The book is set in the year 1945 and 1743, it is the story of Claire Randall, she is a former WWII combat nurse,and has just reunited with her husband Frank on a second honeymoon in Scotland. One day she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles and is suddenly transported back in time. In 1743 she is a Sassenach, an “outlander," in more ways than one, Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans and it is a far more dangerous time than her own, death is around every corner. Claire is suspected as a spy and is pulled into the intrigues of the lairds and must be smart an cunning to save her own life. It is at this time that she meets James, i.e. Jaimie, Fraser. He a gallant young Scots warrior, who steals her hear and forces her to be torn between two times and two very different men.
I read this book back in high school so I was familiar but it was still a fresh read for me. This is far more of a romance than a historical novel, there are some historical items in, but they play second fiddle to the romance and the love triangle Claire finds herself in. It is a first book, the reader can tell by some of the writing, there are places where the details are too lengthy and did't add to the story line. I liked the book. I felt that with everything happening in my life currently, work, small children, other book clubs, parties, etc. that this was not a tome I would have picked up of my own free will. It was too long of a book for my current life, and I liked it well enough, but not so well that I will drudge through the remainders in the series. Although I am willing to put them on a potential to be read list in the future when I have more time.
Ok I am about to go off on some parts of the books that are definite spoilers and use some not so nice language, so if you don't want to know what happens or you don't want to read curse words I would stop reading now.
I think that one of my biggest pet peeves about this book was the inconsistencies of Clair, and not inconsistencies because her character is supposed to be wishy washy but inconsistencies because Gabaldon did not write her well. The impression that I have is that Gabladon wanted Claire to be a strong woman both for her time and for Jamie's time. And Claire does start out the book as a strong independent woman. But by the end she is weak and a little bit simpering in my mind, waiting for Jaimie to "take care of her" or "rescue" her. There are many times in the book that she acts completely opposite of how her character should act if she was this very forward thinking, strong independent, woman she is described as in the beginning. Take for example the incident where Jaime "spanked" her, in reality he BEAT her. She was unable for days to walk or ride comfortable, she had bruises covering her entire body, and he even said in fact that he lost control and it was much more severe than he intended. It went beyond a simple discipline of his wife. I understand it was the times and it was common for both disciplines and beatings of wives. Do I think it was right, no but I am aware it was a different time and women were treated differently. My issue is how Claire reacted. At first she was right angry and wanted nothing to do with Jaimie. That was in character with the portrayal of who she was. What was not in character was that in less than 48 hour she had forgiven him, agreed with him that it needed to be done, and allowed him back in her bed. All because he told her of some beatings that his father gave him as a child, however my opinion is that his father never beat him the way Jaimie beat Claire. And her forgiveness, although not completely impossible to imagine happening, came too soon and with no true apology and did not fall in line with her character. It is really at this point that I began to see inconsistancies.
Another big inconstancy for me is at the end when Jaimie is in prison and Claire goes to find him. She kills a guard one moment, is hiding in a corner terrified the next, totally fucks ups the rescue and leaves Jaimie to Randall's mercies, then kills a wolf with her bare hands? What the fuck! So she goes to the prison, she wavers between bravery and cowardice, then when she gets to Jaimie's cell she becomes an idiot. Jaimie tells her Randall is coming back and instead of being the smart woman she is supposed to be she plays into a stereotypical role of victim. She wastes all of her time trying to hurry up and get Jaimie out of his chains instead of setting up a plan to knock out Randall and allow herself time to work the lock. And surprise surprise it doesn't turn out well. Then she has had all this self defense training, it went into great detail on how much time and how much training she did, and she doesn't use any of it to get away from Randall. She lets Jaimie make the awful bargain of himself for her life. Ok we are being a helpless woman needing our Man to save us. But THEN, Gabladon has Claire kill a wolf with her BARE HANDS. Please! If she was able to kill a wolf with her bare hands, she could have taken out Randall, maybe not killed, but at least knocked him out and tied him up. Make up your mind, is she a strong heroin or a weak victim.
Another thing that really bothers me is how quickly she forgets Frank, I know that they had been separated for 8 years, and were trying to re-connect, but still it took her NO time at all to move on to Jaimie. And once they were married, which admittedly wasn't all her choice, she jumped into bed with him quite readily on an extremely regular basis. If Gabladon had spent just a little less time not the sex scene descriptions, and a little more time on the character development I think this would have been a much better book. Don't get me wrong, my rants don't mean I didn't enjoy the book, but they do mean that there was potential there for me to have enjoyed it more.