallow, and he shifted slightly, the linen of his nightshirt rustling with starch.
“I was Uncle to Jenny’s children, and Brother to her and Ian. ‘Milord’ to Fergus, and ‘Sir’ to my tenants. ‘Mac Dubh’ to the men of Ardsmuir and ‘Mackenzie’ to the other servants at Helwater. ‘Malcolm the printer,’ then, and ‘Jamie Roy’ at the docks.” The hand stroked my hair, slowly, with a whispering sound like the wind outside. “But here,” he said, so softly I could barely hear him, “here in the dark, with you… I have no name.”
I lifted my face toward his, and took the warm breath of him between my own lips.
“I love you,” I said, and did not need to tell him how I meant it.
Jamie Fraser is one of the sweetest male protagonists, at once a fearless warrior and gentle lover. Jamie is a mass of contradictions – he trained to be a soldier in France and when Claire meets him he is a strong clansman. Jamie sleeps with his dirk (knife) by his head at night and is a savage killer on the battlefield. But he is also the Laird of the Lallybroch estate, a protective brother and a leader of men who would follow him to the ends of the earth. Jamie is loyal and compassionate, brutally honest with an unbending set of morals. He also has a tragic past that haunts him, but never overpowers him, throughout the series. It is impossible to read these books and not fall in love with Jamie… especially because, above all else, I think he considers his role as Claire’s husband to be his most important.
"I will find you," he whispered in my ear. "I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you---then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest." His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me. "Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well."
Claire is quite opposite to Jamie. She was a nurse during WWII, so she is very pragmatic and ‘take charge’. Claire is bull-headed and wickedly smart, with a cunningness and honesty that is rivaled only by Jamie. It’s great fun to read 19th century Claire being thrown into 17th century Scotland, both because she is such a contrast to the times but also because she is a wily character and a survivor, above all else – and she adapts beautifully.

Jamie and Claire are also a favorite because Gabaldon writes such good sex scenes. Yes, it’s all well and good to wax poetic about grand love stories – but it all means nothing if there’s no *heat*. Well Jamie and Claire are smoldering – and Ms. Gabaldon quite likes her smutty scenes, to the point that I have found myself blushing quite a few times throughout.

Gabaldon’s series spans centuries, countries and historic events. Gabaldon throws Jamie and Claire into the middle of the ‘Jacobite rising’ of 1745, and the last few books have been preparing Jamie and Claire for the American war of Independence (1775 – 1783).
Gabaldon has created characters out of real historical figures, including ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ (Charles Stuart), King James and King George II.
If this all sounds like one boring history lesson, you could not be more wrong. Gabaldon clearly has a love of history and detail – but she only uses these events as catalysts and backdrops for her characters. Jamie and Claire are never lost amidst the grand battles and revolutions, the story is always about them and Gabaldon never loses sight of that.

These grand historic backgrounds make for fascinating reading – Jamie and Claire have gone to war, met Indians, sailed to the New World and attended the French court in Versailles. The historic events act as plot triggers and ensure that Jamie and Claire are always on an adventure. But there is a drawback to such a grandiose timeline. Ms. Gabaldon does all of her research simultaneously with her manuscript writing – and because of this (and the fact that her books are, on average, 800+ pages) it is a LONG wait between books. Fans had a four-year wait between novels #6 and #7, and it looks as though we will have to wait another four years for #8.

It’s not helped by the fact that Gabaldon loves a good cliff hanger. And trust me when I say those cliffs seem to grow and steepen over the years – the latest installment ‘An Echo in the Bone’ came out September 2009 and left fans reeling for its open-endedness.

It is a testament to Gabaldon’s work that fans do keep coming back, despite the agonizing wait between books. ‘Outlander’ came out in 1991, and the series now stands at seven books with at least 2 more in Gabaldon’s contract. And every 4 to 5 years her fans make an expedition and pick up Jamie and Claire’s story where the last left off – and every year, without fail, Gabaldon claims a whole new troop of fans.

It’s hard to describe these books, and so often they are misplaced in bookshops. They are not ‘time travel’ sci-fi; they fit more comfortably into ‘historical romance’. But at the same time ‘historical romance’ conjures images of bodice-ripping and swashbuckling corniness. The ‘Outlander’ books are so much more than that. They are truly epic – publication spans decades, the plot defies genre and the romance is unrivaled.

If you haven’t already, I cannot communicate enough just how much you should read these books. I know it’s daunting – 656 pages for book #1. And I have to warn you, the plot of book #1 starts out slow – you’ve really got to stick to it through a good 100 pages of set-up before you get to the really good stuff. But it’s so, so worth it (for Jamie Fraser alone).

5/5

9 comments:

  1. I love this series, and Outlander is one of my go-to books when I need a comfort read. *sigh* I love Jamie and Claire.

    LOL - when it was first recommended to me, I did read the first 60 pages or so and thought "WTF, I thought this was a time travel book" but I'm so glad I hung in there!

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  2. I love Outlander. Love it. It got me all emotional, though, and I couldn't continue with the series right away. I keep saying that I'm going to set aside a chunk of time to continue with it, but haven't yet. Must do that!!

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  3. Loved your review! =)

    I have yet to finish book 1 LOL but I do LOVE me some Jamie hehe =)))

    xx

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  4. i am reading this for a challenge this year (i hope!) .... i need to find more time to get to them LOL

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  5. It is almost an unhealthy obcession with me and this book. It doesn't help that my husband is nearly the exact physical description of Jamie. This book has inspired some of the best sex I have ever had!

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  6. Best Series ever. I have read all but Echo at least 3 maybe four times. Really glad to hear a movie may happen. Hope it doesn't shatter my imagined images and characters. Diana is an amazing writer with a wicked sense of humor. I would love to meet her.

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  7. I was started the series in late march of 2012, I am all done and now I do not know what to read because I am emotional attached to the characters in the series (my husband thinks I’m crazy). I am from Canada (Quebec) and I read this series in French, because I had a hard time to read with the Scottish accent, but now that I am done reading the series, I have began reading it all over again but this time in English. These are the best books I have ever read, and I do read a lot.

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    1. @ Anonymous - We have all been there, trust me! Jamie is like an addiction that you can never get enough of. I must confess, I have tried to fill my 'Outlander' craving, but have never found another series that's quite as satisfying... that being said... Sara Donati's 'Into the Wilderness' is pretty good (and makes mention of some 'Outlander' characters!). I have also heard that Paullina Simons's 'The Bronze Horseman Trilogy' is excellent (I haven't read it *yet*, but numerous 'Outlander' fans have recommended it to me over the years).

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  8. Outlander is a thrilling and enthralling tale told by a master storyteller. Gabaldan has a talent for characterization, creating vivid, enchanting personalities in exciting historical settings that draw you into another time and place. This well researched historical romance is at the top of its genre, and is a page-turner that cannot be put down until finished.

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