Reading and Reviewing the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
These amazing books have such a following that there are multiple facebook pages dedicated to picking out which actors and actresses should be chosen to play the characters, including the official Diana Gabaldon page. In fact, a show may be made that is based off the series (http://www.dianagabaldon.com/other-projects/movies-mini-series-and-musicals/minifaq/).
So, I've set it upon myself to read all of Gabaldon's amazing books in chronological order. See, Gabaldon has added books and novellas to the series over time and while she’s written them out of order, I have decided to read them chronologically through the storyline, to see if I, hopefully, get a more deep look into the Outlander world. However, since I’ve read the first two so recently, I’m not really willing to read them again. (I love the books dearly but they’re dense and I don’t think I could handle an overdose of Outlander.) So, what I would like to do is give a brief review of each of the two first books and then a more detailed review of the third book, the one I’m currently reading. As I said, this is the second time I’m reading through the series so I can definitely give educated reviews of the books.
Therefore, the next book, a novella “Lord John and the Hellfire Club,” I have not, in fact, read and therefore will be giving a fresh view into the book with a still educated background, seeing as I know the general direction of the overall story. Just a heads up for the future, when I get to reading and reviewing the rest of the books in the series.
So Here Goes...
This is the first book of the series. In it we meet Claire Randall, an intelligent woman in the 1940’s who is on a second honeymoon with her husband so they can get to know one another again after WWII. They go to a little town in Scotland in which is a small stone circle, like Stonehenge, called Craigh na Dunn. An historian, Claire’s husband, Frank wants to investigate when a group of women have a sort of pagan ritual in the stone circle.
A nurse in the war, Claire and her husband decide she needs a hobby so she collects and observe plants and herbs, and she decides to go back to the stone circle to collect an interesting flower she had seen when spying on the group of women. When she gets to the circle, she trips and falls through what Gabaldon calls a “cleft” in the stone and experiences a terrorizing rush, for lack of a better way to describe it, which knocks her unconscious; when she wakes up, through a series of events she comes to find she is in the 1700’s.
There are many dramatic and mostly historically accurate events which lead Claire on an adventure with a Scot, Jamie Fraser, to whom she is inexplicably connected. So many events, in fact, that one must read the book to be able to grasp all of them. In the end, however, Claire falls in love with Jamie and decides to stick by him for better or for worse. And together they decide to try to stop the horrible battle at Culloden (again you must read the book or know Scottish history to understand) in which thousands of Scottish men die.
Dragonfly in Amber
The second book in the Outlander series is split between two times; the 1960’s with Claire, her daughter, Brianna, and Roger Wakefield, an historian in Scotland who helps Claire find out what happened to the Fraser men after Culloden; and the 1740’s in which Claire and Jamie attempt to thwart the Bonnie Prince Charlie’s plans to take the throne of England back for his family, the Stuarts.
In the book, too detailed to be able to describe everything, we come to find that Jamie and Claire had traveled to France with the idea that they could stop the war between Scotland and England. Unsuccessful in their attempts, they went back to Scotland and fought with the other Scottish men. Knowing he would die in the Battle at Culloden, Jamie forces Claire to go back to her own time to have their unborn child and be safe.
Through his research, Roger becomes friends with Claire and particularly her daughter, who he begins to develop feelings for. Also through his research, he and Claire discover that Jamie may not be dead after all and Claire is pushed to tell Brianna the truth about her father.
This is the book I have read most recently. Claire, Brianna, and Roger do some more digging to find out where Jamie is and when. The book is split, at first, between the two times, switching from the threesome doing research, to Jamie and his experiences after Culloden and after Claire left.
Jamie went through a lot after the Battle at Culloden, as did every Scot at the hands of the English at that time. He almost died, but for the stubbornness of his sister who would not let him. And he lived in a cave for about seven years before turning himself over to the English in order to collect the bounty price. After he was released, he was an indentured servant on an English estate where, extenuating circumstances led to him having a son. At which point, he had to leave so no one would be able to discover the lad’s true father. After that he became a printer under the name of Alexander Malcom.
It is at this point, that Claire found Jamie and was able to go back in time to meet him. She went through the cleft in the stone and the terrorizing rush again, knowing that it would be her last time as each time was harder and if she had to do it again it might kill her, and she found Jamie.
In the events that followed their reunion, among other things, Jamie and Claire have to travel to the Jamaican islands to save Jamie’s nephew, who had been kidnapped. It was a long adventure to the islands and they were successful in the end, saving Jamie’s nephew from certain death and in the end they only had to decide what they were going to do next.
This book is possibly my favorite in the series because it tests, and retests Jamie and Claire’s relationship only to find that it is one of the strongest and most loving relationships, both in reality and in literature, that I have ever seen. Gabaldon’s detailed way of writing is definitely one of those which allows the reader to be transported back in time to feel as if he or she sees the events happening. Narrating in first person from Claire’s point of view, Gabaldon describes the smallest details about each character, down to the tiny muscles that twitch under an eye when a person is agitated. These small aspects of each character let readers get to know even the insignificant characters, and it helped me begin to notice those kinds of things I see in the people surrounding me. As a result, I feel I have become more observant in my daily life.