First edition cover
|Series||Outlander series (Book 1)|
|Published||June 1, 1991|
|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 World War II-era nurse Claire Randall, who time travels to 18th century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with the dashing Jamie Fraser. A mix of several genres, the Outlander series has 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. A television adaptation of the Outlander series premiered on Starz in the US on August 9, 2014.
In 1946, after separation by their work in World War II, British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank, a history professor, go on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland, where Frank conducts research into his family history and Claire goes plant-gathering near standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun. She faints when investigating a buzzing noise near the stones; upon waking, she encounters Frank's ancestor, Captain Jack Randall. Before Captain Randall can take her into his custody, he is knocked unconscious by a Scotsman who takes Claire to his party. When the Scots try to repair the dislocated arm of their comrade Jamie, Claire uses her superior skill to relocate Jamie's arm; whereupon the men identify themselves as members of Clan MacKenzie, and Claire eventually concludes that she has traveled to the past, and represents herself as an English widow who is traveling to France to see her family. The Scots do not believe her and take her to Castle Leoch, where Claire searches for a way to return to her own time.
The Scots of 1743 see Claire as a "Sassenach", an Outlander, ignorant of Scottish Highland culture. Her medical skills earn their respect; but the clan chieftain, Colum MacKenzie, suspects her of being an English spy. Colum sends her with his brother, Dougal, to collect rents and solicits donations for the Jacobites. This is overseen by Ned Gowan, a lawyer from Edinburgh made part of Clan MacKenzie. Captain Randall tells Dougal to bring Claire to him for questioning. To keep Claire from Randall, Dougal tells her to wed Jamie, which she does. Torn between her attachment to Jamie and the thought of Frank, Claire tries to return to Craigh na Dun. When prevented, Claire accepts the position of castle healer, in which she relies on her medical experience, and befriends Geillis Duncan, the wife of a local official, who shares her love of medicine. Eventually Claire and Geillis are charged with witchcraft while Jamie is away, but Jamie returns in time to save Claire. Just before their escape, Claire realizes that Geillis is, like herself, from the future, when she sees a smallpox vaccine scar on Geillis' arm. Geillis also sees Claire's scar.
Claire relates her predicament, and Jamie takes her to Craigh na Dun. When Jamie allows her to decide whether to stay with him or return to Frank, Claire prefers to stay, and Jamie takes her to his home of Lallybroch, where they 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 position as Laird of Lallybroch until one of his tenants betrays him and he is taken to Wentworth Prison, where Captain Randall is stationed. Claire and the clansmen attempt a jail-break, but fail and Claire is captured by Randall, who threatens to have her raped. Jamie offers himself in Claire's place, and Randall ejects Claire into the woods outside the castle. Claire tells Randall that she is a witch and predicts that, after his marriage, he shall father a child, but never see it. Thereafter Claire is befriended by Sir Marcus MacRannoch, a former suitor of Jamie's mother. While MacRannoch's men distract Wentworth's main guard, the clansmen drive a herd of agitated cattle through the underground halls of the castle, trampling a man. They rescue Jamie, who has been assaulted physically and sexually by Randall, and take him to MacRannoch's stronghold, where Claire tends the worst of Jamie's wounds. As soon as Jamie is capable, they and Jamie's godfather, Murtagh, escape to Saint Anne de Beaupre's monastery in France, where Jamie's uncle is Abbot. As she and Jamie emerge from a sacred hot spring under the Abbey, Claire reveals that she is pregnant.
- Claire 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 "Jamie" 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. Sadistic Jack looks almost exactly like his descendant Frank, and seems to have a sadistic sexual obsession with Jamie.
- Colum MacKenzie
- The Chief 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 Claire, 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 determine why she was in 18th century Scotland later.
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, and production began in October 2013 in Scotland. The series premiered in the US on August 9, 2014. It was picked up for a second season on August 15, 2014.
In 2010 Gabaldon adapted the first third of Outlander into The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel, illustrated by Hoang Nguyen. The same year, a 14-song cycle based on Outlander was released under the title Outlander: The Musical.
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- "PROGRESS! OUTLANDER:The Musical now on Amazon!". DianaGabaldon.com. September 26, 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- "Outlander the Musical". DianaGabaldon.com. October 26, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- "Stage Tube: First Listen of Jill Santoriello's Outlander Musical". BroadwayWorld.com. July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2014.