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.