But when I saw a pristine, virgin copy in the library last week, I brought it home with me ... for no other reason than it was one of Cornflower's books of the year, and I know from past experience that she's a tremendously good 'picker'.
But honestly, I thought this time I was going to disagree with her. The title, the jacket ... well, to me it conveyed historical saga of the heathery braes and uisgebeatha genre. And I'm a Sassenach.
Cornflower's review - 'like a cloudscape reflected in water, subtly shaded, shifting, depths within depths' - conveys far better than I ever could the bewitching quality of this novel that has consumed my every waking minute for the past three days. (Up until 3am this morning, desperate to finish it, desperate that I couldn't be immersed in it forever.) Corrag is a lonesome, wild creature who tells her story from the prison cell in Inverary where she is awaiting execution as a witch in February, 1692, in the aftermath of the Massacre of Glencoe. Outlawed as hag and witch, as was her mother before her, she fled north from England to find sanctuary in the glen where her skills as a herbalist brought her into contact with the fierce, but proudly hospitable MacDonald clan.
Corrag tells her story to a prison visitor, a dour and godly Irish Jacobite who is looking for evidence of the King's involvement in the massacre. At night, after he leaves her, he writes letters thrumming with heartache for the wife he has left behind in Ireland.
As I only finished this at 3am, Cornflower's cloudscape is still shifting across my mind and I have a feeling that this book will remain with me for a long time. It is far, far more than a historical novel; more a distilled essence of love and loneliness and simplicity and kindness. And, of course, heathery braes ... I'd be away to Glencoe this afternoon if only I could!
What a start to the reading year. As a concession to Sassenachs, however, I see that the publishers have changed the title and the paperback is coming out as Witch Light.