On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I got crazy and went to a local independent book store. Our wild plans for the evening meant reading. Nerdy, I know, but that’s how we roll.
One of the books I bought was The Highland Witch by Susan Fletcher, so as the old year ended, I turned the first pages of this book.
From childhood, I’ve been in love with Scotland, and this only intensified when I lived there. Needless to say, a book that explores the story of the Glencoe massacre–even if only in the realm of historical fiction–is completely my jam.
I wanted so much to love this book, but in the end, I just couldn’t. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either.
The premise is solid, and Corrag’s telling of the massacre itself is compelling. Fletcher captures the spirit of the valley and its raw beauty.
Her use of alternating chapters that signal the present versus the past is good, as is the character of Charles Leslie who gives the reader needed information abut the political climate of the time.
Corrag herelf is an engaging and memorable character who speaks eloquently for outcasts.
The plot drags. There’s so much backstory that isn’t even necessary. I have to wonder why an editor let it through.
There are two instances of inconsistencies late in the novel. I try not to be pedantic about things like that, but I got confused as to the time of year.
I could have dealt with all of this if it weren’t so unnecessarily wordy. Look, I adore writers like Thomas Hardy. I can deal with dense, complex prose, but there are what felt like endless pages of description–often repeated ideas, too. The highlands are wildly beautiful, and Fletcher conveys this, but then she beats it into a boggy pulp.
Would I recommend this? To the right reader, I would. Her detailing of the events of the massacre is compelling, and her description of the highland character spot on, but this is such a small part of the book that I’m not certain that the payoff is worth it.