When I read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for the first time in 2014, I didn’t think it would take me nearly four years to get through all eight books. But, at that point, I also wasn’t posting a book review blog once a week either, and that makes a significant difference in one’s ability to dedicate time to long books/series.
I think Outlander is the longest series I’ve ever read, at least that isn’t episodic by nature (like The Boxcar Children or stories similar that may have an underlying purpose plot, but that mainly stand alone). I was hesitant, I remember, because it seemed like a tall order, to write such long books, and so many, and expect it to maintain the standard of writing that I as set with the first book. But boy was I mistaken!
Outlander begins with the same-titled first book, wherein Claire Randall, honeymooning in Scotland, finds herself transported through time from post-World War II to pre-Jacobite Uprising. We spend the whole first book watching Claire try to keep her secret, fit in among Scots who think she’s a spy, at worst, and try to find a way to get back to her husband. Things get complicated when, for her safety, she has to marry a Scots warrior named Jamie, and the waters only muddy further from there, when she starts to fall in love.
Throughout the eight-book saga, Claire returns to her own time and her first husband, Frank, where she births and raises Jamie’s daughter. When their daughter Brianna is older, and after Frank has died, Claire tells her the whole story, and they find out Jamie didn’t die in the battle of Culloden, the final battle in Charles Stuart’s ill-fated uprising. Claire decides to travel back through time once more to find him, and after several adventures in the tropics, they end up in America, with just enough time to settle and welcome Brianna before the American Revolution kicks off. And naturally, between Claire’s knowledge of the future and Jamie’s commanding personality, the Fraser’s are right in the thick of things.
Gabaldon has done an incredible job of keeping this series fresh and interesting throughout all nearly 10,000 pages she’s published so far. While the things that happen to them and the events they witness and live through are exciting, the series is first and foremost the story of Claire and Jamie’s lives, which is why she’s been able to keep it going for so long. There’s no plot to run out of, because anything goes. It’s a style I don’t think every writer can pull off, but Gabaldon has made a name for herself with it.
These characters are uniquely themselves, filled with humor, sarcasm, sass and spirit, and by the time you get through a book or two, they are your friends.
Having read so many standalone books in the last couple years, it was nice to come back to a series, and a long one, to rediscover how it feels to go along with friends on a journey.
I can’t wait for her to finish writing the next installment. Fall can’t come soon enough.