Study Guide

Outlander

By Diana Gabaldon

Outlander Introduction

Imagine this: You're on a little vacation to Stonehenge, when you happen to notice a pretty little flower growing amongst the rocks. When you lean in for a close look, though, your heads starts spinning… and the next thing you know, you find yourself back in time. Like, way back.

This is what happens to Claire Randall, the narrator of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. While exploring the (fictional) stone circle of Craigh na Dun (Stonehenge's little cousin), the World War II nurse ends up falling two hundred years into the past, from 1945 to 1743.

And guess what? When she does, she finds adventure, romance, and a whole lot of people who don't understand the importance of washing their hands.

Published in 1991, Outlander kicked off the massive Outlander series, following Claire and her sexy Scottish husband, Jamie Fraser, across so many books we've lost count. Stacked on top of one another, the Outlander books wouldn't circle the world, but these thick tomes would probably outweigh a small kindergarten classroom. And the series is so popular that it's even gotten the small screen treatment, though it has to be on cable because of its TV-MA-levels of steaminess.

Speaking of steamy, Outlander won the Romance Writers of America award for Best Romance Novel of 1991, and all without Fabio's rippling abs on the cover. In addition to spawning over seven sequels, Gabaldon has written a spin-off series featuring her character Lord John Grey, co-written a graphic novel of Outlander told from Jamie's point of view, and inspired a musical. Yes, a musical. When does this woman have time to eat?

So if you have some time to kill and you want to get lost in a world full of romance and adventure, grab a copy of Outlander. Consider yourself warned, though: We might not see you for another two hundred years.

What is Outlander About and Why Should I Care?

Outlander is the Snickers bar of literature. It has everything—romance, adventure, humor, violence, freaking time travel—and like a Snickers bar, Outlander satisfies. We can't think of another book that hits almost every possible genre you can think of quite as successfully as this one does. Seriously. When it comes to the genre question, Gabaldon herself even answered differently depending on who was asking in the early days:

"If it was a man between 40 and 60, I'd say it was historical fiction. If it was a woman between 15 and 45 I'd say it was historical romance. If it was an older man I'd say it was military history. If it was a young man I'd say it was science fiction." (Source.)

Why does this matter? It means that not only can you read Outlander and find whatever suits your fancy in it; you can also give a copy of it to just about anyone and read it right along with them because there's something in here for everyone, from a fifteen year old girl to an old man. Although some of the steamy sex scenes might make your grandmother blush.

Oh, who are we kidding? Your grandmother will love it—especially those parts. Looks like your next family get together just got a whole lot more interesting.

Outlander Resources

Websites

Diana's Domain
Gabaldon's website has more information about Diana—her personal life, her writing methods, her thoughts—than you ever thought you'd want to know. Plus, it has some pretty awesome endorsements, like the one calling the Outlander series "A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres." You can't find that just anywhere.

Outlandish Observations
That's not a Shmoopy headline, folks; that's the name of the actual website, the most comprehensive fansite for Outlander on the 'net. Even Gabaldon herself loves it.

Movies or TV Productions

Battlestar Outlanderica
The Outlander television show is helmed by Ronald D. Moore, the genius behind the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Time-travel is pretty sci-fi, so this seems like a good fit to us. Now we just have to check and see if we have Starz…

Articles and Interviews

A Gathering of Knowledge
Diana spoke with an interviewer at the Gathering in Edinburgh in 2009 (similar to the one at Castle Leoch in 1743) and talked about the origins of the series and just how the heck to pronounce her last name.

We'd Read That for a Dollar
In this interview, Diana talks about the research that goes into the book, and her famous dollar bet that has helped her sell tons (and these books are heavy, so we do mean tons) of novels.

Video

Outlander in NYC
This video begins "Are you excited about Outlander?" Did this guy even have to ask? Gabaldon sits down to chat about the Outlander television show premiere at New York Comic-Con.

How to Speak "Outlander"
"Outlander" is easy to pronounce. "Sassenach" is not. This handy video shows you how not to sound like, well, an outlander.

The Gathering of Books
The National Book Festival might as well be the National Outlander Festival. Gabaldon speaks at the festival much to the joy of over 400,000 fans who voted her favorite author. That's almost as many fans as the entire Outlander series has pages.

Audio

Makes Us Want to Sing
It's rare for a book to make us want to sing, but Outlander does sometimes. Good thing there's a musical version to sing along to. Sample a track here.

Images

Castle in the Sky
Although Castle Leoch only exists in Diana's imagination (and, after reading about it, ours), we think it might look similar to other Scottish castles, like Urquhart castle… although with walls still standing, of course.

With This Ring, We Thee Wed
Want an Outlander-themed wedding? (We hope you know your partner for more than a day…) If so, you'll definitely want a replica of Claire's ring.

Casting Out
The casting of Jamie in the Outlander television series was the subject of much fan fervor (just try to drown out the cries of Liam Hemsworth…). Sam Heughan was ultimately chosen as young Jamie. What do you think?