Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

by Jenn (eating bender) on January 2, 2012

What better way to kick off my 2012 blogging than with a book review? My latest obsession comes in the form of a book series. Currently, there are seven books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series (with an eighth to be released in 2013).

I had heard about her work before, but hadn’t pursued the books further until I read Diana’s cover story in the January issue of Writer’s Digest. She was so real and inspiring that I asked for copies of the 600+ page tomes for Christmas, and was delighted to receive her first two books, Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, from my friend Sam.

I finished the first one within two weeks and am halfway through the second, which should give you an idea of my opinion thus far! Today, I’m sharing my review of Outlander with all of you.

In Short

Diana has explained that when she originally wrote Outlander, it was more for practice (her eyes only) than for the expectation of being published. As a result, this book fits a wide variety of genres: historical fiction, romance, paranormal, action…and on and on. Her ability to portray historical characters is outstanding, and even though I will caution that there are some very explicit scenes (see the section below for more on this subject), the story feels authentic and heartfelt. It certainly made me wish, not for the first time, that time travel was real!

The Details

Outlander’s main character is a woman by the name of Claire Randall, who is extremely intelligent and equally fiery in her words and actions. I think my appreciation for her personality and passion contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the book. In the beginning, Claire, an Englishwoman who worked as a nurse during WWII, is traveling in the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. The year is 1946, and Claire and Frank are on a second honeymoon, having been separated by the war. Without giving too much away, Claire ultimately finds herself exploring alone one day and comes to a circle of stones (think Stonehenge). Thinking nothing of it, she walks through a cleft in one of the stones and finds she has somehow traveled back in time – to 1743.

From there, the story picks up at an astonishing pace despite its length. There are twists and turns everywhere – not the least of which involves Claire meeting a young man by the name of James Fraser. You can read the entire plot summary in Diana Gabaldon’s words here.

Note: I do want to warn those of you who are particularly sensitive to violent or graphic scenes because there are a lot of them in this book. There were certainly parts of the book that I did not agree with personally, especially as a female. I did take into account, however, the time the book was meant to be written in. Though it does not justify some of the scenes and character actions, it does give the book a sense of historical accuracy. It’s definitely not meant to be a light read, but will leave you with that feeling of, “Wow, I bet that really could have happened.”

When I finished the first one, I eagerly began the second, and have found that so far it has been just as engaging and enlightening – but for different reasons. Diana has said she wants each book to be able to stand on its own (though she does recommend reading in order, if possible), and I think she does a brilliant job of achieving this goal.

Have I convinced you yet? Diana Gabaldon has built quite a fan base for herself, and I encourage you to pick up a copy of Outlander and see for yourself what the hype is about! She doesn’t disappoint.


Have you read any books in the Outlander series? If so, which was your favorite?


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrea January 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

i got all seven books and my fav is definitely the first! but i like the third too cause i am a big fan of john grey 😉 :)


2 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Awesome – I am so intrigued by the John Grey character now. Makes me more eager to get to the third book as soon as possible! :)


3 Outlander Kitchen January 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I’m a long time fan of the Outlander series, and will admit to re-reading all of the books more than once…glad to have another fan in the making! Voyager (the 3rd book) has always been my favourite.

My blog, Outlander Kitchen, is a food blog where I share recipes and photos inspired by Diana’s Outlander world. I’d love for you to stop by! Theresa


4 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Fantastic! I adore books that are so good you can’t help but want to re-read them. Your blog concept is wonderful – I can’t wait to check it out!


5 Lola van Heck January 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I’ve read all of Diana’s books and loved them. From the Outlander series, my favourtie so far is probably Voyager, but I’ve read them all multiple times and find something I’ve forgotton each time. I received her latest book, The Scottish Prisoner for Christmas and am looking forward to reading it as well,


6 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Everyone seems to love Voyager – I can’t wait to finish Dragonfly in Amber and get started on that one. I’m eager to figure out who this Lord John Grey character is. :) Thanks for stopping by my blog!


7 Adrienne Proctor January 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Yay! I love when people discover this series. A friend of mine gave me Outlander two years ago, and I’m reading through it again. My favorites are Outlander and Voyager.


8 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I know that feeling of loving when someone else discovers a series you love. It’s a great one! Can’t wait to check out Voyager and see why it’s everyone’s favorite. Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)


9 EJ January 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I have read all of them multiple times. My favorite remains Dragonfly in Amber, but Echo in the Bone is a close second. I am currently on a full re-read of the series and in Drums of Autumn. Enjoy your reading :)


10 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Thank you, EJ! I have no doubt I will want to re-read the series as soon as I finish the books. It’s so much fun to go back once you “know everything” and find all the small details you missed on the first read! :)


11 The Romantic Scientist January 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Love, love, LOVE this series! I think my favorite book (so far) is Drums of Autumn, but it’s so hard to pick just one!

You should stop by the CompuServe Books and Writers community–there’s a folder there that is dedicated to Diana and her books–you’ll find a ton of fans to chat with, and she often answers questions and posts snippets of upcoming stories.

Happy reading!


12 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I love your passion for the series! Thanks so much for the tip on CompuServe Books and Writers – I will definitely be checking it out soon! It’s so much fun to feel connected to authors we love, isn’t it? Very cool that Diana is there to answer questions and chat. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment!


13 Monica January 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I agree with everything you said! — very interesting series, though I only read the first two books so far as well. Love the engaging, romantic plot and the historical setting (especially since I knew very little about this particular place/time before picking up the books) and the author does do an amazing job making the characters and setting seem real and authentic. But, like you said, it definitely comes with a few caveats – like the disturbing sexual violence and sexist, male dominated undertones… I’m sure the cover story on her was an interesting read! I’ll have to check out books 3-7 sometime this year…


14 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I’m glad you feel the same way! There were points where it was hard to reconcile what was happening, but at the same time there is no doubt in my mind that all of what she writes really could/did happen. And I agree, it’s awesome to learn about a period in history that I am not nearly as familiar with as others. I highly recommend the cover story – she gives some great writing tips in it, too! I can summarize if you’re ever interested. :)


15 Colleen January 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I stumbled across the series last year and I have to tell you I’m hooked! I am not the sort of reader who will read a book twice, that being said I have reread this series 3x! Something about these characters and the way Diana writes just captivates me. There is something for every type of reader in these books, romance, history, science fiction….. Just wait until you get to book 3 you’ll be hooked too.


16 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I couldn’t agree more, Colleen! Love that everyone here seems to love book 3 the most. I’m very eager to get to it now! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. :)


17 Mellissa January 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I have read through book 4. I am a huge historical fiction fan and really appreciate her style of writing. Yes. Some of it is hard to read but I do believe that there is truth to a lot of it. That was life.


18 Jenn (eating bender) January 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I agree – as hard as it was to reconcile during certain parts of the book, there’s no doubt in my mind that everything she writes really could/did happen. I give her a lot of credit for staying authentic because I can imagine that writing some of it was not easy. Glad you are enjoying the series, too! We’ll have to reconnect on all the books once we’re both finished! :)


19 Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables January 3, 2012 at 9:38 am

Great review! I’ve been looking for a new book to start since I finished the hunger games and I think you may have convinced me :)


20 Jenn (eating bender) January 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Awesome! I’m a huge Hunger Games fan, so it sounds like we both have good taste. 😉 Definitely let me know what you think if you do decide to read them!


21 afitbliss January 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm

This book was a random free book download on my Kindle last summer- and you have just convinced me to finally read it!


22 Jenn (eating bender) January 5, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Woohoo! I am so glad that my review swayed you. Can’t wait to hear what you think!


23 Dev January 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm

This is my first visit to your blog and I will definitely be back. I’m glad I stopped by! :-) I have the entire Outlander series – but haven’t read any of them, which is enough to make my best friend disown me (I had her copy of Outlander for a few years before I finally bought my own)


24 Jenn (eating bender) January 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words, Dev – I’m so glad you stopped by, too! :) You must read the first Outlander and tell me what you think!


25 Christina January 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

My mom has read the entire series. Years ago, I think it may have been on a family vaction, while on the road my mom started reading Outlander to my dad and I (changing words or leaving out certain things for my young ears.) Since then my mom and dad have been hooked (my mom reading it aloud for them at night or listening to the audiobooks together) I would get the summary of what was going on in the series from her. For awhile now I’ve wanted to read the books for myself and think I’m going home today and putting it on my Kindle.


26 Kasey June 30, 2013 at 1:23 am

This book horrifies me. I have no problem with sex in books. I have no problem with books that are simply fun reads with no thought provoking ideas or moral lessons. I totally respect that people have different taste in books. I like many different types of books. I love history, especially Scottish history. I love to be entertained when reading. I love learning while I read. For all of these reasons, I decided to try reading Outlander. I had to stop reading less than half way through. This book affected me on a visceral level and I cannot get it out of my head, in a very negative way. My stomach literally turns when I think this book. The main female character is an abused woman. The main male character is abusive. Regardless of the historical accurateness of the book, it saddens me that we are praising a book where the main female character allows herself to be abused. She agrees that she did not obey her husband and understands why he has to beat her. As a woman, teacher, and mother, the acceptance of this book terrifies me. Why do we still allow ourselves to be objectified and abused, even in literature?


27 wanderlustee July 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm

If I remember correctly, the abuse/”beat” part was spanking restricted strictly to her bum. I personally wasn’t bothered by it for three reasons: (1) Jaime has always treated Claire as an equal and never as an aggressive-domineering type like other “heroes” in the romance genre do, (2) the act was NOT done on a spur of temper outburst but, as was explained, something that was culturally needed notwithstanding the year they were in, and (3) Jamie got over his own cultural mindset and was willing to compromise with Claire by promising never to do it again.

In my country, most kids are spanked (in the bum) by parents depending on the gravity of “misdeeds” as a form of discipline and lesson-learning. I know most of the western world will consider this now as child abuse but *shrug* that’s how culture is.

I have two questions:
-Do any of you have an idea how many books are planned for the entire series? I know an eight book is coming up next year but how many more before the series ends?

-I absolutely love book 1 (Outlander) but I couldn’t quite get myself to finish book 2 (Dragonfly in Amber) because I wanted to “preserve” the “perfection” of the series in my head (considering I’ve only read 1.5 books). I’ve read in other forums how book 1 will always be the best and I wanted to ask if reading the other books will “spoil” the magic of Jamie and Claire (i.e. they’re older, too much whining from Bree etc.) for me considering sequels are rarely at par with the original. What do you think? Careful with the spoilers though please. I just need to know if reading the rest is worth it or would shatter my rose-colored glasses.

Thanks in advance! :)


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