Title: Witch Light
Author: Susan Fletcher
Publisher: Fourth Estate
First Published: 1st January 2010
The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan’s hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end – but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose – and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places. (From Goodreads, 16th August 2013)
As you can gather from the above blurb this is a historical novel based in Scotland. ‘Witch Light’ is a fictional novel based on possible factual occurrences.
Corrag is a free-spirit, but in the 17th century a free-spirit means ‘witch’. Sentenced to death for witchcraft, Corrag is held in the tollbooth until the snow thaws to allow for her burning. During this time Charles Leslie began to question Corrag to find out exactly what went on at Glencoe in an effort to remove King William from the throne, whom apparently ordered the Massacre.
The novel is written from Corrags point of view, but to tell Charles Leslie about the Massacre she first talks about her life. Susan Fletcher writes Corrag’s story with a lyrical prose, which initially can be difficult to follow but soon becomes beautifully descriptive and entrancing. We also hear from Charles Leslie through the letters he writes to his wife, his take on what Corrag has told him, and his desperation to learn about the Glencoe Massacre to aid his cause.
Although I knew little of the Glencoe Massacre I feel I have learnt a substantial amount about this period of time through this novel, and from reading some of the notes at the end of the novel, it appears that Susan Fletcher highly researched the Massacre before writing this book.
‘Witch Light’ is not a novel with lots of action, but is a journey through a woman’s life and why she is now sentenced to death. This is a novel for those who like language, beauty and the wish to understand those whom differ from the norm.
4 out of 5.