Thursday, January 22, 2009
Well, my estimate was right on target...it took me two and a half weeks to listen to all 28 discs of the first book in the Outlander Series. Whew! What a ride. I've been pondering which category this book would fall under...historical fiction? drama? action? romance? Well, it covers them all folks.
The basic premise is this: After WWII, a combat nurse (Claire) and her husband travel on holiday to Scotland to do a little bonding after a long separation. They stumble upon a miniature Stonehenge-type place, where Claire touches a particular stone and is sucked back in time. To 1743, to be exact. She finds herself in the middle of MacKenzie clan territory, where she meets the dashing (and virile, we find out later!) Jamie Fraser. With Jamie, she faces innumerable dangers and drudgery typical to the era...British soldiers who are hunting Jamie for crimes he did not commit, townspeople that want to hang and burn Claire for suspected witchery, disease and infection, clan leaders with hidden agendas, jealous nubile wenches that want Jamie for their own, the lack of hot baths, etc. The biggest threat, however, is the evil, psychotic Jack Randall (who is actually an ancestor of Claire's husband) who only lives to torture, maim and sodomize anyone that crosses him. Beyond all of this drama, Claire finds the love of her life in Jamie. I'm not sure I could find another book that better portrays such a sweeping, epic love story such as this.
This is a very long book, and the time-traveling scenario initially seemed a bit goofy. There were plenty of reasons for me to walk away from this reading challenge, but I am so glad I did not. The author does an excellent job of using Claire's practical, no-nonsense, ball-busting personality to allow us practical, no-nonsense ball-busting readers to believe in the time travel premise. She is my kinda gal. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, she applies her nursing knowledge to the use of herbs to help heal others, and by the end of the book, the girl starts to leave behind a body count (wolves AND bad guys). Jamie is also quite a treat. He's a man's man, big and strong, but emotionally open and sometimes vulnerable, and has an insane libido. Yeah baby! The writing is pretty close to real-time, so you feel you have lived the last year with these two. Throughout most of the book, you will get your share of Jamie saves Claire, Claire saves Jamie, a couple of times over. But as the book draws to a close, Claire starts to pursue her faith and religion that she lost in her childhood. Serenely, she reaches out for answers to haunting, theological questions relating to Jamie's likely death, her husband who lives in 1945, and what she should do with the knowledge of the future. The writing comes close to poetic.
I feel relieved that I have the whole series in front of me to explore. No waiting (except that I am actually still waiting for the library to deliver the next set of discs!!). If I had to wait for the author to crank out book #2, I would lose my mind. And exploring I will do, as there are I believe a couple hundred more discs to listen to. Also, a note about listening to this book via audio. I had a blast listening to the narrator, Davina Porter. She has a lovely accent, she is spirited and lively. I have a hard time finding enough moments in the day to sit down and read a hard book, and with almost 900 pages, I think this was the way for me to go. Aye, bonny book!