Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander was another recommendation from my Mum, who is a real book nerd. Somehow, the TV show (now on Netflix) had passed me by until now. A novel about Scotland and time travel, you say? Gimme, gimme!

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“1946, and Claire Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. It’s a second honeymoon, a chance to learn how war has changed them and to re-establish their loving marriage.

But one afternoon, Claire walks through a circle of standing stones and vanishes into 1743, where the first person she meets is a British army officer – her husband’s six-times great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Black Jack Randall is not the man his descendant is, and while trying to escape him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Scottish outlaws, and finds herself a Sassenach – an outlander – in danger from both Jacobites and Redcoats.

Marooned amid danger, passion and violence, her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.”

Our main character, Claire, is a war nurse vet on her second honeymoon with her husband, from whom she’d been separated for years. During their trip to the Scottish Highlands, she accidentally falls through time, awaking in the 1700s and unable to return.

What I noticed first was the sheer length of this book. At over 280,000 words, it’s much longer than the average first novel. I found that the first quarter was fairly slow, yet still interesting enough to keep my attention. Outlander is beautifully written, with a perfect blend of witty dialogue and breathtaking descriptions.

I enjoyed exploring Scotland, first in the ’40s and then in the 18th century, from the charming castles to the heather on the mountains. Even if the story moved slowly at first, Gabaldon’s gorgeous writing style kept me hooked.

What I like most about this book is that it’s very historically accurate. Though of course featuring fictional characters, Gabaldon did her research. I’d recently got done watching Braveheart only to find it lacked much historical accuracy at all, so Outlander was a pleasing contrast.

By the second half of the book, I was fully invested. Claire is tangled up in the dangers and politics of the time. Jack Randall, obviously the main “baddie”, is a totally evil and corrupt redcoat, and Gabaldon is exceptionally gifted at making us hate him! Jamie was my favourite character (I am definitely not alone on this), from his honour and bravery to his affectionate use of the word “Sassenach” (English person) when referring to Claire.

Another thing I adored was the use of Gaelic! The language of my childhood is rarely used in books or TV, yet is used frequently throughout the story. Now I’m watching the TV show too, and it’s pure nostalgic bliss to witness its use.

The last quarter of the novel was so explosive and packed full of action and passion that my rating went from four stars to five. Immediately after turning the last page, I whipped out my phone and ordered the next novel in the series, Dragonfly in Amber.

If you love historical romance, Scotland, and excitement, I highly recommend Outlander!

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Get Outlander on Amazon UK
Get Outlander on Amazon US

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I Absolutely Hate Competition

I’m a big fan of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate games. Many people suggested I go to a local tournament where I could improve and not have to suffer through the downsides of online input lag.

At the tournaments (I attended three), I lost far more than I won. My enthusiasm quickly evaporates. After a few losses, I tilt, then I don’t try. Why bother, when I know I’m going to lose anyway?

The fact is that I despise competition.

I feel humiliated when I lose, and guilty if I win. Why make someone feel that all their hard work has gone to waste by snatching a win from them? What have I done to deserve that? Yet when I’m the one who’s losing, it’s like a confirmation that I’m a failure. I left the last tournament in tears, leaving the victorious winners behind with a heavy heart, accepting I’ll never improve at such a fast-paced competitive game.

So I quit Smash. And my life is a lot better for it.

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Does that mean I’ll miss out on things in life? I don’t work hard on this blog because I hate competing against other websites. Every day, I feel like quitting my dream to be a fiction writer because the competition has never been fiercer. I don’t play any sports or PVP games because I despise going against a fellow human.

The fact is that I’m a lot happier working with people instead of against them.

I know I’m using video games in many examples here, but stay with me. There’s another game series, Monster Hunter, where players connect online to fight together against the in-world monsters. A cooperative game, players give each other advice and items to beat the monsters and clear quests. Although Monster Hunter isn’t my favourite game of all time, I always left feeling happy and satisfied – exactly how you should feel after playing a game. There was no PVP competition; in fact, we united to defeat enemies together.

If you hate competition, it might just be because you’d rather work with people instead of against them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This world is too full of competition, and not only in sports and games but in everyday life – job interviews, selling products, even love. Who has time for all that? I’m working towards building others up, not tearing them down. So should we all.