The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is 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 stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach--an "outlander"--in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Outlander is by far my favorite book this year. I am a proclaimed historical fiction lover, so the way that Outlander dipped one toe in post-World War II Scotland and then stepped backward over 200 years to the Scottish Highlands was fascinating.
I know that many readers shy away from time travel or books that require you to suspend a bit of reality, however I believe that the flow of this novel will appeal to many. While Claire Randall did take a trip back in time, it was not overdone, or even boldly unrealistic. In fact, I was often very excited by the way that the author was able to weave in tidbits of the 20th century into Claire's thoughts and her choices. One passage stood out to me in this respect:
"Looking down on the assembly, standing patiently in the drizzle awaiting a verdict, I suddenly had a vivid understanding of something. Like so many, I had heard, appalled, the reports that trickled out of postwar Germany; the stories of deportations and mass murder, of concentration camps and burnings. And like so many others had done, and would do, for years to come, I had asked myself, 'How could the people have let it happen? They must have known, must have seen the trucks, the coming and going, the fences and the smoke. How could they stand by and do nothing?' Well, now I knew.
...Because to step outside the group, let alone to stand against it, was for uncounted thousands of years death to the creature who dared it. To stand against a crowd would take something more than ordinary courage; something that went beyond human instinct. And I feared I did not have it, and fearing, was ashamed."
This novel was also a very powerful love story. I was moved more than once by the details of emotion and love between the characters. Gabaldon has a true gift for conveying desire and longing and the strong want for protection. As a warning, there are quite a few pretty racy scenes in the novel, so this book is not for those who are easy to blush.
I highly recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction, love stories, and books where strong women are central to a book's story. I can't believe that I had not heard of Outlander until now. It is very much my kind of novel, and I can picture myself this summer by the pool with my nose poked into the next books in the series.