Outlander - the book series

Our uncles noted that the Outlander book series didn't yet have its own discussion, so let's remedy that, shall we?

I read the second book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber, first, and was completely hooked.  It was given to me by a straight male friend who was put off by its seeming bodice-ripperiness (his mother had given it to him to read - yay, parenting!)  Looking back on it now, I think the first two books can be read in either order without significant issue.  Although you do get some story spoilers in the second, you want to go back and read all the details, anyway, and many parts of the second book are Claire telling Brianna parts of the story of the first book.  I think it's the framing device that makes the second book work so well. 

I like the third book, too, although not as much as the first two.  And I've tried for years to like the other books, but I must admit that there is very little that goes on in the Americas that interests me.  She does get to expand Lord John and his fabulous snarkiness, but you can get more of that in his own series, anyway.

Do you have a favorite book in the series?  Favorite character?  Is there anything in particular about Diana Gabaldon's storytelling style that you love?  Hate?
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Comments

  • I love the series but the I find the first three books by far the best-they are so action packed and full of plot! By the time we get to books four and onward, I found it hard to follow, with the constant introduction of new characters, time travel back and forth, and the long wait between books! I feel like I should go back to the beginning and start again.
  • I love the Outlander story in general.  I did not read the first book until I saw the Starz series.  Then I read the second book and have started the third.  I would have to say I like the original book best.  I think the storytelling style is good but limited because the author felt it necessary to stick to the heroine's viewpoint only.  There are scenes it would have been good to "see" and we can't because the heroine isn't present. Also, though the author insists that Outlander isn't a romance, IMHO, it is since the most important part of the book focuses on the romance.  I also don't see anything wrong with calling it a romance.  Modern romance writers brought the female gaze and the female viewpoint into focus.  I recall when Gabaldon got an award for the first Outlander book in 1990 from Romance Writer's of America. 

    In the book, I like Jamie the best of all the characters.  In the show, I love him, too, but I also like Claire more than the book, though she's still a kick-ass heroine. 

  • Had to chime in here. I've read the books for over the last decade and even own the Outlandish Companion--a massive Bible sized book all about the books. My favorite book is Voyager. It is amazing. I haven't read the newest book yet, the series was on a 4 year break and I was a bit annoyed with the ending of the book before that. What I need to do is go back and re-read them all from the beginning! I've never watched the show but I'm glad it's getting good recognition. Perhaps I'm biased aganist Starz, if it was AMC then maybe I would have watched it. Claire is an amazing character and her love for Jamie literally transcends time.. Having been to Scotland, I can believe that anything could travel there. I've seen the battlefield Culloden too and it is a haunting place. I won't spoil what is going to happen and I hope everyone enjoys reading them.
  • As I've commented elsewhere, I've been reading since about the time that Voyager came out in hardcover. I really enjoy character-driven stories, and the books have that in droves. Outlander is my comfort read - when the power is out, when I'm bored, when I want to spend a few days with old friends without actually talking to anyone. I have some issues - a stupidly high prevalence of sexual assault, for one - but nothing that stops me from forking over cash the first day a new hardcover comes out. I do enjoy the other characters, but I tend to speed-read the books on the first time through just to see what happens with Jamie & Claire, and then go back and do a more leisurely reread to absorb the history and all the other adventures. I've read all the novellas and most of the Lord John books, and it's fun to see the little crossovers here and there.

    If anyone's ever read Sara Donati's books, which are set in the 1790s+ (they're kind of a Last of the Mohicans spinoff), there is also a very brief crossover with the Outlander world.
  • Ah, yes.  Rape does seem to be a common occurrence in this series.  I think it fits, historically, and I think Gabaldon generally handles it well.  The characters who are raped seem to all have slightly different reactions to it, while sharing a commonality of trauma.  So while it allows some character building and doesn't sanitize the history of the time, I must admit that I'm just plain over it.  I think it was around the sixth book - maybe the fifth, when there was a rape and I just rolled my eyes.  It has become so common in the series that it's lost its emotional resonance.  At this point it's almost part of a character checklist.  Learn about time travel?  Check.  Have a serious/life threatening wound or illness?  Check.  Witness Claire performing a miracle cure or surgical procedure?  Check.  Be assaulted or raped?  Check.

    Of course, after this many books - and they are enormous books! - there's simply going to be some repetition.
  • I suppose I don't understand the complaint that it seems like rape is too constant a danger for these characters. Rape is clearly a constant (if perhaps less overt) danger to women in 2015, and while I've never been to 1743 and can't confirm it, I suspect it was much worse then.

    That said, the later books, 4-8, really, suffer from bloat. While I sometimes agree that DG moves away from Claire and Jamie too much to focus on other characters, when you're writing somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 pages, that's going to happen. But the books really could have benefited from an editor (GRRM's later novels suffer from the same issue – I suspect it's a symptom of success).

    As much as I enjoy the series on the whole – and I really do, and can't wait to see how the later books will be adapted for screen – I'm not sure any of the books really capture the magic that is Outlander. Voyager comes closest, IMO.
  • Yeah, she handles it well and there are always repercussions - and it happens to men as well as women - but I had the same reaction as you did to one scene, might even be the same one (vaguely: Cameron looking for gold). I don't think she does it for a cheap plot thrill, but it's still happened so often that it stands out.

    I'm interested to see the reaction to That Particular Scene in Outlander that's going to cause a commotion when the series starts airing again shortly...
  • I dipped into the series after getting interested in the "Lord John" books, and while I enjoyed some aspects of the main series I never got as interested in Claire and Jamie as I was in Lord John. (My favorite of the "Lord John" books is Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, fwiw.)
  • Back on TLo's post where they mentioned they are now watching, a debate began (and has since been deleted) about the upcoming punishment scenes. In regards to that, there is a pretty fantastic debate is going on here as well. 

    My two cents on it all?

    It's fiction. It's a huge series and it is going to have flaws. As individuals, you have to know what your comfortable reading/watching and then let it go. What I don't understand is bringing today's morals, and social standards for what is acceptable, into a fictional story about the past, is only setting yourself up for feather ruffling. 

  • It's fiction. It's a huge series and it is going to have flaws. As individuals, you have to know what your comfortable reading/watching and then let it go. What I don't understand is bringing today's morals, and social standards for what is acceptable, into a fictional story about the past, is only setting yourself up for feather ruffling. 
    That was pretty much my approach. I was unimpressed with a couple of parts, but they didn't detract from the whole story.

    I think what I love most are all the little vignettes of life, whether it's just Jamie and Claire, or when they're chilling with friends and/or family. Diana sometimes posts a particular scene from Outlander that, when she was first writing the book and sharing scenes/drafts with people on Compuserve, made pretty much everyone demand more. There's a bit with Jamie and Claire not long after they're married, still at Castle Leoch (ie, no show spoilers), and it's this benign little moment where Jamie had sprained his ankle, they're up in their bedchamber one drizzly morning, and the conversation that they have is so natural and organic, and so funny. It's an intimate look at the growing relationship that isn't just sexy pillow talk.
  • I came late to this series, trying the first book five years ago, and have yet to come up for air. Since I came so late to the party I had the luxury of being able to journey uninterrupted through the story until having to wait for book eight. I was so hooked after Outlander, I just bought the entire series. And when I saw the amount of reading involved, I made a decision right there that I would slow down and savor this experience rather than picking up speed because I had to see what comes next. Not that Diana's writing style accommodates a quick read! You asked what we love about Outlander. I'm constantly acknowledging those reasons as I read, so let me list what comes to mind.
    • I love the length of the novel and the fact that we're going to see these two people probably through to the end of their lives.
    • I can't say enough about Jamie and Claire. Pragmatic, passionate, loyal to a fault, humorous, and imperfect. I could go on.
    • I love the many and diverse characters.
    • The unexpected twists and turns. I don't know how Diana keeps it all straight.
    • The details! I can picture, feel, and, unfortunately sometimes, smell what's going on!
    • The vocabulary!
    • The incorporation of all kinds of social, political, and religious issues into the story without bias, but just presented as events or historical fact.
    • The medical aspect. Being a retired nurse, I hang on every procedure and treatment with great interest, especially due to Claire's ingenuity and determination in dealing with the lack of medical resources.
    • I know I have more, but will end with Diana's ability to make her characters come alive. All of them. None of these people exist but I laugh and cry with them.
    I've just never read its equal. And I read a lot of books.
  • I read or listened to, I think, the first 3 books?  I had to stop midway through the one where they were on the ship to…the Bahamas?  Barbados?  See, I can't even remember where they were going.  I just got tired of the constant capital D Drama.  I mean, obviously, it's fiction and the whole point of the book is to keep you reading, so there's got to be some excitement.  But it just became too much bullshit drama for me.  Please tell me I'm not alone in feeling this way.  


  • I really enjoyed the first book, second one was ok, but after that it seems like I have been wading through the rest of them forever.  Months ago, I was about half way through the 7th, An Echo in the Bone, and just could not do it any more. I think each volume has been more and more in serious need of editing.  Endless descriptions and sidetracks, beautifully written, but exhausting.  I do like the tv series so far, though.
  • Oh, I like the books.  I just finished Written in My Own Heart's Blood, the most recent.  I am annoyed to know it will likely be 3 or 4 years before a new one comes out. She left a few threads? ropes? cables? dangling. I found the historical stuff to be kind of cool; something I can actually share with my husband, who doesn't really want to hear about any ripping bodices.

    I'm actually pretty tired of Lord John. The idea that she has written / is writing a whole spin off series of Lord John books; well, just say I get a headache from the eye rolling. 

    Claire is older at this point than I am. I wish I had her energy and know how.
  • edited April 2015
    I was an early adopter for Outlander--I read them each as they were originally published in paper back, back in the 90s. I liked the first two, and have re-read them a couple of times. The third one is okay, too, and I have re-read that one maybe once. Although I think I have read through the fifth one (whichever is A Firey Cross), I didn't really care for the books once they went to America and so I gave up on the series. I do think Gabaldon's storytelling started out well but became too much, too repetitive, etc.

    I think I read the first Lord John and it didn't grab me -- I don't remember anything about it at all.
  • edited April 2015
    I've read all of the series but I've gotten to where I read a few chapters and then find myself taking a break and reading something else and then going back to it and rinse and repeat. They are just too much to handle for me all at once and I get really confused about who some of these people are. I just wish she would un-complicate things a bit. I've been reading the last one for months and months, I've probably read 15 other books in between going back to it.
    I would be much more interested in the Lord John books if they delved just a bit more into the historically accurate details of being gay at the time but for the most part it's glossed over and except for the fact that he is a gay man living in a very dangerous time, he isn't that interesting.
  • edited April 2015
    I read or listened to, I think, the first 3 books?  I had to stop midway through the one where they were on the ship to…the Bahamas?  Barbados?  See, I can't even remember where they were going.  I just got tired of the constant capital D Drama.  I mean, obviously, it's fiction and the whole point of the book is to keep you reading, so there's got to be some excitement.  But it just became too much bullshit drama for me.  Please tell me I'm not alone in feeling this way.  


    You're not the only one.  I LOVED the first, the second one I enjoyed (though not quite as much)...but halfway through the third, I almost quit and am pretty sure I'm done reading them now.  It's been awhile so details have gotten fuzzy, but I think it was when Claire and Jamie got separated (at sea maybe? I can't quite recall) and there was no possible way he could find her and then he showed up (and probably rescued her or whatever) and while I'm able to suspend belief and accept taking some literary license...that might be just too ridiculous for even me.  Which makes me sad because I thought the first book was so smart and different than a stereotypical "historical romance" and then...that. 
  • Back on TLo's post where they mentioned they are now watching, a debate began (and has since been deleted) about the upcoming punishment scenes. In regards to that, there is a pretty fantastic debate is going on here as well. 

    My two cents on it all?

    It's fiction. It's a huge series and it is going to have flaws. As individuals, you have to know what your comfortable reading/watching and then let it go. What I don't understand is bringing today's morals, and social standards for what is acceptable, into a fictional story about the past, is only setting yourself up for feather ruffling. 
    I read a bit of that discussion . . . jeez . . . Why read/watch historical fiction if you're going to insist that the storylines comport with today's values and customs? Do they just like the costumes? To me a major part of the appeal of historical fiction is comparing and contrasting the times with our own. We don't have Starz so I haven't watched the show, but I found the beating storyline (and its aftermath) fascinating on a number of levels.
  • Fitzperry said:
    Back on TLo's post where they mentioned they are now watching, a debate began (and has since been deleted) about the upcoming punishment scenes. In regards to that, there is a pretty fantastic debate is going on here as well. 

    My two cents on it all?

    It's fiction. It's a huge series and it is going to have flaws. As individuals, you have to know what your comfortable reading/watching and then let it go. What I don't understand is bringing today's morals, and social standards for what is acceptable, into a fictional story about the past, is only setting yourself up for feather ruffling. 
    I read a bit of that discussion . . . jeez . . . Why read/watch historical fiction if you're going to insist that the storylines comport with today's values and customs? Do they just like the costumes? To me a major part of the appeal of historical fiction is comparing and contrasting the times with our own. We don't have Starz so I haven't watched the show, but I found the beating storyline (and its aftermath) fascinating on a number of levels.
    there was a very lighthearted, and witty fantasy series written by two fantasy writers, Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague DeCamp way back in the day(try 1940's, I think) that involved time travel from the 20th century to mythological and/or literary epics-the Norse world of Valhalla, Italy's Orlando Furioso, titled "The Complete Enchanter". Friends clued me in on these books back in the mid-1970's when they were still available in paperback, and I devoured them. They were literate, and very funny, and a lot of the fun involved from the fact that the 20th century time travelers could not use any of their technology in whatever realm they were,and the actual conditions of those worlds. 

    Historical fiction in my experience has always been a mixed bag-some authors do a great job of historical research, creating very credible worlds, others not so much.
  • (posting show comments here since it's a comparison.)

    Ron Moore clearly did not read the same version of Outlander that I did. It's like he's based the show on someone's retelling of the story from memory.

    Jenny can be a bitch, oh yes, but she's not a stone cold cunt who's rude to guests. That's also not a Fraser fight. They're supposed to be toe to toe, nose to nose, shouting at each other, not biting off a handful of snarky comments. It's a running theme that Frasers have explosive tempers, and Ian even jokes that he should break up the fight before they start actually hurting each others' feelings.

    Randall is also disturbingly/uncharacteristically dispassionate. The show announces what a sadist he is at every turn, but as is typical with this series so far, it's a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. And the McCallum incident - they're making Claire out to be far more excessive a buttinsky than she already is, when it was Rabbie's gran who came to Jamie about the abuse.

    I spend so much time rubbing the bridge of my nose during this show...
  • Love the series and have begun reading the first book...looking forward to participating in this thread.
  • This was the first episode where the changes really bothered me. I think they missed an opportunity by leaving out Granny McNabb - not only in the Rabbie story, but also at the mill. If I remember correctly, she's the one who talks to the soldiers - not Jenny. She outsmarts them, then basically blackmails Jamie into taking Rabbie, in exchange for turning her head so he can get out of the cold mill pond. We already know from her Black Jack story that Jenny can be cunning, so Granny deserved her chance to shine. There are badass women of all ages in these books.
  • I'm 3/4 of the way through Voyager and I just got to the Father Fogden parts; I kind of picture/hope they cast Alan Tudyk for the role, if they get to that point. It seems a good fit.
  • Are we allowed to talk casting in this thread? Because I finished the first three books and am taking a break to read the Hugo nominees, but I'm excited about casting announcements for the second season and that seems too spoilery for the show thread...
  • I'm ok with casting talk.  It could definitely get too spoilery for the show thread, but we book people can discuss whether or not the new cast members live up to the characters we had in our head.  But let's try to keep it to generic personality characteristics or looks, so that people who haven't yet read the second book don't get spoiled for events.  If you're unsure, just use type it in white for spoiler font. *like this* 

    I've seen names, but haven't taken the time to look up pictures of the show's Fergus, etc.
  • Huh.  I'm surprised this thread is so dead.  I was disappointed that the show didn't include Jamie's disapproval at Claire's waxing (which, iirc, was just her legs and didn't include her honeypot) and their mild spat about it.  I suppose it was a little tonally different than the show's normal scenes but I would have liked to see it included.  

    Everything else was perfect.  I love Dominique Pinon and I loved Master Raymond and so that's just peanut butter and chocolate perfection in melding casting and character.  When she walked into the apothecary I blurted "EXACTLY AS I IMAGINED IT."  

    I kind of wish we had a book-reader's show thread.  I'm not sure if it's totally necessary, but I do kind of want to discuss the deviations and gush about what's perfect and also make comments on TLo's commentary that aren't appropriate for the main site thread because book spoilers.  (For example, how Master Raymond basically fills Geillis Duncan's shoes in Paris - I'm looking forward to more occultisms since this time period is replete with them, what with De Gebelin and all popularizing tarot reading --- huh, is Comte St Germain a reference to/fictionalized De Gebelin? hmmm)

    I've still only read through the first three books - I'm rereading my favorite passages in Voyager now in prep for starting Drums of Autumn - so I am trying to avoid spoilers.  
  • I am glad to see a relatively new post here, @gabyripples, because I also can't help but compare the books to the tv series.  I am actually kind of disappointed with season 2 so far.  I am missing the humor from the books.  It seems to me that Jamie is turning into a pompous jerk, and Claire is morose and dreary. I hate, hate, hate Claire's voice-overs.   I love the gorgeous costumes and sets, of course.  I think the casting of Master Raymond, Mother Hildegard, and Bouton are spot on!

    I hope these comments are general enough as to not be considered spoilers.
  • The trailer for this upcoming episode has me confused, I just read Dragonfly, so you'd think I'd remember...but in the books does Claire really tell Murtagh she's from the future? And does he really ask her if she's lived through "x" number of years? I don't remember it playing out like that in the books, but with so much material in the books, sometimes things slip through the cracks. Someone please help clarify for me! Thanks! -Sarah

  • So is it ok to discuss differences from book to series here?

    With last nights episode, I was interested in seeing Jamie with a short haircut (though I love those ginger locks!) but apparently was not to be.

    Overall, I'm not complaining, the series is just different enough to keep me intrigued and the casting of characters has just been perfect!
  • edited May 2016

    Bringing this discussion with @Sharyn over
    from one of the articles.


    I have 3 points of contention with the
    timeline of Claire’s military experiences in the series (both book and show) in
    regard to history: the biggest one is the amount of time Claire served in the military, but that also leads to problems with the level
    of seniority she achieved and the date of her demobilization.


    Disclaimer: I am not by any means an expert on
    the history of nursing. I wouldn’t have known any of this if I hadn’t gotten
    obsessed with learning more about British nursing in the 1950s during a Call The Midwife binge last year, which
    then led me to researching British nursing in WWII and also WWI. A few months
    later, I read Outlander for the first
    time and also binge-watched the first season of the show. If I hadn’t done the Midwife-related research beforehand, I
    probably wouldn’t have thought most of Claire’s backstory all that odd.


    I apologize in advance for the length of my
    post! I'm going to have to post in several smaller comments. Also not sure why it's being formatted like a poem. LOL 


    Anyway, before I start, the impression I got from both the
    book and the show was that Claire had no previous nursing experience before the
    war started in 1939 but she wanted to do her part and being a nurse for the
    military was her chosen method of contributing, so she enlisted early in the
    war and then spent the next few years serving as an active-duty military nurse
    throughout the war years. During this time, she achieves some nursing seniority
    and also works as a combat nurse before being demobilized 6 months before the
    series starts. [If I am mistaken on any of this, please let me know!]


    (cont.)

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