Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Review: Outlander [1991]

Are you interested in time-traveling historical romance? Do you yearn for the love of a good Scottish clansman? Diana Gabaldon's Outlander may be just the book for you. Despite the fact that it was published in 1991, Outlander feels timeless; it's a brick of a book that unstintingly immerses the reader in the often brutal clan life of 18th century Scotland. Protagonist Claire Randall, a former WWII nurse, is cast back from 1945 to 1743 after an unfortunate encounter with a group of standing stones. Despite being married in the 20th century, Claire becomes involved with dashing outlaw Jamie Fraser, ultimately making the choice (spoiler alert!) to remain with him rather than return to her own time. While there were a few places that Claire seemed to too conveniently forget her husband's existence, one could argue that that was a defense mechanism against her seemingly impossible situation . . . the best feature of the book is its ability to bring up such interesting questions; its worst is perhaps an over-reliance on coincidence (how many times can one reasonably expect to accidentally run into the villain?).

Despite the fact that she is US-born, Gabaldon has as good a grasp of Scots dialect as any historical author, as well as a strong sense of character development, managing to make a veritable host of minor characters strikingly memorable. Gabaldon leaves several questions unanswered: why is Claire able to travel through time? Does she have a larger purpose? Is she able to (or has she already) affect events enough to change her future significantly? A quick look at Fantastic Fiction shows that the book has at least six sequels, so presumably some of these questions will be answered. Finally, I've known for years that my mother enjoyed this series (and I can see why, Outlander was totally up her alley), and it is always nice to read something that I know she's also read.

Grade: A-

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