Quite the bold statement to make but I mean it. The books I am about to discuss have significantly changed me, both in how I read and how I write.
I first discovered Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series in September 2015 after I went onto a Facebook group and asked for recommendations for a good historical romance on audiobook. I wanted a decent series to while away the hours on my daily commute to work. My everlasting gratitude goes out to the person who suggested Outlander! I started into the first audiobook that September and now, in March 2018, have just completed the eighth book in the series. My verdict? It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. It’s hard to think of many other books that even come close to how emotionally invested I became in Outlander.
To give you a brief synopsis, Outlander is a historical fiction/fantasy series about a British combat nurse who goes to Scotland in 1945 with her husband to rekindle their marriage after the war has ended. While there, she happens upon a circle of standing stones in the Scottish highlands and falls through time to 1743, where she meets the highlander Jamie Fraser and becomes involved in the Jacobite risings. And that’s just the barest tip of the story. As you can imagine, A LOT happens across the eight books but of course I don’t want to give away any spoilers. And it doesn’t even stop at eight – apparently, there will be ten books altogether, but I don’t know yet when the ninth will be released (and am not sure how I’ll cope until it does).
Outlander ticked every single box for me. A historical setting, a strong heroine, a dashing hero, romance, adventure, a long series that I could sink my teeth into for months and months. The level of historical detail is impressive, the storyline is enthralling, and the characters – both primary and secondary – are engrossing. In some ways, I regretted choosing to read the series by audiobook because I was restricted to reading it only when I was driving and sometimes it was agonising to reach my destination and have to turn it off. I’ll admit to having slowed down just to spend longer in the car. But having said that, the audiobook narrator, Davina Porter, is amazing and I can’t imagine having read these books without hearing her speak ‘Sassenach’ in Jamie’s voice…
I know that Outlander isn’t the kind of series to suit everyone’s tastes. The books are longer than they need to be, some scenes can be very graphic, and you probably won’t find it appealing if you don’t warm to the characters. This hasn’t stopped me from recommending it to others at every opportunity. The urge to do so stems from a feeling of deep sympathy for those who haven’t yet experienced Outlander and from a selfish desperation to find someone else to talk about it with. I have so far managed to convince four people to read it – three loved it and one didn’t, so I have a 75% conversion rate!
I said at the beginning of this post that Outlander has changed how I read and write. In terms of reading, it has raised the bar for me. The quality of it is so good and my investment in it has been so great that I now demand the same level of enjoyment from my other reading material. I’m much choosier because of it.
It has had even more of an impact on the way I write. After I started reading it, I realised that I had been writing my own series in a little bubble. Outlander showed me the scale of historical fiction and gave me the encouragement to expand my series beyond the limited boundaries I had originally set for it. And Diana Gabaldon’s writing style is exactly the kind I like – while I can’t emulate it, I can certainly strive to make my own better because of it.
I’m positive I’ve left you in no doubt as to the strength of my feelings for this series of books! It has definitely made a powerful impression on me, more so than any other series in my adult life. All that’s left for me to say is: if you want to be swept away by the best love story ever, read it!