Outlander (novel)

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Outlander-1991 1st Edition cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Diana Gabaldon
Country United States
Language English
Series Outlander series (Book 1)
Genre Historical
Science fiction/Fantasy
Published June 1, 1991
Publisher Delacorte Books
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 640
ISBN 0385302304
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.[1] A mix of several genres, the Outlander series features elements of historical fiction, romance, adventure and science fiction/fantasy.[1] Outlander won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991.[2] A television adaptation of the Outlander series premiered on Starz in the US on August 9, 2014.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

After being separated by their work in World War II, British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank, an Oxford history professor, 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. Her plans thwarted, Claire takes on the role of castle healer using her advanced medical experience and knowledge of herbs and plants. She 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. Geilis also sees Claire's scar.

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.[4]

Main characters[edit]

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[edit]

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.[5] Her eye was caught by the character Jamie McCrimmon, a young Scot from 1745 played by actor Frazer Hines.[5] The image of the young man in the kilt stayed with her, and she decided to set her novel in 18th century Scotland.[5] 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).[5]

Gabaldon's initial plans were to write a "straight historical novel", but as she began to write the character of Claire, she says the character "promptly took over the story and began telling it herself, making smart-ass modern remarks about everything."[6] Gabaldon decided to make the character a modern woman and determine why she was in 18th century Scotland later.[6]

Reception and awards[edit]

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."[7] The novel won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991.[2]

Television series[edit]

Main article: Outlander (TV series)

In June 2013, Starz ordered 16 episodes of a television adaptation, and production began in October 2013 in Scotland.[8] The series premiered in the US on August 9, 2014.[3] It was picked up for a second season on August 15, 2014.[9]

Other adaptations[edit]

In 2010 Gabaldon adapted the first third of Outlander into The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel, illustrated by Hoang Nguyen.[10][11][12] The same year, a 14-song cycle based on Outlander was released under the title Outlander: The Musical.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b Reese, Jennifer (November 27, 2007). "Book Review: Lord John and the Hand of Devils (2007)". EW.com. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "RITA Awards: Past Winners". Romance Writers of America. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Ng, Philiana (May 8, 2014). "Starz's Outlander Gets First Poster, Premiere Date". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  4. ^ Gabaldon, Diana (1991). Outlander. New York: Dell. p. 850. ISBN 0-440-21256-1. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gabaldon, Diana. "FAQ: About the Books". DianaGabaldon.com. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Gabaldon, Diana. "FAQ: About the Books". DianaGabaldon.com. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon". PublishersWeekly.com. June 3, 1991. Retrieved November 23, 2013. 
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (June 1, 2013). "Outlander Greenlighted To Series By Starz". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ Hibberd, James (August 15, 2014). "Outlander renewed for second season". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ Brienza, Casey (September 21, 2010). "The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel". GraphicNovelReporter.com. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Fiction Book Review: The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel". Publishers Weekly. August 23, 2010. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Official site: The Exile (graphic novel)". DianaGabaldon.com. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  13. ^ "PROGRESS! OUTLANDER:The Musical now on Amazon!". DianaGabaldon.com. September 26, 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Outlander the Musical". DianaGabaldon.com. October 26, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Stage Tube: First Listen of Jill Santoriello's Outlander Musical". BroadwayWorld.com. July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]