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Diana Gabaldon – Outlander

March 17, 2008

33. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
Outlander, Book 1

Length: 627 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Started: 15 March 2008
Finished: 17 March 2008

Summary: Claire Randall, a WWII nurse, is on a vacation with her husband Frank in the Scottish Highlands. While exploring a circle of standing stones, she essentially trips and falls back in time, back to 1743. Immediately running afoul of Captain Jonathan Randall, Frank’s brutal and sadistic ancestor, she is taken in by a group of highlander clansmen, and becomes powerfully drawn to Jamie, a young man with secrets in his past and a price on his head. Claire has to struggle to adapt to her her new surroundings, to find a way back to her own time, and to deal with the idea of leaving behind a love as powerful as any she’s known.

Review: Excellent escapist, slightly trashy, slightly guilty-pleasure beach reading. It was compelling enough to keep me absorbed and entertained through 11 hours of sitting in an airport, and I was actually kind of sad when my plane finally touched down, since I really wanted to see how it ended. It reminded me quite strongly of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children books – a vivid, well-researched, and well-described historical setting, the clash of personalities between two people from different worlds, and the general romantic tone. This book has the edge over those on two main points, however: the description is more worked into the story (less of the 20-page blocks describing the antelopes) and the sex is less hilariously graphic (still sexy, but less talk of “throbbing member”s and such). My main problem with this book was that it seemed as though it was trying to set up a triangle, but we spent so little time with Frank, and it’s so clear which of the two that Claire’s supposed to choose, that I didn’t really believe she was that torn up about the choice, and a lot of dramatic tension is leached from some pivotal scenes. Also, it’s fairly long, and while I didn’t mind the length (actually, the length was one of the main reasons I chose it), some of the adventures seemed somewhat tacked-on, like they could be cut without sacrificing the plot. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Very absorbing and enjoyable reading; I’ve already ordered the 2nd and 3rd books in the series.

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First Line: It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.

Vocab:

  • p. 13: ““And a Scot, in complete Highland rig-out, complete to sporran and the most beautiful running-stag brooch on his plaid.”” – a large pouch for men, commonly of fur, worn, suspended from a belt, in front of the kilt.
    .
  • p. 19: “The village lay nestled in a small declivity at the foot of one of those soaring crags that rise so steeply from the Highland moors.” – a downward slope, as of ground
    .
  • p. 39: ““You haven’t the smell of dung on your skin, so you haven’t been with a cottar.”” – a peasant farmer in the Scottish Highlands
    .
  • p. 68: “I had no appetite for the bannocks and parritch that Mrs. FitzGibbons had brought for my breakfast, but crumbled a bit and pretended to eat, in order to gain some time for thought.” – a form of flat cake, baked on a griddle and popular in Scotland, generally made of oatmeal.
    .
  • p. 76: “Looking up from my respectfully folded hands, I caught Colum’s eye, and gave him a smile that acknowledged the sangfroid of his offspring.” – coolness of mind; calmness; composure
    .
  • p. 78: “Near him were what I assumed must be the intimate members of Colum’s staff: a thin-faced man in trews and smocked shirt, who lounged against the wall…”” – close-fitting tartan trousers, worn esp. by certain Scottish regiments.
    .
  • p. 116: “Visitors were already beginning to arrive at the castle, though I had heard that the official parts of the Gathering, the oath-taking, the tynchal, and the games, would not take place for several days.” – a circle of sportsmen, who, by surrounding an extensive space and gradually closing in, bring a number of deer and game within a narrow compass.
    .
  • p. 122: “Joining her at the window, I could see a crowd of folk dressed in church-going garb of gown, kirtle, coat, and bonnet, lead by the stocky figure of Father Bain, the priest who served both village and castle.” – a woman’s loose gown.
    .
  • p. 122: “The priest had the boy gripped by the nape of the neck, a hold made somewhat difficult to maintain by the fact that the lad was slightly taller than his minatory captor.” – menacing; threatening.
    .
  • p. 122: ““But happen he’s costive or flatulent” – she made a moue of distaste – “the boy’ll lose an ear or a hand, most like.”” – suffering from constipation; constipated.
    .
  • p. 124: “He had been to the Castle only a few days before to see whether I could treat a persistent felon on his thumb.” – an acute and painful inflammation of the deeper tissues of a finger or toe, usually near the nail: a form of whitlow.
    .
  • p. 125: “The Duncans’ house, however, boasted a clock, a magnivicent contrivance of walnut panels, brass pendulums, and aface decorated with quiring cherubim, and this instrument pointed to half-past six.” – variant of choir.
    .
  • p. 135: “Turning, Colum picked up a silver quaich from its place on the tartan-covered table behind him.” – a Scottish drinking cup of the 17th and 18th centuries having a shallow bowl with two or three flat handles.
    .
  • p. 149: ““Oh, there was a great stramash about it all.”” – an uproar; disturbance.
    .
  • p. 219: “This time Jamie turned to the north, and over a jumble of stone and through a crevice, into the head of a tiny glen, rock-walled and leafy, filled with the gurgling of water from the burn that spilled from a dozen wee falls among the rocks and plunged roistering down the length of the canyon into a series of rills and pools below.” – to engage in boisterous merrymaking; revel noisily.
    .
  • p. 223: ““I should have warned ye before that we’d likely end up sleeping in haystacks, wi’ naught but heather ale and drammach for food.” – an uncooked mixture of meal, usually oatmeal, and cold water.
    .
  • p. 226: “Women being in short supply, the innkeeper’s wife and I tucked up our skirts and danced jigs and reels and strathspeys without ceasing, until I had to stop and lean against the settle, red-faced and gasping for breath.” – a Scottish dance, slower than a reel, for two dancers.
    .
  • p. 229: ““You’ve that fine-boned look through the face that some of the Angevin ladies have.”” – a member of an Angevin royal house, esp. that of the Plantagenets in England.
    .
  • p. 241: ““You rub your oxter over the beast’s nose a few times, to give him your scent and get him accustomed to you, so he won’t be nervous of ye.”” – the armpit.
    .
  • p. 246: “I could see the firelight dancing on the damascened blade.” – To decorate (metal) with wavy patterns of inlay or etching.
    .
  • p. 292: ““We’d mostly get it across the palm of the hand with a tawse, in the schoolhouse, instead of on the backside.”” – a leather strap for punishing children.
    .
  • p. 313: ““Are ye well, Sassenach? Ye look a bit fashed, all in all.”” – to anger, vex, tease, trouble.
    .
  • p. 326: ““Does he look as nice out of his sark as he does in it?”” – any long, shirtlike garment worn next to the skin, as a chemise, nightshirt, or the like.
    .
  • p. 338: “Generally the village people went to Geillis Duncan for help, but there had been several patients from the village turning up of late in my dispensary, and the traffic in nostrums had been heavy.” – a medicine whose effectiveness is unproved and whose ingredients are usually secret.
    .
  • p. 340: ““You’ve been frowsting in bed quite long enough.”” – to enjoy a warm, stuffy room.
    .
  • p. 341: ““I’d imaging flying like a corbie across that pass, and the look of the hills and the fields, falling down the other side of the mountain, and the manor house at the end of the valley.”” – a raven or crow.
    .
  • p. 348: “Still, even the best of hunters must stop at a cottage now and then, to ask for a handful of salt or a pannikin of milk.” – a small pan or metal cup.
    .
  • p. 356: “Here and there might have been discerned a frown at these revelations concerning a most puissant noble of the English Crown, but the overriding reaction was an untrammeled delight in the scandal.” – powerful; mighty; potent.
    .
  • p. 358: “Next day, I was in my surgery, listening patiently to an elderly lady from the village, some relation to the soup cook, who was rather garrulously detailing her daughter in law’s bout with the morbid sore throat which theoretically had something to do with her current complaint of quinsy, thought I couldn’t at the moment see the connection.” – a suppurative inflammation of the tonsils; suppurative tonsillitis; tonsillar abscess.
    .
  • p. 362: “The globules of dried sap on the papery bark looked like frozen drops of blood, the deep crimson refulgent with trapped sunlight.” – shining brightly; radiant; gleaming.
    .
  • p. 375: “Despite the death of the fiscal, and the subsequent formalities of obsequies and burial, the Duke’s stag hunt was delayed by no more than a week.” – a funeral rite or ceremony.
    .
  • p. 421: “It was larger than I had expected; a handsome three-story manor of harled white stone…” – a process of covering stonework, using a plastering process involving a slurry of small pebbles or fine chips of stone.
    .
  • p. 428: ““Makes her frachetty,” he explained, “not that I’d blame her.”” – between fidgety and crochety.
    .
  • p. 432: ““Because I do love ye, for all you’re a thick-headed, slack-witted, lack-brained gomerel.”” – a fool.
    .
  • p. 440: “Under the sheltering fabric, his arms came tight around me, pressing my cheek against the smudged cambric of his shirt.” – a thin, plain cotton or linen fabric of fine close weave, usually white.
    .
  • p. 446: ““The dragoman‘s son. That was in Egypt. He was nine.”” – a professional interpreter.
    .
  • p. 481: “On one occasion, I had left the table to fetch a brose pudding for dessert, and returned to find both of them sound asleep, and Jenny laughing quietly to herself amid the remains of supper.” – a porridge made by stirring boiling liquid into oatmeal or other meal.
    .
  • p. 564: “We passed a few scattered bothies, smoke rising from the thatched roofs, but the inhabitants and their beasts seemed all within, secured against the cold.” – a hut or small cottage.
    .
  • p. 569: ““And forbye ye’ll keep it down, too.”” – besides; futhermore.
    .
  • p. 573: “He emphatically rejected any suggestion of caudle or broth for breakfast, and snapped irritably at me when I tried to check the dressings on his hand.” – a warm drink for the sick, as of wine or ale mixed with eggs, bread, sugar, spices, etc.
    .
  • p. 574: “The library was beautiful, high-roofed, with soaring Gothic columns that joined in ogives in the multichambered roof.” – a pointed arch.
    .
  • p. 627: “Here an ancient oriel window opened glassless to the sky, and the light of the hunter’s moon washed us in silver.” – a large bay window of a hall or chamber.

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