Sometimes reading a book becomes a long term commitment, in this case, a commitment of 23 years and counting! When I read Outlander, the first book in this series in the early 1990’s I was hooked by the characters, the great love story and it’s historical authenticity and I couldn’t wait till the next one came out. Now after finishing the eighth book in this series, Written In My Heart’s Own Blood, I still resonate with the characters and enjoy the historical context and insights that these books offer. Somehow Diana Gabaldon manages to create story lines that are compelling, characters who are interesting and grounds both in well researched times and places and still manages to sustain her reader’s interest even after two decades!
The original book in the series, Outlander, introduces Claire Randall, a combat nurse who has recently returned from the battle fields of WWII to reunite with her husband, Frank, for a second honeymoon. While visiting one of the ancient stone circles which dot the countryside of Great Britain, she inadvertently touches one of the stones and is hurled back through time to Scotland of 1743. There she meets Jamie Fraser one of the leaders of the Mackenzie clan and there, in the midst of clan rivalry and war, they begin to feel an attraction and love that is complicated and hard to deny. The next books in the series follow Claire, Frank and Jamie and numerous other characters both in the 20th century and in the 18th century, traveling from Scotland, England and on to America and beyond as war and the pursuit of peace compel them.
The duality of time is, of course, one the major themes in these books, but instead of it being a gimmick, Gabaldon uses it to give us deeper insight into how people lived during those times. Claire’s nursing skills become vital as she faces illness and injury in the 17oo’s and we see the limits of medical knowledge at the time and the value of various advances like using antiseptic or penicillin. It is these very scenes of Claire combating illness and disease which are so compelling and where we realize in sharp clarity the fragility of life that in our more advanced and protected 21 century we seem to have forgotten.
Starz will be be broadcasting a TV series based on the books beginning on August 2, which I will be watching with interest, but I encourage you to read the books so you don’t miss out on anything!
Here is the Outlander series in order:
- Outlander (1991) (published in the UK and Australia as Cross Stitch)
- Dragonfly in Amber (1992)
- Voyager (1994)
- Drums of Autumn (1997)
- The Fiery Cross (2001)
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005)
- An Echo in the Bone (2009)
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (2014)
Brenda’s Rating ****(4 Stars out of 5)
Recommend this book to: Lauren, Sharon and Marian
Books Study Worthy: yes