Warning: sensitive topics such as rape and torture are discussed in this book (many times, at length. With many descriptions).
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just 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 circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
“You are safe,” he said firmly. “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well. The man willna lay hands on ye again, while I live.”
This was unlike anything else I have read, probably ever. In the past 10 years, I have read at least 95% urban fantasy and epic fantasy by word count. This wasn’t even in the same realm of story. It is really hard to even form how I feel about this book, because it is just so vastly different from what I normally read. It felt neither good nor bad to me. The writing was really well done, the story was plotted out fantastically, the characters felt like real people. I’m just not certain how much I personally cared for it was, and how much I would seek out further stories like this so far.
The biggest difference, perhaps, is that I kept wanting the book to just get to where it is going. But, this is not that type of story. There is not a big payoff at the end of this book. This is not some grand adventure. This is a story of real life. This is the story of a life. This is the story of a journey, not to a specific journey, but just as life takes the main characters. I had to convert my entire mindset of a book in order to start to enjoy this. This book doesn’t even have a real, proper ending. It ends on a decision being made. Just so not what I have come to expect from a book.
Claire is a nice change from what I typically read, because she is a nurse turned doctor in the 1700s. She is a healer, and there is a lot of healing to go around in this book. She brings modern medical practices (well modern for the 1940s, at the very least), such as simple things like washing your hands to the past. There is, however, only so much she can do. There is no penicillin, she has to rely on natural antibiotics like garlic. There is no x-ray, she has to rely on feel. There are opioids, but they aren’t like we know them as, and she has to be careful with them.
There are some things about this story I really don’t care for. For one, she accepts what is going on way, way too readily. At first it was shock, I’m sure, because who expects to be transported to the past. But, once she comes to accept she is in the past, that is it. There is barely any even thinking to herself that this sure is a weird situation she has ended up in. There are almost no culture shocks. There are basically no slip ups. Claire seems to move about in a world 200 years in the past with relative ease. While there are language barriers due to other languages, there are no language barriers with English itself, which just does not seem plausible, because I know they used different words for certain things back then. Also, I cannot believe that she is not being looked at weirdly, in Scotland, for not being religious. There are little things like all of those that make me look deeper into the story than perhaps I should.
Unfortunately, so far I don’t really care overmuch about Claire. At least, I don’t care for some of the decisions she makes throughout the book. It would be nice for her to spend more than five minutes prior to the end of the book wondering about her husband in the modern day, for example. She hasn’t even started to worry what would happen if she got pregnant in the past, and what that would mean without modern medicine practices. She seems so caught up in the moment, never caring for the future or the past, that I have a hard time connecting with her. There would be a million things running on in my mind if I were in her place, but she seems so serene about it all. She is a bit of an odd, inconsistent women. In one moment, she will “know her place” as a lady of the 1700s, and then in the moment her “modern sensibilities” will kick in and cause a hell of a lot of trouble. She flips back and forth in these modes like some kind of bipolar attack, it felt like. It was very odd to read.
I like Jaime as a person, and as a romantic interest for Claire, I suppose he is good for her. In a weird way. He is a strong character, with a very painful past. I..won’t say I enjoy reading about his past and what he does throughout the book, because that would be cruel to Jaime. Instead, I appreciate him as a character. On his own, he adds a lot of depth to this story. At times, he does feel a bit too swiss army knife. He has every skillset he needs for every part of the story. Need someone strong? Jaime. Need a translator for any language? Jaime. Need a lover? Jaime. Need someone who has traveled all over Europe and happens to knows everyone in Scotland? Jaime. Basically, any situation that needs someone other than Claire to solve, Jaime is there to pick up the slack. Claire, herself, is an odd mixture of independent and strangely over-dependent on Jaime. She latches onto him in the beginning of the book, and we really don’t see much of anyone else at all because she is always orbiting around Jaime instead. At times there only felt like there were two characters in the entire book, because the only one Claire ever focused on was Jaime. Every scene centers around him.
I’ve brought up the plot, and how it isn’t a plot that is going anywhere. That is true. However, there is tons that happen in this book (as one might hope in a book that is nearly 300k words long). It really is a journey. Claire finds out what she is going to do (namely, become a doctor) and who she is going to (Jaime). She makes mistakes along the way, they all do. There are high stakes involved, since the English captain, Jonathan Randall, wants to know where she came from and who she is spying for. Claire becomes a part of Scotland in this story. Through marriage, through family, through being a traveling physician. There is a lot that happens. Just not all of it interesting from one that typically reads a very, very different type of story. There weren’t many lulls in the story where I didn’t care in the moment. There were no parts I really didn’t wish happened in the first place. But, looking back, I couldn’t tell you half of the specifics. Just, there were a lot of things that happened, and not all of it interesting looking back.
I just still cannot get over how easily Claire accept what was going on and how easily she slipped into this life. She even had the chance to go back, and she didn’t (which, I suppose, is a spoiler). I just. I don’t understand this part. I’m having a really, really hard time accepting this part. And, there are quite a few other (spoiler-full) parts to this book that I have trouble accepting. This just.. tops everything. It is ruining my suspension of disbelief.
I’m going to keep going, because the story has caught my attention. I just still don’t know what to think of it.
To read more reviews for this series, check out the Outlander series page!