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Our June, 2013 Selection: Outlander
by Dom,posted Jun 3 2013 7:56PM
By Diana Gabaldon
Reviewed by Dom. Yes, by Dom.
Not long ago we had another discussion on our show about romance novels. It seems we have that talk every three or four years. This time, several listeners pointed to this book by Diana Gabaldon as the best example of the genre.
Turns out they’re right in some respects, but not in others.
Outlander has been wildly successful in its twenty-year publishing history, capturing the hearts of millions of readers. Gabaldon has turned it into an industry, with multiple novels and even a companion CD, “Outlander the Musical.” An actual stage show is being discussed.
This novel - the original in the series - is, as our listeners claimed, remarkable in its scope. The problem with the claim “best romance novel” is that the book refuses to settle into any one genre. Sure, there are strong elements of romance, but you can also argue that it’s historical fiction. Others say it’s an adventure novel.
Let me put it this way: I found it on the shelf in the Fiction section, but not in the Romance section.
In a nutshell - which is hard to do with an 850-page book - Claire Beauchamp is a time-traveler, with a husband in 1945 and a new love interest in the 18th century. Or would that be an old love interest?
Anyway, the rollicking story charts Claire’s jump from post-WWII Scotland to the stormy 1700s. It’s 1945, and Claire is on a second honeymoon with her husband, Oxford history professor Frank. He is deeply interested in his family’s ancestry, including the legendary “Black Jack” Randall, and buries himself in research. Claire, poking around on her own, touches a magical standing stone on a hill at Craigh na Dun, and is instantly transported back 200 years, right into the heart of Frank’s family history.
From there, she must survive while hiding her secret from the citizens of that time. She is a Sassenach (English person) among Scots Highlanders. In order to protect herself from Black Jack - who is more ruthless than Frank or Claire could’ve imagined - she must bond with a young Scots warrior named James (Jamie) Fraser. And that’s when sparks fly and swords flash.
Does she try to return to Frank in 1945, or does she stay with 18th century stud Jamie?
Filled with romance, adventure, history - hell, even geography - this massive novel is certainly a page-turner. And yes, I read some parts twice. Ha!