CORRAG by Susan Fletcher — This book! All the emotions… Heartbreaking, breathtaking, hopeful… I needed this novel right now: a book with lush natural landscape descriptions and a character whose heart beats in tandem with the seasons and with abounding hope in an uncertain world. And the writing… like poetry!
I’m not afraid to admit that CORRAG moved me so greatly that I cried. Multiple times. I cared about Corrag and Charles Leslie. When I finished, I went up to my roof deck to look at the rolling desert hills behind my house. In a way, it was to give thanks to Corrag for reminding me of the beautiful world in which we live. I am keenly aware of this gift every day and never take it for granted, especially living in a remote area. But the character of Corrag – the book – moved me to look even more closely at what surrounds me in the natural world. To appreciate it even more.
I also went to my deck to consider the complex and fascinating character of Corrag (a true-to-life historical figure), about her heart and love of natural things and her ability to see goodness in a sinister world, even after so much mistreatment. And her desire to love.
I knew very little about Jacobites and the fierce loyalty to kings that reached even the remotest of villages and seeped into daily breath. And the Glencoe Massacre. This is a story of Catholic vs. Protestant, truth vs. falsehood, wild vs. ‘tame.’ It’s a love story in many forms: between nature and humans, between husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and an unspoken but real love between two very different people. It’s about finding one’s place and about two people’s journeys – one physical, one of the conscience.
The historical details of CORRAG are woven into the story like a delicate and beautiful spider web, soft and seemingly fragile – not overbearing – but with strength and grace and functionality.
I enjoyed the structure of this novel as well: told as a conversation between Corrag and Charles – a man of faith – a reciting of her life’s history as she faces one of her biggest challenges. And Charles’s experiences of hearing Corrag’s story, shared in letters to his wife. Excellent first-person storytelling and epistolary technique. So much deep, emotional ‘showing’ versus telling.
The language is poetic, breathtaking. I was transported to the lush green of the Scottish Highlands in summer, to its powdery white of winter. I could visualize, smell, taste and feel it all – the birds, the breath of the stag suspended in air, the feel of the tumbling waterfall. Some examples:
Her eyelashes brushed her cheekbones. Her laugh was many shrieks in a line, like how a bird does when a fox comes by it.
The wolf in her howled for night air, and so she took herself away into the unknown parts.
Her talking is like a river – running on and bursting into smaller rivers which lead nowhere, so she comes back to her starting place.
It was like my words were water and out they came, and now what? We all stood amongst my words like leggy birds in a stream.
And I say this: what creatures we are. What powers are in us – in all of us. What we already know, if we choose to spend some time with ourselves. What a deep love we can feel.
I sleep in warm hollows. I sink my heels into bogs, and watch the tiny droplets on the tips of bright-green moss.
Oh my! I am in awe of the writing and the story, and I just loved CORRAG by Susan Fletcher. It deserves far more acclaim that it appears to have gotten. If you loved Burial Rites, you will adore this book. It’s now among my all-time favorites, to be sure. I must read more work by this author!