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Outlander (novel)

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Country  United States
Publisher  Delacorte Books
Pages  640
Originally published  1 June 1991
Series  Outlander series (Book 1)
Page count  640
4.2/5 Goodreads

Language  English
Media type  Print (hardcover)
ISBN  0385302304
Author  Diana Gabaldon
Followed by  Dragonfly in Amber
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Genres  History, Romance novel, Historical Fiction
Similar  Diana Gabaldon books, Outlander series books, Fantasy books

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 the Second World War-era nurse Claire Randall, who travels through time 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.


Plot summary

In 1946, after working apart during the Second World War, British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank, a history professor, go on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. 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 custody, he is knocked unconscious by a Scottish Gael who takes Claire to his clansmen. When the Gaels try to repair the dislocated arm of their comrade Jamie, Claire uses her medical skill to reseat Jamie's arm. The men identify themselves as members of Clan MacKenzie, and Claire eventually concludes that she has traveled into the past. She represents herself as an English widow who is traveling to France to see her family. The Gaels do not believe her and take her to Castle Leoch, where Claire searches for a way to return to her own time.

The Gaels of 1743 see Claire as a "Gall" (foreigner), "Sassenach," or 'Outlander', ignorant of Gaelic 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; on the way he also solicits donations for the Jacobites, overseen by Ned Gowan, a lawyer from Edinburgh who is working for the Clan. 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 is made castle healer, 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 her arm. Geillis also sees Claire's scar.

Claire tells Jamie her real story, and he takes her to Craigh na Dun. When he offers her the chance to stay or go, she decides to stay. Jamie takes her to his home of Lallybroch, where they meet 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. Claire and the clansmen attempt to rescue him, but they fail, and Claire is captured by Randall, who threatens to have her raped. Jamie offers himself in Claire's place, and Randall frees Claire into the woods. 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 guards, the clansmen drive a herd of cattle through the underground halls, 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 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.

Main characters

Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser
A warm, practical and independent former war 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 and a history professor with a deep interest in his genealogy and heritage. He worked for MI6 during the Second World War as an intelligence agent.
Jonathan Randall
(aka "Black Jack" Randall) The primary villain of the story and Frank Randall's ancestor, a British army officer. According to Jamie, the “Black” refers to the color of his soul. Sadistic Jack resembles his descendant Frank, and has a sadistic sexual obsession with Jamie.
Colum MacKenzie
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, who leads the clan in battle because his older brother is 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, who believes that she is a witch, and has knowledge of herbs and plants. Geillis is pregnant with Dougal MacKenzie’s child when imprisoned for witchcraft, which wins her a brief reprieve of her death sentence. She murders her husband, Arthur Duncan. Ultimately Claire realizes that she is a time-traveler from the 1960s.
Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser
Jamie's godfather, who 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 programme's credits).

Gabaldon's initial plan was 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 how she came to be 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.

Television series

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.

Other adaptations

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.


Outlander (novel) Wikipedia