‘Outlander’ remains outstanding historical fiction

Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television “Outlander” originated as a novel series published in 1991. Its television adaptation has been nominated for a People’s Choice Award.

By Bridget Seelinger | The Duquesne Duke

The popular Starz TV show “Outlander” is up for some of the most prestigious awards in television, the People’s Choice Awards. Action, adventure, magic and mystery are packed into one incredible season and one outstanding novel. The show is based off of The New York Times bestseller, “Outlander,” written by Diana Gabaldon which is an incredibly captivating read and arguably one of the best written novels of our time.

The book follows the story of Claire Randall Fraser, a combat nurse from the 1940s who falls through time to the 1740s in Scotland during the height of the Jacobite Rising, a violent time in the Scottish Highlands when the young pretender-to-the-throne, Charles Stuart, attempted to take back the English crown using the Highland clans as his army.

The book is impossible to put down because ofthe characters and the flow of action. The reader is simultaneously laughing and crying while being completely consumed by the enchanting world of “Outlander.”

After Claire accidentally falls through time and escapes a near rape she is kidnapped by a band of Scottish Highlanders. Claire becomes a part of their society by being a healer in the Scottish clan Mackenzie, but since she is unable to answer questions about who she is or where she came from, the Scots and British believe her to be a spy. Claire ends up marrying a Highlander named Jamie Fraser for protection and embarking on a journey that will change her and her 1740s husband, who is unaware of her unique situation.

Claire is a very likeable character. She is a more modern woman trapped in a world that has not encountered the ideas and philosophies that she was raised with. Jamie is the ideal man, but he is not without flaws. He has never been exposed to modern thinking before and there are several instances in which Claire and Jamie go head-to-head on issues such as feminism and religion. This gives the story depth and value, as the two are really coming to understand the mindsets of people in both centuries.

It is also a demonstration of a healthy relationship. Today is one surrounded by stories of abusive and empty relationships. “Outlander” is a breath of fresh air. Finally one is given a healthy and realistic look at true love. Claire and Jamie’s marriage is hard work, but it is work that both of them are willing to do.

“Outlander” is also a fantastic look at the role of alternative medicine compared to Western medicine. Claire only has herbs at her disposal, but she is able to apply her modern knowledge to her limited supplies of herbs to give better care. She is practicing medicine and nursing in a world that is pre-antibiotics. It is very interesting to see what solutions she is able to come up with when faced with now common maladies that were fatal in the 1700s. It is also interesting to see how with all of her modern knowledge, and even if she had a modern operating room at her disposal, some injuries and illnesses cannot be fixed. It shows how much is left to discover.

“Outlander” has sword fights, romance, dark magic, historical context and adventure. The TV show gave a good interpretation of the story, but there is so much more within those pages that hasn’t been revealed. Claire and Jamie’s relationship has more depth in the book and one really comes to understand the impact of the some of the tough choices that Claire is faced with.

The Starz TV show is definitely an excellent representation of the book, though. The TV show really captures the book’s spirit and has given “Outlander” more of an epic sweep.

In addition, the conclusion of the TV show is more trauma informed and a more accurate look at the effect of sexual assault in a religious-saturated society such as the 1740s Scottish Highlands. It really gets the wheels turning when one thinks about how our civilization supports men who have been sexually assaulted and all of the shame that these individuals are forced to deal with.

I highly suggest “Outlander” for anyone who is looking for a little bit of adventure as well as an intellectually stimulating read. Starz will be producing the second novel in the “Outlander” series, “DragonFly in Amber” in 2016. There is no word yet whether the rest of the series will be adapted as well.


  1. Great review! I try to tell as many people as I can to read these wonderful novels. The TV series is a bonus. As an individual who loves history,you can’t ask for a better read. I will continue to spread the word about the wonderful world of Outlander.

  2. I would never have read the books if I had not first seen the TV show. Halfway through the season I started with the books. The show is superb, the acting completely riveting and enthralling. Scotland is so beautiful, Jamie and Claire (Sam and Cait) so mesmerizing and such chemistry. All of the casting is perfection, and Tobias Menzies, just wow. Then, the BOOKS. I’ve read all of them and then I’ve started over. I simply could not let the characters go when I finished book 8. They are so real that it’s like saying goodbye to family when you finish reading. You don’t want to let go. Some of the very best and most captivating books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Hard to put down. Often I’ve read until break of dawn. Everyone I’ve introduced to the show has become hooked. So looking forward to season two and praying for many more to come. Best of the best, favorite show, new favorite books!

  3. Fantastic review! The books and the show are very unique, and both broke the molds of their genres in their own ways. Sam, Tobias, and Cait all have brought our beloved characters to such life that none of us will ever be the same. They truly deserve all the major awards, as do the writers, cinematographers, designers, musicians – ALL who make the show possible. Diana Gabaldon is a woman ahead of her time, and her books and the shows that result from them are timeless. Thank you for such a beautiful summary!

  4. When you finish the first read you feel like you have finished a college course but hey wait….. no exam! Just plain enjoyment of an author whose outstanding writing and her descriptions are above all others. I have both Outlandish books and use them as sources of back research for myself — I couldn’t live without them. Knowing the outcome of the series still did not prevent my heart from pounding during each episode. I look forward to the beginning of the series in April.

  5. That is one of the best reviews I have seen of both the books and the show. It nicely summarizes why so many of us are intrigued by and addicted to Diana’s writing. Thank you.

  6. I first encountered Outlander when it first came out in 1991 and couldn’t put it down. Being a huge history buff and having lived in Scotland for several years I was totally fascinated with the story and amazed at how much I learned from it. I’ve read all the books at least twice and have learned something new each time………especially in the later books when they get into the American Revolution. Some of the best reading I’ve ever found and the TV series cast the characters so well that I almost feel like I’ve known them forever.

  7. Superb books to read, and now a wonderful visual feast through the outstanding TV series. Wonderful chemistry between the two main leads, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan who bring Diana’s wonderful characters to life

  8. Very good summary of a great book and television series. Arguably, some of the best writing ever written and for all the reasons you have mentioned. Thank you for a very clear and astute evaluation of Outlander.

    As a physician myself, I find the medical treatments intriguing and fascinating. It has made me want to study botanical medicine as part of my overall treatment plans.

  9. Excellent review! Diana’s story is so compelling and well written. The topics are quite relevant. The TV show outshines all others in it’s authenticity, casting, writing, directing and acting. The acting by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies is superb and they deserve every award possible. Diana’s books will clearly stand the test of time and becoming one of Literatures’s most beloved epic stories.

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