on July 28, 2000
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU COMPLETELY LOST YOUR HEART TO A BOOK? Well, look no further. Diana Gabaldon has created the ultimate escape in Outlander. Don't let the 850 pages dissuade you. It's the fastest read you'll ever have.
The epic tale begins when Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in World War II, moves to Scotland with her beloved husband to reignite their marriage interrupted by the war. Hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and wakes up to find herself in 18th century Scotland. Lost, alone, and confused (yet determined), Claire's path crosses, and is inextricably linked to, a young Highland warrior... James Fraser. (The kind of man women want, and men want to BE.) The story that ensues would make Shakespeare proud-- danger, suspense, passion, betrayal, true love and tragedy. Gabaldon is a master storyteller. She shrouds her fantasy in just enough reality as to completely seduce her readers.
The time travel element as well as the romance, while unconventional for a "serious" historical novel, are handled brilliantly by Gabaldon. That said, this book is not for the faint of heart as the author tackles themes of a violent and sexual nature. However, the story is so realistic and beautifully told that it doesn't come off as a ploy to shock readers. Well-crafted and meticulously researched, Outlander is historical fiction at its finest... and so much fun! The hero and heroine come alive. You'll find yourself living and breathing in their world, anxiously devouring each chapter.
WARNING: have the next three books in the series handy. Once you turn the last page of Outlander, you won't want to return to the 21st century. I couldn't get to the bookstore fast enough. And, Gabaldon does not disappoint...
on November 25, 2001
I finished The Fiery Cross a couple of days ago, and while it's not my favorite of the series (nothing beats the first one), I enjoyed it thoroughly. Diana Gabaldon has taken us back once again to the eighteenth century and revealed it to us in glorious detail. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than with Jamie and Claire Fraser. I also appreciated this book greatly as a further deepening of Roger and Brianna's story. In the previous books, Bree wasn't really an interesting character to me - but here her character is fleshed out considerably. Likewise Roger - although his character was well-developed before this book, he endures hardships here that test his self-image and strength of character. And of course, Claire and Jamie are the same wonderful characters as ever - you really see here how their love has developed over the years.
I understand the complaints of some that this book doesn't have a plot, that it moves too slowly, etc. Those are valid points to make - there's nothing really earth-shattering that happens in this installment, although you know that something (the Revolution) is looming just beyond the horizon. For me, though, the beauty of the book was in the details - the very fact that this is for the most part a book about everyday life. More than in any of the rest of the books, Diana revels in these details. While some may find all this detail "boring," it allows us to really understand what life was like in the past, and it fleshes out all of the characters immeasurably. I closed the book feeling satisfied and yet craving more - I can't wait to find out how the entire saga ends! The Fiery Cross is a book for true fans who love these characters.
on April 16, 2002
Before anyone is discouraged by the negative reviews here, I hope they will read this one.
I don't understand when someone says nothing happens in this book. Granted, the action is subtle in the form of politics and intrigue, however it is still there. We finally get to see the everyday life of these wonderful people as they try to find a place to call their own. They have spent so much of their lives running from one thing to another, not really having a home that this is refreshing. People adore these books because of Diana's amazing ability of bringing characters to life, yet bash this book for the same reasons. When you nurse and have small children, bodily functions are something you have to deal with. One of the most humourous sections is Roger and Bree dealing with potty training Jemmy.
There is plenty of action, political intrigue and drama. We travel with Jamie and the militia, find some new characters, deal with almost losing not just one but two of the major characters and see the return of another. Some loose ends are tied up (wondering about the Tory gold and just who was Otter Tooth?), some are still hanging and new ones pop up (who was that with Laoghaire in the arbor and what about Claire's nighttime visitor?). The action is there if you care to read it.
It's true this book was split in two, Ms. Gabaldon didn't get as far as she would have liked with it, but it is a wonderful book all the same. I finished it in 2 days and had to reread it almost immediately. It is a slower starting novel than previously, something like Dragonfly in Amber, but still filled with the characters I have grown to love. Read it, you won't be disappointed.
on December 10, 2001
I must admit, the synopsis on the back of this tome threw me off. I didn't think I would be much interested in a romance novel based on time travel -- it just seemed way too implausible. However, at the persistence of several friends from a book group, I gave this novel a try. I am certainly grateful that I did. Firstly, this is not merely a romance novel. It involves a romance, to be sure, but this romance is not one you'd find again and again in your average Harlequin. This is an original romance, which so completely describes love that I found myself better understanding love than I did at the onset of the novel. When a novel has the capacity to make you understand something as vague as love, you know it is good.
It is also filled with adventure, religion, and human conscience. A historical novel rarely has the ability to make me understand things about my own presence, and yet, Outlander simply did. I was unable to put this book down, as enraptured as I was by the compelling writing.
The character development is beyond any I have lately read. Dianna Gabaldon has a true gift for understanding human emotion and translating it for the rest of us to understand.
If you fear that the plot seems to be a bit too "outlandish" for you, still, give this one a try. While certain aspects may be unbelievable, the reality is, this novel has so much truth to it, you will be amazed. I was.
on November 19, 2001
First of all, I love the series. I picked up Outlander by chance soon after it came out in paperback when I was looking for a "trash novel" -- something engrossing and historical yet light and disposable. I was sucked in to an amazing degree and I still think Outlander is the best of the series. Not only is the narrative strong and the level of detail amazing, but the characters are compelling and author has a wonderful prose style and does a remarkable job of communicating emotion and motive. Whenever I'm asked for a "good read" I automatically recommend Outlander. I DON'T read "bestsellers" by those corporate factory-production authors, so this is a rare departure for me.
As far as The Fiery Cross goes, I will say I'm disappointed. I don't think it was a total waste, and a lot of the things the some of the negative reviewers have complained about (details about daily life, descriptions of Jamie's hair, etc. ;) ) are actually some of the things I enjoy about these books. There are certainly some heart-stopping moments, and the obligatory murder mystery is fairly interesting. The last line made me tear up. Still ... still ...
The motivations (for the villans) don't seem to be as crisp as in previous books, mostly because we don't have a clear picture of who they are. Also, the plot just doesn't have the urgency that the rest of the books have. I also spotted a plot complication a MILE away, something that never happened in the previous books, and it's now painfully obvious that when a character "disappears" we'll be sure to see them later on in a "surprising" circumstance. It also doesn't help that I've never been especially fond of Brianna. Can't say why, but she doesn't have the life that most of the other charachters have, and I just don't find her appealing. So, the fact that much of this book, like Drums of Autumn, are about her and Roger makes me skim so I can get back to Claire & Jamie. (Although I DO like wee Roger quite a bit, and sometimes am brought close to tears at all the misery he's put through.) The author is also very good at creating interesting minor characters, but The Fiery Cross lacks any to measure up to Murtagh, Raymond, or Mr. Willoughby.
I enjoyed the fact that one of the previous books had significant parts of the story told from Jamie's point of view. As the series progresses, though, we get less and less of Claire's narrative (and less of Jamie, even) and more from Roger & Bree. While the author may have found this switch in perspective necessary to get the story across, I find it increasingly disjointed. Claire's perspective remains the heart of the story, and her voice is strongest by far, with Jamie coming in second. Occasional shifts might not be so bad, but you now have 4 voices telling the same story, sometimes within the same scene, and it's overkill. And ... what happened to Fergus?? He's barely in this book! It's like watching a TV series where one of the main actors has left the show, but comes back for the occasional token scene.
It's been clear from the second book that the author is strongly drawn to write about children and motherhood/parenthood. It's a topic that gives a lot of depth to the stories. Yet, I think the theme has been beaten to death by now. It would be OK to be reminded of it, or to have a few shining passages, but I believe the repetition drags down the narrative. Also, as with Drums of Autumn, there are about a million threads that are left dangling, some from several books back. I have a hard time seeing how they will all be tied together in one final book. Technically, I found a host of typos, one of which (a discussion of blood types and heredity) is at a rather crucial point. This is very unusual for a novel from a major press, but I understand from the author's web site that the book was a bit rushed to press (those fall book lists, don'tcha know.)
I've met Ms. Gabaldon and read many interviews with her. She's very nice and I greatly admire her talent. This series has sort of grown into a monster, though, and The Fiery Cross feels not exactly like a contractural obligation, but a project she wasn't very enthusiastic about. I hope the next (last?) book will see her with revived energy and more Claire & Jamie in the narrator's chair. I know this sesms like an overwhelmingly negative review, but I AM glad I read it. If you have read all of the series so far, this is still worthwhile, but it's just not quite up to the usual standard.
P.S. One final note -- contrary to what another reviewer said, this book CANNOT be read alone. If you have not read all of the previous books, much of this one will not make sense. This is one series you HAVE to read in order.
on January 21, 2000
I don't normally like books written in the first person. I *loved* "Outlander" (known as "Cross Stitch" in New Zealand). I read "Outlander" on the recommendation of a good friend and immediately fell in love with Jamie (as any living, breathing woman would).
The book is rich in history, romance, drama... It has the qualities of a true epic, easily rivalling such classics as "Gone With the Wind".
Claire Randall is the reader's guide into the story and throughout it's sequels. It's through her eyes that we are introduced to the way of life and harsh truths in those times. If you've never been to Scotland, you will be dying to go "Jamie Hunting" by the end of this book.
For new Gabaldon readers, Outlander is the one to start with. Do not even attempt to read any of the sequels first. Even though it is not crucial to read them in order, you will get the most enjoyment by doing so. The second and third books in the series are not nearly as good. It is only the enjoyment of reading about familiar characters that kept me going. Nevertheless, by the time you have read all four books, you will be hungering for more.
"Outlander" is the ultimate Gabaldon test. You will either hate it or love it. If you hate it, you won't read anything by Gabaldon ever again. If you love it, you won't be able to eat, drink or sleep until you have read the others.
I am happy to say that I definitely belong in the latter category.
on October 18, 2005
For those who view this page to see what books other than Outlander that Diana Gabaldon wrote, look somewhere else. This is Outlander but published under a different name in Britain. Since it wasn't stated anywhere, I thought I might clarify it. I loved Outlander so I gave it 5 stars, though 4 1/2 might be more correct.
on October 23, 2007
I'm a librarian and do a lot of reading. I also consider myself to be quite liberal and open-minded. I am also an abuse survivor, a fact which comes into play here.
A colleague of mine handed me this book, since she knows of my love for historical fiction. And I must agree, I was hooked immediately. The imagery is lush, the characters intriguing, the history of the Highlands absorbing. I found Claire to be an independent, intelligent woman and Jamie a brutish if not lovable man. Then I came to a part about 200+ pages in ******SPOILER ALERT****** where, after trying to get back to the place where she was originally swept back in time, so she could return to her husband, Claire is captured by the English troops. She is placed in another precarious situation with the sadistic Captain Randall, and Jamie literally swoops in to save her. High adventure all around, and they do escape. But what follows afterwards is Jamie's decision to beat Claire with his sword belt. Claire puts up a fight but is no match for the large Scotsman and is beaten so much that she cannot sit or ride a horse for days. Gabaldon has Claire go through a deep moment of introspection where she realizes she is indeed impetuous and has been careless of the people in this time and of their land and ways...in this way, then, the beating is justified, and might even be seen as romantic and passionate as of course, Jamie and Claire make up afterward.
This incident may not bother some, but I would just like to post a warning to women who have suffered any sort of abuse (physical, sexual or otherwise) or trauma. I feel betrayed somehow and am not sure if I can continue reading the novel after this. I have a hard time seeing a woman who has been beaten and stripped of her power return to that very same man and continue on in a loving relationship with him. To me, abuse is not love. My history undoubtedly distorts the scene of the book, but unfortunately, the damage has been done, and what once may have been a wonderful literary excursion is forever ruined for me.
on January 11, 2014
I know these books have been out for a while. I also know that they are loved by millions of people. My friend recommended I try it out and gave it a lot of praise. I am reviewing it, not with the idea that many people will benefit necessarily from my thoughts, but to hopefully cleanse myself of the horrible feelings I have been left with from attempting to get through this first book, Outlander.
From a literary standpoint, I did not think the book was well-written. The main character was very unlikeable. She was selfish, smug and stupid. Her eventual husband, while admirable and sympathetic at times, was not much to my liking either. I thought the long pages dedicated to his heritage, his uncles' heritage, the bad guys' heritage were tedious and unnecessary. The main plot got muddied over and over and over again with these long detours. The constant descriptions of beatings, battles, rapes and sex scenes also did little to further the plot. The characters' reactions to the events going on around them made no sense. The two main characters are jumped and nearly murdered during an amorous encounter and their response, after killing the two assailants, was laughter and going back to life as if nothing happened. What??? The supposedly strong-willed, proud, independent main character has no problem with every man in the story patting her on the bottom after she was beaten with a leather belt for hours by her husband??? I could go on and give more evidence to support my point but I hate to "spoil" the story for those who particularly enjoy completely silly unnecessary sex scenes, murder, beatings, rape, sodomy, etc.
I don't know why, but I kept pressing on, trying to find in this book what others had found so riveting. I tried to skim the more gruesome parts but at some point midway, there were too many to skim without missing pages and pages of the book. What did it for me was the graphic and violent depiction of marital rape. Up until that point, despite the horrific things that were being described, the characters' responses to it were mostly as being disturbed (except when the main character's husband was so turned on after he beat her...ugh!). The rape, however, was disgusting. She said no over and over again as her husband, who is described as being protective and caring, continued to force himself on her. The author describes the pain she is going through in detail and his brutality and yet, by the end of the scene, the main character comes to like it and "want" it. In the morning, they both laugh at how bruised she is by him and the bite marks she left on him.
This was the point I knew I was done. It was after reading this horrible account I knew that even if there was a good plot present (which there was not), I could not continue to subject myself to something so disturbing and distressing. From what I've read in reviews here, it does not improve as the story goes on so I feel comfortable in having stopped midway through. I actually resent having read any of this book. I have been trying to scrub the images it created and the feelings it caused from my mind since yesterday and it still hangs on. I cannot imagine why or how these books are so wildly popular. I cannot imagine that so many hearts could be so calloused and hardened that they would tolerate such intentional brutality being treated with such nonchalance. As if it was a normal occurrence. I know that sounds rather judgmental towards the fans of this series but I really just am baffled by anyone finding enjoyment in this kind of subject matter.
I thank the others who have written their reviews who share my opinions because I felt I must be the only one in the world who felt this way given how popular this series. I am glad I am not alone. I think I'm going to go read Anne of Green Gables now, or perhaps Little House on the Prairie, yeah that, to hopefully cleanse myself of the lasting effects of Outlander.
on June 29, 2010
I still remember how excited I was nine years ago for The Fiery Cross. I had torn through the first four books in a matter of days. My mother and my best friend had read them too and we were constantly dissecting the subject of Jamie and Claire and their adventures. I stalked online message boards devoted to the series and even started going to Scottish festivals as a result of picking up an interest in the culture from reading the Outlander series (and watching Braveheart). In short, I was a huge, diehard fan. Even though the fourth novel, Drums of Autumn, did not live up to my expectations, I still enjoyed it and finished it within four days. I considered it the "breather" book and was certain that The Fiery Cross would bring back the adventure and the romance I had fallen in love with. I had it on preorder for months through Amazon and finally the day came when the book was delivered to my door.
Weeks later, the book still sat by my bedside, half-finished. The first "day" in the book took us through 150 pages of rainy, muddy, slow-moving banalities. The passion of Jamie and Claire had been reduced to a mockery of its former self. As a replacement for their epic love, Gabaldon offered in its stead the relationship between the whiny, spoiled Brianna and the extremely nice and sensible but passionless Roger. Brianna delivered her baby and a large majority of the story was given over to the baby crying and pooping and nursing while Brianna nursed and pooped and cried about how hard it is to be a mother (...really?! Who knew!).
The descriptions of the mundane aspects of 18th century daily living go on for pages and pages and pages. In one scene, Claire roots around in the baby's poopy diaper in order to recover a trinket that the baby has swallowed. That scene is a perfect metaphor for the novel as a whole; indeed, the reader may wonder how much more you-know-what he has to dig through in order to uncover the plot. Gone is the magic thread woven through the first three installments of the Outlander saga; that alluring fabric of adventure and mystery is replaced in the Fiery Cross by a diary-like retelling of events more appropriate to a history text than a work of fiction. Gabaldon gives the sense that she has done her research and we are darn well going to listen to what she has to tell us whether we like it or not. Her prose remains poetic, but it's not enough--lacking any semblance of plot, peril, or character development (excepting a brief aside in which she tortures her favorite whipping boy, poor unlucky Roger), the novel falls flat on its rather voluminous face.
I eventually finished The Fiery Cross, but only after sitting down one weekend and literally forcing myself to read the last half of the book. My best friend and my mom never did finish. I used my copy as a doorstop for some years, until the book finally made its way into a thrift store bag. I still have the first four novels on my shelf and have reread Outlander a couple times, but the entire series has lost its appeal now that I know the faded fates of my favorite characters. The subsequent books in the series do not interest me--looking at the size of them, it seems as though they must be even more full of the mind-numbing minutiae that ruined The Fiery Cross and to a lesser extent Drums of Autumn. It does seem that some of her fans enjoy the myriad of small details, looking upon the sequels as a series of sideways-related vignettes, but for those of us who followed Outlander for its passion and adventure and pluck and strength of story, the series is over.