Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Author: Diana Gabaldon
ISBN# 0099911701
Publisher: Arrow Books
1st Published: 1991
863 pages

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats - and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Cross Stitch (published in the US as Outlander, which is, in my opinion, the far better title) is the first in the Outlander series & what a beginning it is! This is quite the freshest & most exhilarating read I’ve had in a very long time, & that’s really saying something! Living in Scotland & having visited some of the places mentioned brought it all that much closer to home & I was able to fully immerse myself in this unusual tale that transcends time. The fact that the “modern” portion of the plot takes place in the past (post-war) only made it seem all the more plausible & I was quite happy to accept that someone might be able to step through a stone circle & find themselves out of their own time by 200 years or so (I always knew there was a definite purpose to stone circles!).

Throughout the story, I could feel Claire’s struggle to reconcile the aspects of her unique position. Should she use her knowledge of the future to shape events & prevent the deaths of many innocent people, or should she let time take its own course & leave history intact? Is her very presence in the past affecting the outcome of future events & is she endangering the existence of people in her own time? It’s a dilemma that devils her constantly.

There is such passion in Gabaldon’s writing that it was easy to lose myself in her vision of the Highlands & I found myself falling in love with Jamie just a little bit, as he is described in such a way that, even with all his faults & foibles, he’s pretty much irresistible. I wanted to put off finishing this book forever, just so I would have more of it to look forward to the next day, at the same time, I found it nigh-on impossible to actually out it down, torn as I was!

I will most certainly be picking up the rest of this series as soon as I have the funds to do so & will happily let myself be carried along by Gabaldon as she weaves her rich tapestry of words.

An absolute must-read.

Rating: 9


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