The BUZZ: This is the eighth book in The Outlander series. Starting in August, Outlander will be a miniseries on Starz.
The GIST: Twenty years ago, a sophisticated friend of mine handed me her copy of Outlander. I was surprised that she would let anyone know that she read this book (I had seen her bookshelf: all classics and biographies, definitely no romance fluff). It looked like a romance novel to me. I was wrong. This was epic historical fiction, saturated with sex and 18th century brutality for sure, but not comparable to the formulaic genre of bodice rippers which I find so tedious. Our narrator, Claire Randall, is a WW2 army nurse who finds herself trapped in 1743 Scotland after stepping through a stone circle while honeymooning on the British Isles. Dismissing the story here would be like pshawing Game of Thrones because there are dragons. I thought it sounded silly at first, but this story has managed to captivate my attention for two decades now. I devoured the first book, following Claire as she became complicatedly attached to the principled James Fraser and his Highland world. I neglected my family as Claire and Jamie navigated through political uprisings and the challenges of 18th century life, bonding deeply. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood finds Claire and Jamie facing unrest in revolutionary Philadelphia.
The WRITING: This is not literary fiction, but it seems a step above the category of commercial fiction to me. Gabaldon has enjoyed tremendous sales. Her writing has improved markedly over the series. A former academic researcher with two graduate degrees, Gabaldon’s intelligence lifts this story above others in similar genres. She is a gifted storyteller, leading the reader along a complicated timeline populated with colorful characters and settings. Claire is a smart, feisty heroine. Jamie matches her will in spades with humor, honor, and supreme confidence. This inspiring pair lives intensely. Their devotions run deep, including family, politics and everything in between. At the core of the story is a very human relationship, powerful in its flesh and bones.
BUY or BORROW? I own the whole series and dip into it every summer. Don’t tell anyone. If you haven’t read any of it, start at the beginning.
“Here I stand on the brink of war again, a citizen of no place, no time, no country but my own . . . and a land lapped by no sea but blood, bordered only by the outlines of a face long-loved.”