Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

The basics

Title: Outlander

Author:

Series: Outlander #1

Outlander (1991) - also called Cross Stitch
Dragonfly In Amber (1992)
Voyager (1993)
Drums Of Autumn (1996)
The Fiery Cross (2001)
A Breath Of Snow And Ashes (2004)
An Echo In The Bone (2009)
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (2014)
Book 9 (201-?)

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Goodreads Summary:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just 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 circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

In short

Claire Randall travels back in time to the eighteenth century where she is forced to marry for her own protection (and possible ulterior motives of the MacKenzie clan).  It’s not all bad though,  her new husband, Jamie Fraser, turns out to be the love of her life but she still has to decide whether to stay in the past or go back to the future and her first husband, Frank, whose sadistic ancestor is the antagonist of the book.  Also, there is a cameo by the Loch Ness Monster.

What went down

  • Mr and Mrs Randall are having a lovely time on their second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands.  They casually discuss Frank’s six times great grandfather as though he’ll never be relevant to the plot.
  • We get our first Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! of the series.  I won’t be keeping count.
  • Claire goes about her day and when Frank returns to the bed and breakfast after an evening of historical discussion, whisky drinking and inadvertent ghost spotting.  He is mildly shaken by the experience and a little peeved at the idea of a man staring up at his wife in her nightdress, ghost or otherwise.
  • Claire and Frank visit Reverend Wakefield, a local amateur historian.  His adopted son, Roger, is shooed from the room (don’t worry, he’ll be back later) and Claire has her future ambiguously told by the Reverend’s housekeeper, Mrs Graham.
  • Mrs Graham, it turns out, is something of a witch/druid/keeper of the auld ways and is a part of a group of women who perform a ritual dance at the local henge, Craigh Na Dun, on the old sun feast days.  Claire and Frank watch the ceremony.
  • Claire gets more than she bargained for when she returns to Craigh Na Dun in search of plant specimens.  And by ‘more than she bargained for’, I mean that’s she is impossibly pulled through a cleft in the now screaming stones and wakes up two hundred years in the past.
  • She is almost immediately set upon by an Englishman who looks uncannily like her husband – and his name sounds awfully familiar.  He turns out not to be a particularly nice person and in trying to escape from him, she is grabbed/rescued by a Scotsman, Murtagh, and taken off to meet his band of highlanders.
  • Claire resets the dislocated shoulder of a highlander named Jamie, all the while questioning her new companions’ use of words like chirurgeon and musket ball.  And if the strange language, injuries, and instances of assault and kidnapping weren’t enough to convince a person they might have travelled back in time – there’s always the non-existence of the lights of the major city you’ve been holidaying in!
  • After a wee stramash, Claire and the highlanders arrive at their destination – Castle Leoch, home to the Chieftain of Clan MacKenzie.  Claire patches Jamie up again, and is treated to the story of the deep criss-crossing scars on his back.  Apparently, several years ago Randall arrived at Jamie’s home and tried, among other things, to rape his sister, Jenny.  Jamie objected – naturally – was charged with obstruction and taken to Fort William where he was flogged by Randall himself.  You might be thinking that his Randall bloke is turning out to be quite the villain.  You’d be right.
  • Claire and Jamie have a couple of picnics where she brings food to him while he works, apparently in exchange for the lad’s life story.  We find out why Jamie is outlawed – murder – and learn what he was doing before the start of the book – recovering from a questionable head wound in an abbey in France.
  • Claire makes a new friend, fellow herb enthusiast and wife of the local Fiscal, Geilie Duncan.  She seems nice.
  • Claire tries to escape the castle during the clan gathering and inadvertently outs Jamie, forcing him to swear an oath to the MacKenzies.
  • Because these two clearly can’t be left to their own devices, they are asked/forced to leave the castle with Dougal and Co. as they gad about the countryside collecting MacKenzie taxes.  This turns out to be a fantastic opportunity to show off the brutality of the English – through parading Jamie’s scars – and raise money for the return of a Stuart king to Scotland, the Jacobite cause.
  • Dougal takes Claire to meet with the garrison commander at Fort William.  It’s only once she’s left alone in the room with him – ie, too late – that she realises it’s Randall.  Because of course it is.  They have a lovely chat that ends in Claire being beaten by Randall while Corporal Hawkins holds her arms behind her back.
  • Dougal later reveals that Randall has ordered him to bring Claire in – officially – for questioning and the only way to get around it is to turn her into a Scot through marrying Jamie. They are married without incident and NSFW scenes ensue.
  • While on their honeymoon of sorts, Jamie and Claire meet with a beggar friend of Jamie’s, Hugh Munro, who gives Claire a piece of polished amber with a dragonfly inside.  Claire also meets the Loch Ness Monster.  A drover named Peter sees her.
  • Before the meeting with English deserter Horrocks who can clear Jamie’s name, Jamie and Claire are discovered together in a glen.  One deserter holds Jamie at gunpoint while the other attempts to rape Claire, but she manages to kill him with a dirk to the back and Jamie slits the other’s throat.
  • Jamie leaves Claire in a copse while he meets with Horrocks.  It quickly dawns on her that this is the escape opportunity she has been waiting for.  Her attempt is foiled not through nearly drowning in the river, but by being rescued by Corporal Hawkins and taken to Fort William and Black Jack Randall.
  • Claire and Randall’s conversation is going just about as well as all their others, though this time with added sexual assault (the count is up to three, for those of you playing along at home).  Jamie appears in the window in the nick of time, armed with only an unloaded pistol and an amazing one liner.
  • With the help of Dougal et al, they all manage to escape Fort William in one piece.  Claire’s recklessness has put everyone in danger however, and Jamie is forced to punish her, as any of the other men would have been in the same situation.  They have a stellar argument and it’s revealed that Jamie’s hatred of Randall goes even further than the fact that he raped his sister and flogged him close to death; he gave Jamie the opportunity to offer himself to Randall rather than be flogged again.  Jamie refused, Randall wasn’t pleased.
  • Everyone returns to Leoch and life goes on.  Claire catches up with her friend, Geilie, who proceeds to drug her with opium and interrogate her about who she is and her motives.  (Perhaps not so friendly, after all.)  This is cut short by the entrance of Geilie’s husband who collapses and dies.  Claire attempts to resuscitate him to no avail.
  • Jamie heads off on a stag hunt with the Duke of Sandringham, and Claire goes to visit Geilie at Laoghaire’s suggestion.  They are both arrested for witchcraft and thrown in the thieves’ hole in Crainsmuir to await trial – and by trial, I mean execution.
  • Claire finds out Laoghaire not only lured her to Geilie’s house to be arrested on purpose, but also bought an ill wish to use against Claire so that she might have a chance with Jamie.  Also, Geilie is pregnant with Dougal’s child.  Oh, and she poisoned her husband with arsenic.  And she’s a passionate Jacobite.  The plot thickens.
  • Peter the drover makes a reappearance, testifying that Claire summoned the Loch Ness monster to do her bidding.  Despite damning evidence Ned Gowan, the MacKenzie lawyer, and Jamie arrive to save the day.  In the end it’s Geilie who provides the distraction needed to get Claire to safety, and in doing so she shows off her anachronistic small pox vaccination scar.
  • Jamie bluntly asks Claire if she is a witch, and she replies by telling him the truth about where she came from.  He believes her and returns her to Craigh Na Dun.  Claire deliberates on the hilltop over whether to stay or to go back to the future… and ultimately finds her way back to Jamie’s side.  This is a recurring theme, get used to it.
  • Jamie brings Claire to his home, Lallybroch, where he is Laird.  His sister, Jenny, is married to his childhood best friend Ian Murray, and together they manage Lallybroch in Jamie’s absence.
  • Domesticities take over once again until Jamie is shot and captured by the Watch.  Jenny and Claire search for him, but Jenny must soon return home to her new born daughter.  Murtagh takes over the search and Claire goes with him.
  • After days on the road gathering information, they catch up with Dougal who has several bits of interesting news.  Firstly, Jamie is being held prisoner at Wentworth Prison and was sentenced to execution at trial three days back.  Jamie might be doomed but never fear, Dougal will take one for the team and marry newly widowed Claire. Secondly, Geilie Duncan is dead – burned as a witch – but left Dougal with a message that confirms she was in fact a time traveller from 1967.
  • Together with Murtagh and Rupert, Claire infiltrates Wentworth Prison and finds Jamie, chained, injured, and only half conscious.  Half way through helping him escape, Claire is discovered by Randall and a struggle ensues.  Set to hang in the morning, Jamie offers himself to Randall in exchange for Claire’s safe release.  Randall agrees.
  • Claire is lead outside the prison where she has to fend off a wolf.  Have you seen Beauty And The Beast?  It’s like that but with more broken wolf necks.  In shock, Claire faints into the arms of a conveniently placed Scotsman.
  • The random Scotsman, MacRannoch, agrees to help rescue Jamie after finding out he is Ellen MacKenzie’s son and they hatch a plan that involves storming the prison with a herd of highland cattle.  It might sound ridiculous, but it works.
  • Jamie is returned to Claire having been – among other things – lashed, branded, sexually assaulted and had the bones in his hand smashed.  On the plus side, Randall was trampled to death by cattle.

How did it end?

Our battered heroes travel to France, to the Abbey of Ste Anne de Beaupre, for sanctuary.  Jamie recounts what passed between him and Randall once Claire had left, and though he been recovering, the next day he is taken by a fever.  The outlook is bleak, the last rites are performed, but Claire isn’t one to give up so easily.  She uses opium and lavender in an effort to invoke Randall’s spirit and do battle for Jamie’s soul/life.  She wins, naturally, and Jamie is set on the road to recovery once again.  His uncle, the Abbot, presents him with a letter of introduction to King James of Scotland.  With the knowledge that time can be changed, after all history told Claire that Randall would die at Culloden, Jamie and Claire contemplate joining the King’s court and pursuing the Jacobite cause.

Anything else?

PoV Characters

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser (age 27 – 28)

Locations

Inverness, 1946

Scottish Highlands, 1743

France, 1744

Important Historical Figures

Loch Ness Monster

Gaidhlig Phrases

Mo Duinne – My brown one

Buidheachas, mo cariad – Thank you, my friend

Ciamar a tha thu? – How are you?

Mo airgeadach – My silver one

Calman geal – White dove

Mo Cridhe – My heart

Mi Dubh – My black one

Ruadh – Red

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