By Susan Fletcher
From the back cover: “1692, Corrag, a wild young girl living in the mountains of Scotland, has been imprisoned as a witch. Terrified, in a cold, filthy cell, she awaits her fate of death by burning – until she is visited by Charles Leslie, an Irishman, hungry to question her. For Corrag knows more than it seems: she was witness to the bloody and brutal Massacre of Glencoe. But to reveal what she knows, Corrag demands a chance to tell her true story. It is a tale of passion and courage, magic and betrayal, and the difference that a single heart can make in the great events of history.”
It’s that heart, so beautiful and broken, that makes this story so spell-binding. The author informs us at the end of the book that the characters and historical events are real, but the story is a work of fiction. Corrag existed, but the author has created her story and her truly mesmerizing meditation on life and the world she lives in and the people who fill it. The story is told entirely from Corrag’s perspective, as she tells her story to Charles Leslie through the bars of her prison cell. Each chapter ends with a letter from Charles to his wife, relating his views on Corrag’s story and the beautiful ways she tells it, with her deep insights, from the heart, about nature and human nature, with “an eye which sees the smaller parts of life.”
Her eye, her perspectives, come from the heart. I’ve lived this way, by heart, not head. “What life are we living, if we don’t live by our hearts? Not a true one. And the person living in it is not the true you,” Corrag says. The inner voice, intuition, instinct and impulse… Faith in the self, soul, inner wisdom… Belief that there is more to this life… And that there is life in everything, but very few can feel it, and those that can then find a deeper connection with and a deeper responsibility for our world and others. This way of feeling and trusting my heart has been the foundation of who I am, spiritually and externally. Am I a witch? Bewitching? Having this sensitivity, this natural connection, in the heart and soul, to our natural world and human nature, almost a “second-sight” or a sixth sense, is very much who I am and how I have come to be. The author of this book, through Corrag, spoke directly to that deep aspect of my spirituality, so deeply felt and so difficult to describe, so, like Corrag, I tend to ramble on and repeat myself alot… Saying the same thing a different way. This happens alot in the book. And I understand it.
Corrag’s connection to the natural wonders of Glencoe and the Highlands of Scotland… And her connection to Charles Leslie… And her love for Alasdair were all so beautifully described and genuinely poetic. Corrag has stayed with me, and I would love to meet her again. I enjoyed this book very much.
One last thought. At the end of the book there is an interview with the author that includes a list of ten poems. This was the first I chose to find, and I’m very glad I did. It’s by Carol Ann Duffy.
Thought of by you all day, I think of you.
The birds sing in the shelter of a tree.
Above the prayer of rain, unacred blue,
not paradise, goes nowhere endlessly.
How does it happen that our lives can drift
far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time,
queuing for death? It seems nothing will shift
the pattern of our days, alter the rhyme
we make with loss to assonance with bliss.
Then love comes, like a sudden flight of birds
from earth to heaven after rain. Your kiss,
recalled, unstrings, like pearls, this chain of words.
Huge skies connect us, joining here to there.
Desire and passion on the thinking air.