Having introduced this book the other day I went on to read it in double-quick time, so completely did it grip me from the start.
As I mentioned, Gil Adamson's The Outlander is a first novel set in Canada in 1903, its main character the young Mary Boulton, referred to throughout as 'the widow'. Mary has murdered her husband and is now on the run from his twin brothers who are out for vengeance.
What follows is an extraordinary story, as powerful for what is left unstated or alluded to as for what is described. The writing is sensitive, pensive almost, but within that there is pace and suspense and mysteries to unravel. As Mary runs from her hunters, so her past is teased out gradually, scenes glimpsed through her solitary remembering: "Unpopulated, these memories, but each one nonetheless saturated with human presence, like an unattended meal still steaming."
Starving, ragged and half-mad, Mary's mind returns to the life she was brought up to: "sonatas and etudes; the art of a good menu; trousseaux ... Bedtime at nine. Toast cooling in its wire stand on the breakfast table. Alabaster skin and parasols."
Fleeing ever deeper into the wilderness, she is helped along the way by other solitary souls and eccentrics who have turned their backs on their former lives. Eventually Mary finds sanctuary of sorts with the charismatic Rev. Bonnycastle in his skewed self-built house which "stood drunk against the plumb of the surrounding cedars" in a rough mining settlement, and life is bearable for a while with this kind man "who wore his scars on the outside and held a merry heart within. How much better that was than its opposite." But the contentment is not to last and Mary is soon at fate's mercy once more.
The book is a compelling mixture of delicate, beautifully judged writing, historical detail and thrilling plot. One review I read suggested that its descriptive style was a hindrance to the story rather than a help; I disagree - its intricacies enrich it and make it vivid. It is quite superb.