A mix between romance novel and historical adventure with just a bit of
fantasy thrown in, Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" (published as "Cross
Stitch" in the UK) tells the story of Claire Beauchamp, a wartime nurse
who involuntarily travels back through time and has to adjust to the
realities of life in 18th century Scotland.
During her honeymoon in 1945 Inverness, Claire visits a stone circle
and finds out the hard way what these prehistoric monuments mean: they
serve as marking stones for a time portal. Of course when she first
encounters a wild skirmish between English redcoats and Scottish
highlanders, she believes to witness a movie shoot - however, after
being picked up by the Scots and brought to Castle Leoch she soon has
to accept that this is indeed 1743.
Not being able to identify herself, Claire of course becomes the
subject of speculations: Is she an English spy? An agent of the French?
The woman she says she is, an English lady robbed on the way to the
harbour of Inverness?
And it's not just the Scots who wonder - English Captain Randall,
incidentally an ancestor of Claire's 20th century husband, has taken an
interest in her and her possible alliances. To escape the cruel
Captain, Claire is forced to become a Scot by law - through marrying
young Jamie Fraser, a relative of the head of Clan MacKenzie, outlawed
by the English and with a personal dislike for Randall.
Soon she finds herself torn between loyalty to her old husband and
growing love for the new, between wanting to return to her former life
and becoming more and more attached to the people around her, between
knowing the future and not being allowed to speak of it.
commences a gripping story of clan feuds, rebellion and witch trials,
but also of love, loyalty and friendship.
What distinguishes Diana Gabaldon's story is the historical accuracy of
what is basically an adventure novel. While she takes some poetic
licence, the book features many historical characters and is full of
interesting and amusing details of 18th century life. In fact there is
a whole book accompanying "Outlander" and its sequels, titled "The
Outlandish Companion" and offering insight into her research process
and the procedures, figures and items described in her novels.
This makes "Outlander" an enjoyable read not only for people who like
romances or adventures, but also for those inclined towards historical
So far Diana Gabaldon has written five sequels - "Dragonfly in Amber",
"Voyager", "Drums of Autumn", "The Fiery Cross" and "A Breath of Snow
and Ashes" - following Claire and Jamie to the court of the French
king, the Jacobite uprising of 1746, the early settlements of the West
Indies and America and ultimately to the War of Independence.