Davina Porter adapts Diana Gabaldon's Outlander story to Audio, and now with the help of Audible, the timetable of Outlander and the extras from the show are outlined...
Outlander Timeline Explained
Can’t keep the timeline of Outlander straight? Don’t worry-we’ve got the entire timeline explained, plus the rules on time travel in the popular series.
By Liberty Hardy Jul 28, 2020
It seems like every day we see more and more streaming services and channels being added to the roster. And logic dictates that a larger number of services requires a larger number of offerings. In their quest for content, companies are increasingly turning to stories and plots from books. The number of books being adapted into movies and television series in the past decade has grown exponentially, often to great success and acclaim.
One of the most successful adaptations of the last several years is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Outlander is a historical romance time-travel series about British nurse Claire Randall who time travels from the 20th-century to 17th-century Scotland. There she finds love and adventure with the dashing Jamie Fraser, a Highland warrior. The first book was published in 1991 to modest success, and with each addition to the series, its popularity grew. And the release of the television series on Starz in 2014 brought a whole new legion of fans.
There are eight audiobooks in the Outlander time-travel series, with more planned. Most of the audiobooks are more than 30 hours long, which means the series covers a lot of story. And since the series follows Claire back and forth in time, and sometimes covers both her and Jamie’s timelines simultaneously, it’s a lot to keep track of when you’re listening. It’s almost as dizzying as time traveling yourself!
So here’s a breakdown of the Outlander timeline for both new fans and listeners looking to refresh their knowledge of the events in the series. This chronicles the Outlander audiobooks in order. After, I’ll point out a few noticeable differences between the books and the show. Needless to say, even though this just brushes on the events in each audiobook, there will be spoilers. So if you haven’t yet finished the series, you might want to cover your eyes.
The series opens in 1946: British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank Randall, a history professor, decide to take a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. While there, Claire decides to go for a walk and pick wildflowers. She comes upon a circle of tall upright stones, a ruin dating from the Bronze Age. The stones seem to be making a subtle buzzing sound, and when Claire places her hand on one, she faints.
When you hear that the Outlander series includes time travel, you might be picturing an elaborate time machine. But the explanation for time travel in Outlander is much simpler, and much more of an occurrence of nature. It’s all in the standing stones. When Claire touches the stone, she is transported to 18th-century Scotland. There, she meets her husband’s ancestors. She also meets Jamie Fraser, a Highlander. Injured, Jamie has dislocated his shoulder, which she sets for him. Claire figures out she has traveled back in time. She pretends to be a widow traveling to France to see her family. Because of her medical knowledge, she is treated with respect by the MacKenzie clan.
But the evil Captain Randall suspects Claire is a spy. For her own protection, Claire marries Jamie. This isn’t a big deal because 1) her real husband is 200 years in the future, and 2) Claire and Jamie have incredible chemistry. She eventually tells Jamie the truth about who she is, and he believes her. He takes her to the stones and offers her a chance to return to her time, but she declines. At the end of the book, they escape to France with Jamie’s godfather to get away from Captain Randall. When they arrive, Claire tells Jamie she is pregnant.
Dragonfly in Amber
In the second book, Claire has returned to Scotland with Brianna, her daughter by Jamie, whom she raised in the 20th century with her husband, Frank. After Frank’s death in 1968, Claire looks to find out what happened to Jamie’s people after the Battle of Culloden. She meets Roger, the son of a family friend, who helps Claire uncover Jamie’s headstone. Claire tells Brianna about her birth father, and understandably, Brianna doesn’t believe her. But then Claire tells them what happened during her time in the past.
Back in France, 1744: Claire had convinced Jamie to stop a Jacobite uprising, and he set to work putting his plans in motion. But Claire has a miscarriage and Jamie is imprisoned in the Bastille for dueling. Claire rescues him, but they are eventually banished from France and return to Scotland, where Jamie kills a man to protect Claire. He sends Claire to the standing stones to return to her time before anything else can happen to her; she is pregnant once again and the Battle of Culloden is upon them. That answers the question of how she ended up back in the present day at the beginning of the book. At the end of this installment, Roger informs Claire that Jamie did not die in the Battle of Culloden like she believes he did.
This novel opens with Jamie’s timeline in Scotland in 1746. Though seriously wounded in the Battle of Culloden, Jamie does not die. (The same cannot be said of the evil Captain Randall.) He lives as an outlaw, and eventually a prisoner, before being released and fathering a child, William, who is raised by Lord Ellesmere as his own son.
Back in Scotland, 1968, Claire decides to return to the 18th century after learning Jamie is not dead. She and Jamie are reunited, though he has married again and now has stepdaughters. Jamie is almost killed by his wife, who is jealous of Claire and eventually takes a payoff to let Jamie out of the marriage. Now free to be together again, Jamie and Claire end up in Jamaica. There is more adventure and danger, and Claire and Jamie are forced to escape in a ship, which is blown off course and crashes in the American colony of Georgia at the close of the audiobook.
Drums of Autumn
Jamie and Claire, as well as Claire’s adopted son, Fergus, and Jamie’s nephew, Ian, make a new life for themselves on the coast of Georgia in 1766, where they are eventually joined by Fergus’s wife. Meanwhile in the 20th century, Brianna, who now knows her mother’s story of time travel to be true, learns something tragic about her parents’ history, and sets out with Roger, now her beau, to travel back in time to find them.
The Fiery Cross
This book opens where Drums of Autumn left off: it’s 1771, and war is coming. Claire, having traveled back in time from the 20th century, realizes that she and Jamie and their family are now poised at the brink of the American Revolution. Brianna and Roger are married with a son, and many plot lines are drawn together as the Frasers wait for war.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
The revolution begins as the Frasers try to live peacefully in the foothills of North Carolina. But even there, war reaches them. Jamie has a hard time trying to reconcile his loyalty to the British crown with his newfound freedom in his new homeland with Claire.
An Echo in the Bone
Brianna and Roger are back in 20th-century Scotland when an ancestor from Claire and Jamie’s timeline appears- and one of Brianna’s coworkers attempts a nefarious plot to find lost gold. Meanwhile, back in the 18th century, the American Revolution has started, leading Jamie’s son, Lord William Ellesmere, to the Americas to fight for the British. There are murders, accidental killings, and blackmail schemes. Claire and Jamie eventually return to Scotland, where they reunite with Jamie’s family, as well as his ex-wife. When it is reported that Jamie has been lost at sea, Claire returns to America.
Written in My Own Heart's Blood
It’s still the 18th century in America, and Claire has married Lord John Grey for protection. But then Jamie returns, and he and Claire are reunited. Claire is wounded in the Battle of Monmouth, and she and Jamie return to North Carolina. In the 20th century, their grandson, Jeremiah, is kidnapped, and after he is found, Brianna and Roger and their family travel back to the 18th century to be with Claire and Jamie.
And that’s it...or is it? A ninth book is reportedly in the works, but no release date has been set. For now, the Frasers are all reunited in America. Throughout the audiobooks, there’s a lot of time traveling happening between the two centuries by many characters-except for Jamie. He’s never made the trip to Claire’s original timeline in the 20th century, and Gabaldon has said that he never will. And who’s to say he could? The way time travel works in the Outlander series depends a lot on the members of the Fraser family, and certain times of year seem to be easier than others. Not just anyone can pull it off.
And speaking of that, while the television series has been largely loyal to their source material, it does diverge on certain matters, both big and small. Here are seven differences between the Outlander books and the show:
• In the audiobooks, Claire’s wedding ring is stolen from Frank by the pirate Stephen Bonnet; on the show, the ring that is taken belongs to Jamie.
• Frank, Claire’s husband, is not nearly as horrible and rotten on the show as he is in the audiobooks. He’s much more of a doting, caring husband on the show, which better explains why he was willing to raise another man’s child as his own. He is also a womanizer in the books; on the show, he has a mistress he cares for very much.
• Believe it or not, there are fewer racy sex scenes on the television show than you find in the audiobooks. These are romance novels, so they do get steamy.
• Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser does not die in the Battle of Culloden on the show like he does in the books. Outlander producer Maril Davis has said that he was just too great a character and an actor to let go after the first season.
• Points of view are captured on the television show that are not seen in the novels. For instance, Jamie’s imprisonment by Captain Randall in the first book is told from his perspective. Viewers are also shown Frank’s search for Claire after she goes missing.
• The second season of the show opens with Claire’s return to 1948 instead of her life in 1968, like the opening of the second book.
• Laoghaire MacKenzie, Jamie’s wife, appears earlier in the show’s storyline than she does in the audiobooks.
Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor and velocireader in the great state of Maine, where she reads 500-600 books a year and lives with her three cats, who are too young to read the Outlander series.
More on Audio... Diana Gabaldon covers so much in her characters. She has made story Novellas for many Outlander characters... here are a few stories that help us understand the Outlander books with clues, backstories, and adds, that are not in the antagonist perspective.
Virgins Young Jamie Fraser sets out for Paris France after the death of his father. Ian Murray, his childhood friend is already there fighting with French mercenaries and together they go on an adventure.
A Leaf On The Wind Of All Hallows Roger Mackenzie as a child. What happened during the war to his parents and that time travel gene!
The Scottish Prisoner Lord John visits Jamie Fraser on the property at Hellwater where he left him a paroled prisoner, and requests his help in Ireland.
The Space Between Joanie MacKimmie, and Michael Murray set out for France. Somehow Time travelers Compte St Germain and Master Raymond end up involved in the middle of Michael's attempt to help Joanie figure out how she sees the future and who's going to die