This strange novel with its history, magic, violence and European setting reminded me a bit of an adult version of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicle of Narnia without the Christian symbolism.
I was at first skeptical of this historical fiction novel but 50 pages in, the protagonist, Claire — a World War II nurse — is caught up in a magical time warp that flings her 200 years into the past. I’m a sucker for time travel stories.
“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, first published in 1991, is the first in what is now a seven-book series. It’s heavy on description (lots of adventure, too, but I learned an awful lot about 18th century herbal remedies, gardening and medical procedures) and should be savored for language and the journey.
Here’s a hint of the emotion and language contained in “Outlander”:
“I prayed all the way up that hill yesterday,” he said softly. “Not for you to stay; I didna think that would be right. I prayed I’d be strong enough to send ye away.”
I loved this prayer of the Scottish hero Jamie because it reminded me of a prayer I whispered when I’d heard my brother was in a car accident and though it hadn’t been confirmed, I knew in my heart he was dead.
Interspersed in the narrative are interesting and possibly controversial theories and descriptions of fidelity, meditation, the intimacy of sleep, the eternal lure of the peacefulness of the womb and the justification for corporal punishment.
I enjoyed Gabaldon’s dry humor, here displayed in a discussion about a geneologist’s enthusiasm for minutia:
I could see that in spite of outward composure, he was bursting with the glee of whatever they had found, like a small boy with a toad in his pocket. Plainly I was going to have to go and read Captain Jonathan Randall’s laundry bill, his receipt for boot repairs, or some document of similar fascination.
I’m sure part of this adult book’s enduring appeal is its graphic, sometimes sadistic descriptions of sex. For me, the language was metaphorical brilliance: “I crashed formless against him, like breakers on a rock, and he met me with the brutal force of granite, my anchor in the pounding chaos.”
Now thoroughly hooked on Claire and Jamie and their adventures surely in store, I’ll be picking up Gabaldon’s “Dragonfly in Amber.”