First edition cover
|Series||Outlander series (Book 1)|
|Published||1991 (Delacorte Books)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Followed by||Dragonfly in Amber|
Outlander (published in the United Kingdom as Cross Stitch) is the first in a series of eight historical multi-genre novels by Diana Gabaldon. Published in 1991, it focuses on 20th century nurse Claire Randall, who time travels to 18th century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with the dashing James Fraser. A mix of several genres, the Outlander series features elements of historical fiction, romance, adventure and science fiction/fantasy. Outlander won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991. In June 2013, Starz ordered 16 episodes of a television adaptation to be developed by Ronald D. Moore.
After being separated by their work in World War II, British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank, an Oxford history professor who briefly worked for MI6, go on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. The couple have a loving sexual relationship, despite difficulty conceiving a child. On the trip, Frank also intends to research his family history. While Frank pores over documents, Claire goes plant-gathering near standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun.
Claire returns to Craigh na Dun the next day, intending to collect a plant specimen, but she faints when investigating a buzzing noise near the stones. Upon waking, she runs into a man claiming to be Frank's ancestor, Captain Jack Randall. Before Randall can take her into his custody, he is knocked unconscious by a Scotsman who takes Claire to rejoin his party. The Scots attempt to force the dislocated arm of a wounded young man, Jamie MacTavish, back into place. Claire uses her 20th century nursing knowledge to relocate Jamie's arm. Trusting her more, the men reveal themselves to be members of Clan MacKenzie, though they won't release her for fear that she is an English spy. The group rides away from the battlefield, taking Claire with them. She eventually concludes that she may have traveled to the past.
The party of Scots returns home to Castle Leoch, seat of the Clan MacKenzie. Claire searches for a way to return to the Craigh na Dun, believing that, if she returns to the standing stones, she can go back to her own time. The Scots see Claire as a "Sassenach", an Outlander, an outsider ignorant of Scottish Highland culture and one of the generally hated English as well. She begins to earn their respect with her work as a healer. Clan MacKenzie Chieftain Dougal collects taxes and solicits donations for the rebel Jacobites fighting English rule. This is all overseen by Ned Gowan, a lawyer from Edinburgh who has sworn fealty to Clan MacKenzie. Captain Randall orders the MacKenzies to bring Claire to him for questioning; as the man who nearly whipped Jamie to death, Randall has a reputation for brutal interrogation.
Ned notes that the only way to make Claire safe from Randall's power is to make her a legal Scotswoman by marriage. Dougal tells her to wed Jamie. Torn between her attachment to Jamie and the thought of Frank, Claire escapes and attempts to make her way back to Craigh na Dun. Unable to escape, Claire takes on the role of castle healer and befriends Geilis Duncan, the wife of a local official, who shares her love of medicine. Eventually Claire and Geilis are charged with witchcraft while Jamie is away. He returns just in time to save Claire from death. Just before their escape, Claire realizes that Geilis is also from the future when she sees the scar of a smallpox vaccine (yet undeveloped in the 18th century) on Geilis' arm.
Jamie and Claire flee from Castle Leoch, and Claire relates her time-traveling predicament; despite his shock, Jamie believes her and insists that they return to Craigh na Dun. She is torn when Jamie allows her to decide between staying in the past with him or returning to Frank in the future. Claire chooses Jamie, deciding that she loves him more. He takes her to his home, Lallybroch, where they eventually share a happy peace with Jamie's sister Jenny and her husband Ian. Though Jamie is still a fugitive from the British army, he reclaims his role as Laird of Lallybroch. But he is betrayed by one of his people and taken to Wentworth Prison, where Captain Randall is stationed. Claire and the clansmen attempt a break-out, but their plot fails. She is captured by Randall, who beats and nearly rapes her. Jamie, knowing of Randall's sadistic desire for him, offers himself in Claire's place. Randall agrees and ejects Claire into the freezing woods outside the castle.
Claire wanders through the forest looking for help. She finds it in Sir Marcus MacRannoch, a former suitor of Jamie's mother. MacRannoch finds Jamie's companions, and they devise a plan to rescue Jamie. While MacRannoch's men attack the castle to distract the main guard, the clansmen drive a herd of agitated cattle through the underground halls of the castle, trampling Randall. They rescue Jamie, who has been brutally assaulted physically and sexually, and bring him back to MacRannoch's. Claire and Jamie escape to Saint Anne de Beaupre's monastery in France, where Jamie's uncle serves as Abbot. As she and Jamie emerge from the healing waters of a sacred hot spring under the Abbey, Claire reveals that she is pregnant with their first child.
- Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser
- A warm, practical and independent World War II nurse who inadvertently travels back in time to the Scottish Highlands in the mid-18th century. Though married to Frank Randall in the 20th century, she falls for Jamie Fraser in the 18th century. A gifted natural physician and an amateur botanist, Claire is an only child and orphan, raised by her archaeologist uncle.
- James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser
- (aka Jamie MacTavish) A strapping young Scottish redhead with a complicated past and disarming sense of humor. Jamie is intelligent, principled, and, by 18th century standards, educated and worldly. He picks up languages very well, and after initial conflict he falls in love with the mysterious Claire. Though he does not always know what she is doing, Jamie usually trusts Claire to know what to do.
- Frank Randall
- Claire's husband in the 20th century is a history professor with a deep interest in his genealogy and heritage. He worked for MI-6 during World War II as a spy.
- Jonathan Randall
- (aka "Black Jack" Randall) The primary villain of the story is Frank Randall's ancestor, a British army officer. According to Jamie, the “Black” refers to the color of his soul. He looks almost exactly like his descendant Frank, and intensely hates his homosexual attraction to Jamie. He is a Sadist.
- Colum MacKenzie
- The Laird of the MacKenzie clan and Jamie's maternal uncle, who shelters Jamie and Claire from the English. He suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.
- Dougal MacKenzie
- Colum's younger Jacobite brother leads the clan into battle since his older brother is physically disabled. It is hinted that he might be the biological father of Colum's son, Hamish. He also took Jamie as a foster son for a year as a teen. Dougal has four daughters with his wife, and a son with Geillis Duncan.
- Geillis/Geilie Duncan
- The wife of the procurator fiscal believes that she is a witch, and has knowledge of herbs and plants. Geillis is pregnant with Dougal MacKenzie’s child when she is imprisoned for witchcraft, which wins her a brief reprieve on her death sentence. She murders her husband, Arthur Duncan, and tricks Claire several different times. Ultimately Claire realizes that Geillis is a time-traveler from the 1960s.
- Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser
- Jamie's godfather is taciturn, quiet and brave, and very loyal to Jamie, whom he cares for like a son. At first he does not accept Claire, but changes his mind when he sees how much Jamie loves her.
- Laoghaire MacKenzie
- A young girl of 16 who is attracted to Jamie. She sends Claire to Geillis Duncan just prior to the witch trial because she "loves" Jamie and wants him back.
Development and inspiration
Diana Gabaldon planned to write a historical novel "for practice", but did not have a specific setting in mind until she happened to watch The War Games, a classic Doctor Who serial, on PBS. Her eye was caught by the character Jamie McCrimmon, a young Scot from 1745 played by actor Frazer Hines. The image of the young man in the kilt stayed with her, and she decided to set her novel in 18th century Scotland. She named her male protagonist "Jamie" after the Doctor Who character (however, the surname "Fraser" was not taken from actor Frazer Hines, since the PBS station cut off the program's credits).
Gabaldon's initial plans were to write a "straight historical novel", but as she began to write the character of Clare, she says the character "promptly took over the story and began telling it herself, making smart-ass modern remarks about everything." Gabaldon decided to make the character a modern woman, and figure out why she was in 18th century Scotland later.
Outlander: The Musical
In 2010, a 14-song cycle based on Outlander was released under the title Outlander: The Musical. With music by Kevin Walsh and lyrics by Mike Gibb, the project was approved by Gabaldon after Gibb had approached the author in Scotland with the idea to adapt her novel into a stage production. As Gabaldon recalled, "I laughed and said, 'That’s the screwiest idea I’ve heard yet – go ahead.' So they did, and the results were stunning." Though the stage production remains in development, the 14-song cycle is available on CD from Amazon.com and for download on iTunes.
In 2012, Broadway composer Jill Santoriello began collaborating with Gibb and Walsh on the project, writing the music and cowriting the lyrics with Gibb for a new song called "One More Time." The song was recorded with vocals by Rebecca Robbins.
Reception and awards
Publishers Weekly said of Outlander, "Absorbing and heartwarming, this first novel lavishly evokes the land and lore of Scotland, quickening both with realistic characters and a feisty, likable heroine." The novel won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991.
In June 2013, Starz ordered 16 episodes of a television adaptation to be developed by Ronald D. Moore, and production began in October 2013 in Scotland. The series premiered in the US on August 9, 2014.
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