You know those books that consume you and render you incapable of thinking about anything else or even being useful in any way? That’s how I feel right now. I just finished reading “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon and have been living in a Scottish haze ever since I started it last week. Yesterday I simply couldn’t go to bed until I’d finished, and that’s a rare occurrence for me these days, what with sleep being pretty much the most precious commodity in our house. Nonetheless, it was impossible to put down.
I love real historical fiction, the kind that you can tell has been well researched by the author, and this is definitely the case with “Outlander.” Though I know very little about Scottish history, Gabaldon does a good job at convincing me that she’s an expert; family genealogy and history, Gaelic words, traditional songs and ballads, knowledge of medicinal herbs, pagan rites, and Scottish-English relations all combine to create a rich background for an achingly romantic story.
And, oh, the love story… it’s enough to make the least romantic of you quiver at the knees, I swear. For those of you unfamiliar with the book or needing a little teaser, Claire Randall lives in 1945 before getting transported back to 1743 after touching a magic rock. She tries to get back her present life, but ends up falling in love with a Scottish Highlander. There are lots of politics going on; it’s just prior to the Jacobite rebellions, and the English army is terrorizing the Scots. The time travel thing sounds hokey, I know, but at least it is not overdone. If you can wrap your head around that one fact, you’ll be fine. I won’t give away any more!
After recovering from a romance-induced swoon as I turned the last page, I went online to read some reviews of the book. I’m always curious to know what others are thinking. Apparently, “Outlander” has a bit of a bad reputation, since it’s often categorized in the romance section. I disagree. Yes, there are some pretty steamy scenes, but that’s not the focus of the book. The characterization of Claire and Jamie is great; they’re not portrayed as dashing hero and damsel-in-distress, by any means, but as flawed, intelligent human beings. It’s also not an easy read; there are scenes of torture that were disturbing, yet do a good job at portraying the brutality with which the English were known for treating the Scots. (Think “Braveheart.”) It may not be “classic” literature, but it’s a great read.
Has anyone else read it? What do you think?!