“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.”
What I thought
Rarely does a book bewitch (pardon the pun) and mesmorise me quite so much as this one. It is truly one of the most beautiful and lyrical books I have ever read.
The story is narrated by Corrag, a 16 year old girl who is awaiting being burned at the stake for being a witch in 17th century Scotland. Corrag is visited in jail by Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite who wants to prove that the recent massacre in Glencoe was the work of the soldiers under William of Orange. Corrag is English and has run away “north and west” at the command of her mother who is about to be hung for also being a witch. Corrag takes the old and beaten horse of a cruel neighbour, a grey mare who becomes her best and only friend, and spends the next year living off the land and making her way north-west where she arrives in Glencoe. At first the clan is wary of her, but over time they welcome her into the fold although she still lives in her self-made little hut on the moor.
What is magical about this book is Corrage’s voice. She lives, breathes and dreams nature and the land around her. Every tiny thing is spoken of with such love and passion and she notices everything – a dew drop on a leaf, the changing colours of the rocks through the day, the silver sand as the grey mare gallops over beaches in the moonlight. The way she narrates is lyrical and equistite and the world she inhabits makes you feel like you can breathe again. Despite her life so far and her hardships, she has such a capacity for love and kindness for eveyone she meets.
Through her visits from Charles Leslie, Corrag tells her life story from her birth through to the night her friends were slain in a Scottish valley during a blizzard. Each person is wary of the other at the beginning – Leslie returns daily as he is waiting for details on who was behind the massacre (believing it to be the new King) and Corrag is determined that her life will not be forgotten. After several weeks they find a strange comfort in each other and a friendship is born. Corrag has found companionship in her final days and Leslie learns to see whe world through fresh eyes.
I honestly just loved this book. It has now become a firm favourite and I am sorry it has ended. I have never read any of Susan Fletchers other two books but I will now be seeking them out.
Highly, highly recommended!
You can also read my interview with the author, Susan Fletcher, here.