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Outlander (novel)
Gabaldon outlander
Author Diana Gabaldon
Publication date June 1, 1991
Published by Delacorte Press
Chapter Guide
Publication Order
Preceded by
n/a
Followed by
Dragonfly in Amber

Outlander (Cross Stitch in the UK) is the first in the Outlander Series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. The book focuses on two main characters, Claire Randall (nee Beauchamp) and Jamie Fraser , and takes place in eighteenth- and twentieth-century Scotland.

Outlander is the only novel in the series to be narrated exclusively from Claire's first-person point of view, is not easily classified by genre. On one level, Outlander is a romance novel, with a focus on the romantic and sexual relationship between Jamie and Claire. However, the book breaks many genre conventions and could be accurately described as a work of historical fiction, thanks to Gabaldon's fiendishly thorough research on eighteenth-century Scottish clan life and incredibly detailed descriptions of pre-modern Scotland. The novel can also be considered fantasy, since its plot is propelled by Claire's time travel.

Whatever its genre, the novel sparked international praise, and was awarded the RITA Award for Best Romance Novel of 1991. With six sequels, two companion novels, and a spinoff series of novellas, Outlander reached the ranks of great fiction long ago.

Plot Edit

It's 1946, the Scottish Highlands are in bloom, and Claire Randall, an English ex-army nurse has come to Scotland on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, from whom she's been separated by the war. While she doesn't share Frank's passion for genealogy, she's looking forward to starting the next branch on the family tree. Meanwhile she occupies her spare time in exploring the countryside, pursuing an interest in botany. On one such expedition she discovers an ancient circle of standing stones- made the more interesting by Frank's having heard of that the circle is still in use by a local group of women who celebrate the "old ways" there. In the dawn of the ancient Feast of Beltane (May 1), Claire and Frank creep up to the circle to see the women dancing and chanting, calling down the sun. The couple steal away unseen but later Claire returns to the circle to get a closer look at an unusual plant she's seen growing there. She touches one of the standing stones and is enveloped in a sudden vortex of noise and confusion.

Disoriented and half-conscious, she finds herself on the hill outside the circle and slowly makes her way down- to find what she assumes is a film shoot in progress at the bottom: a pince-in-the-heather epic, with kilted Scotsmen being pursued by red-coated British soldiers. Claire carefully skirts the scene, so as not to ruin the shot, making her way through the woods and stumbles into a man in the costume of an eighteenth-century English army officer. This doesn't disturb her as much as the man's striking resemblance to her husband, Frank.

The resemblance is quickly explained: the man is in fact Frank's ancestor, the notorious "Black Jack" Randall of whom Frank had often told her. While very similar in appearance however, Jack Randall unfortunately does not share his descendant's personality- the former-day Randall being a sadistic bisexual pervert rather than a mild-mannered history professor.

Claire is rescued from Black Jack's clutches by one of the Scotsmen she had seen earlier, who takes her to the cottage where his fellow are hiding, waiting for darkness to escape. One of the men, Jamie Fraser, has been wounded and Claire treats his wound as best as she can-meanwhile trying to come to terms with the apparent truth of where- and when- she is. Bemused not only by Claire's peculiar dress- or lack of it- but by the sheer impossibility of her presence (English ladies simply aren't found in the Highlands in 1743), the Scotsmen decide to take her with them when they decamp under the cover of darkness.

Arriving at dawn at Castle Leoch, seat of the Clan MacKenzie, Claire meets The MacKenzie, Colum, A courtly man deformed by hideous genetic disease, Colum is both intrigued and suspicious. Claire's story of having been beset by robbers, not knowing who she may be or what her purposes are he makes it plain that he intends to keep her as his guest for the time being- willing or not.

The Scots see Claire as a "Sassenach"- an outsider to Scottish Highland culture and an Englishwoman to boot- though she earns their respect due to her work as a healer. Wanting to learn more of Claire, Dougal takes both her and Jamie, on the yearly rent collection on the lands of the MacKenzie.

Jack Randall wishes to talk again to Claire and seeks her out. After an argument between Dougal and Jack over Jack's mistreatment of Claire, Dougal refuses on Jack's further request to let Claire be questioned. He is informed by Ned Gowan, the clan's lawyer that the only solution is to make her a Scotswomen by marriage. Dougal tells her to wed Jamie, yet suggests other men when she refuses. Claire tells Dougal she can't marry anyone, but admits she isn't married. (In 1743, she thinks after all she isn't yet even born!) Dougal ignores her. She gives in and marries Jamie in the same church- much to her horror-where she married Frank. By now, Claire, impressed that Jamie insisted on finding her a decent gown to marry in and demanded a private room in which to consummate their marriage, has grown fonder of Jamie and the friendship she feels towards him, therefore makes her feel guilty that she must deceive him, with her plans to get back to Frank.

Claire's healing skills as a 20th century nurse save Jamie repeatedly but as the story progresses she is determined to return to the stone circle and Frank, knowing he must be worried sick. As life continues at Castle Leoch, Claire's marriage to Jamie, her ignorance of local superstition and jealousy towards her lead to a charge of witchcraft. Thrown into a hole with another accused witch, Geilie Duncan, to await trial, she is recused but Jamie rescues her. Just before her escape she realizes that Geilie Duncan is from the future too. When Jamie asks her to explain she initially tells him she can't as he won't believe her, saying it's easier to call her a witch.

Shocked by Claire's explanation, he takes her to the stone circle and tells her to return to Frank- seeing for himself that Claire is telling the truth about the stories. Jamie leaves her there to decide if she wants to return to Frank or stay with him. He is overjoyed with her decision to stay and he takes her to his home, Lallybroch, but their happiness doesn't last.

Jamie has a price on his head and is betrayed by Ronald McNab, one of his tenants. Jamie is held at Wentworth Prison and sentenced to hang. Sadistic Jack Randall is also at Wentworth and takes the opportunity to torture Jamie. Claire breaks in to free Jamie, but is caught buy Randall. Jamie will allow Jack to torture him if he frees Claire. Jack agrees and in revenge Claire tells Jack she is a witch cursing him with the gift of knowledge that he will marry and have a son but will die before the child's born, giving him the date of his death.

Aided by Sir Marcus MacRannoch, a former suitor of Jamie's mother, Ellen MacKenzie Fraser, Claire and Jamie's relatives and men employed by Sir Marcus rescue Jamie. She patches him up and and they escape to Ste. Anne de Beaupre's monastery in France, where Jamie's uncle is stationed as Abbot. At Ste. Anne's, Claire tries healing Jamie but discovers broken bones are simple compared to repairing the damage done to his mind. As he recovers, Jamie tells Claire that his life is hers that she should decide will they go "to France, Italy or even back to Scotland?" for they'll "need a place to go soon."

Whilst at the abbey Claire learns more about her faith - she was christened Catholic but not raised as one - and receives absolution from a friendly monk. He describes her as a shipwrecked traveller, forced to survive in a strange land as best she can. He describes her marriages as something she should leave in God's hand as nothing can be done about them. At last as they emerge from the healing waters of a sacred hot spring under the Abbey, Claire reveals that she is pregnant with their first child.

Main CharactersEdit

  • Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser: The story's protagonist, a nurse in WWII who finds herself transported to the Scottish Highlands in 1743. Married to Frank Randall in the 20th century, she is forced into marrying Jamie Fraser in the 18th century. Claire is a gifted natural physician and she is warm, practical and independent, although prone to becoming entangled in unforeseeably dangerous circumstances.
  • James "Jamie" Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser: Heir to the Lallybroch estate, son of Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie, Jamie is a strapping twenty-three-year-old redhead with a complicated past an aptitude for politics, and a disarming sense of humor. Jamie is intelligent, principled and by the 18th century standards, educated and worldly, having gone to university in Paris and soldiered with the French army before returning to the Highlands. Jamie volunteers to wed Claire when her life is threatened.
  • Franklin "Frank" Wolverton Randall: Claire's husband in the twentieth century; a history professor with a deep interest in his genealogy and heritage. Frank and Claire were married a short time before the outbreak of World War Two, and were separated for six years by the war.
  • Jonathan "Jack" Wolverton Randall: The primary villain of the story. He is Frank's six-times-great-grandfather, and a British cavalry officer. He is also known by the dashing nickname of "Black Jack," although according to Jamie Fraser the black refers to the colour of his soul rather than his darkly handsome complexion.
  • Colum MacKenzie: The Laird of the MacKenzie clan. He is also Jamie's maternal uncle, and shelters Jamie and Claire from the English threat. He suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.
  • Dougal MacKenzie: Colum's hotheaded younger brother and Jamie's onetime foster father, Dougal is part of the group of Scottish clansmen Claire first meets upon her arrival in the 18th century.
  • Geillis/Geilie Duncan: Wife of the procurator fiscal; a time-traveler from the 1960s; thought to be a witch; has knowledge of herbs and plants.
  • Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser: a member of the Fraser clan, although loyal to the MacKenzies; sworn to protect Jamie since he was a baby.
  • Janet "Jenny" Fraser Murray: Jamie's older sister and is very devoted to him. Very loyal to her family and quick-tempered. Married to Ian Murray to whom she was a very close bond.
  • Ian Murray: Jenny's husband and Jamie's best friend since childhood. He lost part of his leg during battle but hasn't let it hold him back. He is very close to both his wife and best friend. Very friendly and caring towards his family.

Outlander Musical Edit

On 1 August 2010, a CD song cycle telling the story of this first book in the series was released under the title "Outlander The Musical". The 14 songs were written by Kevin Walsh (music) and Mike Gibb (lyrics) with the words for one of the tracks being provided by authoress Diana Gabaldon. The CD has been highly successful, especially in America, Canada and Germany, and a libretto for a full scale stage musical is currently under consideration by a number of theatre. There is a website at www.outlanderthemusical.com The writing team of Walsh and Gibb earlier produced the work "Clarinda the Musical" (www.clarindathemusical.com) while playwright Mike Gibb has produced a string of plays and musical plays on Scottish themes (www.hamepages.com).

Book CoversEdit

Outlander

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