Wednesday, June 1, 2011

REVIEW: Corrag by Susan Fletcher

It is the year 1692 and Irish Jacobite Charles Leslie has travelled to Scotland for one purpose: to prove that William of Orange was behind the massacre of the MacDonald clan at Glencoe in hopes that this will aid King James II in reclaiming the English throne. As he is travelling toward Glencoe he stops in a village 40 miles south and discovers that there is an actual eye witness to the massacre in the town. She is Corrag, a young woman condemned to burn as a witch once the snow thaws. Charles arranges to meet Corrag, and finds her a rather strange creature. She agrees to tell him of the Massacre of Glencoe if he will listen to her story first as she is to die soon and has no one left who will remember her once she is gone.

Corrag is an interesting soul with a fairy-like quality about her who has not had an easy life. Her grandmother was drowned as a witch and her mother was hanged as one. Her past, knowledge of plants for healing, and choosing to live on the fringes of society have made her an outcast and one that has always been plagued by whispers of witch. Fletcher gives Corrag a lyrical voice. Her story unfolds like poetry and she tells it in a streaming rambling manner full of vivid descriptions-the mountains, her horse, her mother, the village of Glencoe-everything is described in great poetic detail.

At first Charles Leslie thinks of her as the residents of the town do-a filthy demonic creature deserving of her fate. As he listens to her tell of her life, his view of her slowly starts to change and he begins to think of her as very misunderstood human being who may not be worthy of her sentence after all. We see this change in perception unfold in Charles' letters to his wife back in Ireland as he describes to her his progress in uncovering the truth about Glencoe and his meetings with Corrag.

For me, the style of writing did take some getting used to and I found myself to be overwhelmed at times by the descriptions. It was a strange feeling because I found myself thinking simultaneously "this book was beautifully written" and "will this ever end?" The story unfolded so slowly I thought I'd never get to the massacre. Even given the snail-like pacing of the book, I thought the author did a wonderful job of making the time period come alive and of evolving the relationship between Charles and Corrag. There was a bit of a love story in there too that didn't really go anywhere. I was also kind of let down by the ending. Obviously I knew Corrag's tale would end eventually and her fate would be decided one way or another but I expected a little more than what I got. Overall I would say it was a decent read but not one of my favorites. I would recommend this to those who love the poetic type writing, all things pertaining to Scottish history and stories of witch persecution but maybe not if you don't fall into one of those categories.

I borrowed this book from the Fruitport library


  1. Thanks for the review, Holly. I just got this book in the mail last week (as Witch Light), but after reading your review I don't think I'll rush to read it.

  2. Interesting -- I've been there with the lovely-writing/intolerably-long thing -- which makes, ultimately, a tiring read. I got this book last month (as Corrag) so I'm curious to see if I enjoy it!