I’m so excited to share this book with you as it has sailed all the way into my top three favourite novels of all time. It did used to be called Corrag, but the 2011 edition I have is called Witch Light.
What is Witch Light all about?
Witch light is a tale of dual narratives. The first narrative is that of Corrag, a wild girl who awaits her burning for being a ‘witch’. She has witnessed the massacre of Glencoe, and this leads to her being visited by Charles Leslie, the second narrator. Leslie is a man of the church who seeks to find the truth about the massacre, as he is sure they happened with the orders of the king.
William of Orange has just replaced James II on the throne, and this has caused great unrest. Such unrest has climbed up into the highlands of Scotland, where clans such as the McDonald and McIain clans reside. Throughout the tale Corrag narrates the journey of her life to Charles, and through his letters to his wife we see not only his ever changing perspective of Corrag but also the historical background of the tale.
Why should you read it?
Corrag’s narration is something not everyone will be taken by immediately. She has a delicate and beautiful way of perception, and as a heroine, is someone who dually embodies the vulnerability of a mouse in her mind, and the strength of an ox in her character. The prose is poetical, and at times the sheer beauty of the imagery of landscapes sends shivers down the spine. Charles also undergoes intense transformation, through his contempt of Corrag at the beginning, to his sensitivity and fatherly desire to protect her towards the end. Just as he is taken in and bewitched by her tale, you will be too.
It also has a wealth of extra sources, such as maps, time-lines and historical information. I don’t particularly like novels that are explicitly historical, yet although it has a historical thread, the journey of Corrag is the main theme. As she is not interested in the historical and political debates, they do not enter her narrative often and thus it offers a fresh alternative to intensely historical novels. As Susan Fletcher claims, most of the characters existed in real life, yet the book is a work of fiction and should be taken as such.
My personal response
As I said previously, this novel is now one of my favourites. After finishing the last few pages, I was left wet eyed and breathless. Walking around the city days after finishing the novel I could not escape the feeling of overwhelming appreciation, and it definitely altered (or perhaps redefined) the way I look at the world. Occasionally books come along where we feel instantly connected to them, almost as if the novel has affected us in some way. This is how I felt when I read Witch Light. I felt as though Corrag had climbed onto my shoulder, and everywhere I looked she was whispering “look, look at that!”