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The Outlander

(The Boultons #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  9,087 ratings  ·  1,474 reviews
In 1903 a mysterious young woman flees alone across the West, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At nineteen, Mary Boulton has just become a widow—and her husband's killer. As bloodhounds track her frantic race toward the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two ruthless brothers-in-law are in pursuit, determined to avenge their y ...more
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by House of Anansi Press (first published 2007)
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Karen Dowdall I am currently reading this book and I love it. Each word is so rich with meaning and so evocative with layers of Innuendo, it is like reading a work …moreI am currently reading this book and I love it. Each word is so rich with meaning and so evocative with layers of Innuendo, it is like reading a work of art. (less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  9,087 ratings  ·  1,474 reviews

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Truly, a beautiful book. About a young woman running for her two brothers in law, in the Canadian wilderness, around 1900, after having killed her husband, this is not a real spoiler, it is clear right from the start I guess. Fighting to survive. A little slow in the beginning, especially the scenes where the Widow, Mary, is alone, were too long for me. The language and descriptions of the wilderness are beautiful, but after three pages of it, I thought, ´ok, noted about the wilderness beauty an ...more
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
1903, in the Canadian wilderness.. widow, Mary Boulton, 19 yrs old.. is on the run for her life, being tracked down by her two brother-in-laws for the murder of her husband.
Mary came from a wealthy family, and as soon as she had a suitor, her father married her off, for fear of her becoming a spinster. After her marriage she had to travel far from home to make a home with her husband, who ended up treating her terribly.
We are told from the beginning that she is guilty. You will be rooting for h
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, canada
“Drop it. She’s done. Who knows who they were. Who knows where they took her. And even if you knew”— he spread his small hands out —“what could you do? Are you Sam Steele?” The two of them drunk for two days, until the Ridgerunner could drink no more, and merely sat holding his head. Then a long, sorry, sober night during which the dwarf had chattered to stave off his companion’s unnerving silence, telling story after story, every one about her. Wondering at the particulars of her past, the whif ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young woman has killed her husband. Now, she flees across the Canadian wilderness pursued by her massive brothers-in-law, who are bent on bringing her to justice. As she fights for her survival, the widow is tormented by "uninvited memories" of her life and unhappy marriage.

That's basically it, synopsis-wise. It is the author's descriptions of the almost unimaginably vast landscape and large cast of interesting characters that make this worth a read. (view spoiler)
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book—it’s a real page turner. It concerns a young woman who murders her husband and is on the run. The characters she encounters on her journey remind me in a way of “The Odyssey.”—The loner who saves Mary's life and steals her heart; the mining town minister who becomes her protector; the dwarf who runs the only store in the mining town of Frank; the miners, the stragglers, and the settlers—each has his or her own vitality and consciousness. Even the old tracker who di ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable first novel, reminiscent of Tenderness of Wolves, with a smattering of Cold Mountain, it's beautifully written. Very descriptive, not just of the landscape, and believe me the Canadian Rockies sound very bleak, but also of the despair and hopelesness that existed at this time. As her story unfurls,we realise that Mary is a real heroine, not always likeable, but as courageous as a lion. She meets some wonderfully quirky characters throughout her journey, who add some spice an ...more
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not for everyone, but I loved this. If you can get through the first 100 pages, you'll be hooked. In the beginning, that dreaded literary curse of not much happening is laid down. Personally, I love nothing better than to read work by a writer who can take you from nanosecond to nanosecond in pages, if the writing is good enough, but many don't have the patience for this. Some overwrought language and metaphors at the beginning ("Grasses grew on the heaped soil like hair on a bee-stung dog") mad ...more
Linda Hopf
Oct 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club, a-slog
A story about nothing, full of characters you care nothing about. Sure there are some great descriptive passages - about rainbows, darkness, the smell of horses... yada, yada, yada; but all these mental pictures connect a whole bunch of empty. I dunno - something about new Canadian writers and trying TOO hard to be clever. All those words completely got in the way of developing the story. I did not care one speck about the main character - the widow - and so her "adventure" meant nothing to me. ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pretty impressive for a first novel but I suppose the beautiful prose makes sense for a published poet. This was quite an adventure! This felt to me like a combination of Frazier's Cold Mountain and Mrs. Mike. Some passages were so visually and emotionally rich that I read them numerous times over, like tasting a good wine, you can't just have one sip. Like this one,

"As a little girl, she had lain awake at night, staring hard into her lightless bedroom, imagining that the darkened room congealed
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absorbing narrative written in 2007, not to be confused with D. Galbadon's Outlander series. While there are some maddening stylistic inconsistencies and awkward sentence structure at times, it's a compelling story of a young woman's struggle to survive in the Banff wilderness at the turn of the last century. Ingenious plot devices include the true occurrence of a devastating landslide in 1902-03, the worst in mining history. This gets a 5 from me because it's THAT interesting, so who ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: westerns
Gil Adamson's first novel bolts off the opening page: Men with hounds are chasing a young woman through the woods at night. Nineteen-year-old Mary Boulton has murdered her husband and now, still wearing a black mourning dress made from curtains, she's running from her brothers-in-law, massive, red-headed twins with rifles across their backs.

Welcome to The Outlander, an absorbing adventure from a Canadian poet and short story writer who knows how to keep us enthralled. Of course, the Girl Being C
Debbie Zapata
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
This book was an unexpected borrow from the library. I had gone in to return a couple and meant to walk out coldly not looking around. But of course that never works, does it?!

Adamson's first novel, this 2007 title was wonderful. With lovely writing and a compelling story, it caught my attention from the first page and was very hard to put down.

Why did 'the widow' kill her husband? Where will she go? Will she manage to avoid the two brothers-in-law who are trailing her, seeking revenge and thei
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
This one was another for book club, and I have to say that when I finished it I shut the book with a snap and said “That’s it?!”

This is the story of Mary Boulton, the young widow who killed her husband. That we know from the outset, as Adamson tells us this as we are introduced to the fleeing Mary. Or, as Adamson constantly refers to her, “The Widow”. As if the two frightening brothers-in-law aren’t enough to remind us of her past, this moniker is necessary as well. Don’t forget, dear reader, th
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
A suspenseful plot drives this story of a widow on the run through the mountains for Canada from her vengeful brothers-in-law. Even in the sections where she is no longer running, there is a sense of anxiety because the reader knows her brothers are still out there searching for her. I liked this book because the plot moved swiftly but it didn't sacrifice character development. It has one brief but very PG-13 section. It is handled with tenderness but may be too much for sensitive readers. Other ...more
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In spite of some legitimate criticisms from other reviewers, I loved this work of Canadian historical fiction. The main character, widow Mary Boulton, is complex and interesting, and there is a supporting cast of oddballs the likes of whom I imagine populated Western Canada in the early days -- a Little Person with a general store, a minister who boxes with his unwilling parishioners, a romantic hero who is so immersed in his wilderness life that he doesn't even know what year it is.

And there's
Leo Robillard
Sep 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Gil Adamson’s first novel is a yarn well-spun, full of improbable, implausible, and near-mythical events. It is the stuff of legend, with one foot planted firmly in accurate history, and one foot treading the ether-sphere of picaresque adventure.

Mary Boulton is a murderess, plain and simple. One may argue that she is the victim of postpartum depression, or overwhelming grief at the death of her child; she may even be insane with jealousy over her husband’s indiscretions. But no matter which way
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ibooks, 2015
1 OCT 2015 - a terrific read. Superb descriptions of a vast landscape coupled with strong writing skills propel the story from start to finish.

2 OCT 2915 - add'l comments written to Karen:

Thank you, Karen. My brief review does not do justice to the story. But, others have written more eloquently the sane thoughts. The book begs an almost immediate second reading. The first reading you are trying to stay ahead of the brothers. The second reading is when you will enjoy the writing and the evocati
Feb 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book is hard to get into and once you sort of like it, it really is disappointing. There is just too much extra info. that, I think, takes away from the story itself. And the other problem is the amount of cursing is distracting. The intimate scenes aren't too bad but the author just writes very graphically and it's just not my choice of entertainment. Choosing and reading a good book is my outlet and as a mom w/very little extra time, I wouldn't waste it on this one. ...more
Barbara McEwen
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
Sounds strange to say but I had a good time reading about Mary's adventures fleeing from her creepy twin brother-in-laws. Don't get me wrong, Mary has some issues. She murdered her husband, which turns out I am totally cool with, and she also has a very weird off-again on-again madness that doesn't make a lot of sense but, pshaw who doesn't? Go along for the ride. ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, western
Enjoyed this, primarily for the style of writing. And I learned a little bit too about an incident in western Canada's past. ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Second page: Nineteen years old and already a widow. Mary Boulton. Widowed by her own hand. By this we know her name and her status as a widow. Nearly all of the book is written from her point of view and yet in nearly all of that she is called "the widow." Why isn't she called Mary? Aren't we supposed to sympathize with her, even though we know from the above that she murdered her husband? I felt this constant continual reference to her status, rather than calling her by name, kept us distant f ...more
Julie Christine
I love being drawn in and surprised by a great story. And when the writing is as beautiful as Ms. Adamson’s, a celebrated Canadian poet, it becomes an all-too-rare treat: a book I must tear myself away from as the clock ticks into the start of my work day.

The text of The Outlander is followed by a conversation between the author, Gil Adamson, and the writer Michael Ondaatje. Ms Adamson describes an image that came to her unbidden, one which she set to paper. She saw a young woman in a black dre
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, western
“It was night, and dogs came though the trees, unleashed and howling. They burst from the cover of the woods and their shadows swam across a moonlit field. For a moment it was as if her scent had torn like a cobweb and blown on the wind, shreds of it here and there, useless.”

What drew me in to this book? Her lyrical prose in the very first paragraph, and the suspense it produced. This is a story of a woman who had killed her husband and was being hunted by his two brothers. What drew me out was
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel was published in 2007 and I have no idea how it had escaped my attention.

What a wonderful treat.

It gives nothing away to write the story is about "The Widow" and her flight into the 1903 wilderness to avoid the two, red-haired brothers of the husband that she has murdered. The novel depicts her flight from her past and the two brothers bent on returning her home to face what she has done.

The writing is excellent and flows with such vivid descriptive power that you can almost smell
Rachel Small
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this a few years ago and adored it. Idiotically, I had thought this was the first book to the popular Outlander series, but swiftly fell in love with the lyrical prose and depictions of early Canadian settlements.
Leni Iversen
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
The plot is quite basic: In the early 20th century, a young woman, widowed by her own hand, flees into the mountainous wilderness of Alberta, Canada, doggedly pursued by her intimidating twin brothers-in-law. And that's pretty much it. I wasn't convinced at first. I was only mildly curious about the widow's backstory and why she had killed her husband. And I'm not really into excessive nature descriptions, no matter how beautiful and elaborate the language. But then the widow started meeting "go ...more
Melissa Reddish
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book enough. There have been several references to Cormac McCarthy, a comparison that is quite apt. This is Cormac McCarthy if he was female and a poet. The language is beautiful, precise, and constantly surprising. From the first paragraph, the book compels your forward, making it difficult to put down. While we know that the widow killed her husband, we don't know why or under what circumstances, and the withholding doesn't feel cheap or gimmicky, but instead like a nat ...more
John Acy Reinhart
There are books that set you up for disappointment.

The writing is graceful, yet muscular, the characters are vivid and the narrative springs to life with a propulsive rhythm that makes reading joyful and as effortless as sliding across an icy pond. Yet, the ending rings hollow, as disappointing as socks for Christmas.

The Outlander, Gil Adamson's debut novel, is not one of those books. The writing, the characters and the narrative are all as described above. But the ending, the ending is a wonde
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This lyrical novel is a wonderful prose poem by Gil Adamson. Prepare yourself for a cadre of characters that somehow ring true regardless of their idiosyncrasies. Ms. Adamson's imagination and frontier knowledge blend rhythmically resulting in a consuming read set in the Canadian wilderness. ...more
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Gil Adamson (born Gillian Adamson, 1961) is a Canadian writer. She won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2008 for her 2007 novel The Outlander.

Adamson's first published work was "Primitive," a volume of poetry, in 1991. She followed up with the short story collection "Help Me, Jacques Cousteau" in 1995 and a second volume of poetry, "Ashland," in 2003, as well as multiple chapbooks and a co

Other books in the series

The Boultons (2 books)
  • Ridgerunner

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