Cross Stitch, by Diana Gabaldon
Arrow (1992), Paperback, 864 pages
Now the subject of a huge international cult following, which has just inspired a first TV adaptation, I first read this book back when hardly anyone had heard of it, and there were just a few hardback copies scattered around in libraries. With each successive title in the series, the hype just grew, but to me it remains the same powerful, lyrical history cum romance I fell in love with back in the early 90’s. Now reading it again for the first time in about 15 years, it has lost none of its appeal for me. The story is now well enough known, Claire Randall, an English nurse holidaying with her husband in the Highlands of Scotland in 1945, inadvertently stumbles through a time warp located in an ancient ring of standing stones and finds herself back in 1743, as the Second Jacobite Rebellion is brewing. Struggling with the usual fish out of water syndrome common to all time travellers in fiction, and desperately trying to return to the stones and back to her own time, Claire has the added complication of being forcibly married too, and then falling in love with, a young Highlander named Jamie Fraser. Their developing romance is set against the tension of the British army’s occupation of the Highlands, which leads to much of the book’s plot and drama. The book is simply a gorgeous read. I must admit my pride and interest in my Scottish heritage makes me very susceptible to anything with a whiff of heather, ( and led me, when i was first in Scotland, to visit Culloden and make a point of visiting the Fraser memorial), but this is a confident, well-written, often poetic story, with strong and believable characters who inspire empathy. Unfortunately the series lost a lot of interest for me after the first 3 books, when the story left Scotland and moved to America, but this book and its two immediate successors remain among my favourite reads of all time.