Outlander is the Audible.com Book of the Day and on sale for $5.95. If you have any interest in the Starz series that starts next week, this is a good excuse to pick it up. (By the way you can watch the premier of Outlander on your computer or on ‘on-demand‘ regardless of if you have Starz this week.
Summary: Post WWII nurse gets sent back in time to 18th century Scotland.
Thrown back in time books have often interested me. It is not a new idea, the first I remember reading was a kid’s version of Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. And there have been many since then.
I have been hearing about the Outlander series since it came out more than 20 years ago. At some point several years ago the kindle version was briefly offered for free (and I picked up the audiobook version with some promotional Audible credit.) It was one of the books that I was looking forward to reading when I decided to stop buying new books for a while.
In Outlander, Claire is a former WWII English combat nurse just after the war. After 6 years she and her husband have been reunited and have temporarily moved to Scotland so he (an historian) can do some research and they can get re-aquatinted as a couple. The two of them stumble on a druid ceremony and Claire is briefly separated from her husband Frank. And then somehow, she is sent back in time to 1743 Scotland on the edge of war.
Claire has no idea how to get home (or how she got to 1743). But she knows that life in 1743 is much different than life in 1945. Her training as a nurse and her interest in medicinal plants gives her a place as a healer. But she is still an ‘Outlander’ and most of the English are hated in a society that would like to rebel against England.
James Fraser (Jamie) becomes her protector (after she saves his life.) Eventually she is forced to marry Jamie for her own protection against a vicious English Captain. Claire falls in love with Jamie and despite her guilt for being married in both 1945 and 1743, she tries to make a life with Jamie.
Jamie has his own issues. Captain Randall (who happens to be Frank’s ancestor) is searching for Jamie, forcing Jamie to live as an outlaw.
There is more than enough drama from the relationship with Jamie and Frank, the time travel (and concerns about changing the future) and the adjustment to 1743 to keep the story moving. But this is a LONG book. 33 hours in audiobook and more than 800 pages in paperback. I mostly listened, but occasionally read the kindle version (whispersync is awesome, you should use it.)
As a story, it is somewhat similar in feel to the Game of Thrones books in its epic scope. Although it is based in actual history and not fantasy history. The writing is reminiscent of Susan Howatch, because of the long detailed character driven book. There are currently eight books in this series, all about the same length.
It is also more ‘romance-y’ than many fantasy, time travel books, but not unlike Time Traveler’s Wife, which I love. There is a good bit of sex in the book. Most of it isn’t too explicit. But the story at the end includes gay rape/torture that while not as explicit as it could be, it pretty bad. If you are reading in paper, it is fairly easy to skip over the sex scenes if you want to.
It is not as serious about history as Octavia Butler’s Kindred (which I highly recommend.) And so this feels more like a fantasy book than historical fiction (although other than the time travel there is really not any fantasy elements.)
On the whole, this is a well written, engaging series. But even after 850 page, it just sort of ends without a real conclusion. It is a clear set up for the next book in the series, but does not really feel like a good ending.
One of my hesitations about even starting this book is that I knew it was the start of a long series. Starting what is around a 5000 page series is a big deal. In the end I am glad I read it and I enjoyed it. But I am not sure how quickly I will read the next book.
The series is being turned into a Starz series in the summer of 2014. So I might wait to see how good the TV series is before I invest too much more time in the books.