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Witch Wood (1927)

by John Buchan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
235487,372 (3.93)21
Set against the religious struggles of seventeenth-century Scotland, with Montrose for the king against a convenanted kirk, John Buchan'sWitch Wood is a gripping atmospheric tale in the spirit of Stevenson and Neil Munro. As a moderate Presbyterian minister, young David Sempill disputes with the extremists of his faith. All around, the defeated remnants of Montrose's men are being harried and slaughtered by the faithful, and Sempill's plea for compassion, like his love for the beautiful Katrine Yester, is out of joint with the times. There are still older conflicts to be faced however, symbolised by the presence of the Melanudrigill Wood, a last remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest. Here there is black magic to be uncovered, but also the more positive pre-Christian intimations of nature worship. In such setting, and faced with the onset of the plague, David Sempill's struggle and eventual disappearance take on a strange and timeless aspect in what was John Buchan's own favourite among his many novels.… (more)
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» See also 21 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
Wasn't for me.

I've read a few John Buchan books and enjoyed them. This one, however, I really struggled to get into and had to give up... so I confess my rating is based on a book only half read. The Scots dialect in the book is very strong and frequently used, so if you are a stranger to it you may struggle like me! There are references to the back of the book so that you can look up expressions you're not familiar with, but the frequency of needing to look them up, I found detracted from the story itself. I'm sure somebody else would enjoy this... but it definitely wasn't for me! ( )
  ArdizzoneFan | Nov 19, 2020 |
A young minister in a rural Scottish community finds that many leaders of the village are involved in a witchcult; with the aid of a group of local eccentrics, he breaks up the witches' meeting. So fr, all is good, but then his beloved wife (who had inspired him to challenge the witches) dies, his oddball friends fail to support him, and the hypocritical witches retain their power. Very depressing ending. I must admit i think Buchan had a valid point that the lovable eccentrics that often form bands of heroes in adventure fiction are unlikely to prove reliable in real life, but overall, i did not enjoy this book. I may say the witches do not seem to ave genuine occult powers, so this is not fantasy. ( )
  antiquary | Sep 22, 2016 |
Synopsis: Witch Wood is a story of seventeenth-century witchcraft in the Wood of Caledon in the Scottish Borders. The parish minister tries in vain to prevent devil worship and protect his protestant congregation. Meanwhile, civil unrest of the Scottish Wars of the Covenant divides the minister's loyalties. Buchan also weaves in a romantic love story.

Review: I bought this book from Treadwells Esoteric Bookstore and was immediately captured by its writing style. It is set in Scotland and, for the most part, deals with a young minister's trials in dealing with the local witches in his village.

The "wars" referred to in the synopsis are those that divided the church and, eventually, led to the almost complete eradication of superstitions and pagan practices that continued under the more lax provisions of the Catholic (papist) and other churches.

Aside from all this, the story is engaging and Mr Buchan has a very distinctive and somewhat old-fashioned writing style. The reader will notice that all the characters speak with a heavy Scots accent - a dictionary of slang may come in handy.

I loved it as a work of fiction and will be keeping my copy to read on dark, windy and wintry nights (oooh, spooky). ( )
2 vote Sile | May 4, 2007 |
Witch Wood is a story of seventeenth-century witchcraft in the Wood of Caledon in the Scottish Borders. The parish minister tries in vain to prevent devil worship and protect his protestant congregation. Meanwhile, civil unrest of the Scottish Wars of the Covenant divides the minister's loyalties. Buchan also weaves in a romantic love story.

John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir, was a Scottish diplomat, barrister, journalist, historian, poet and novelist. He wrote adventure novels, short-story collections and biographies. His passion for the Scottish countryside is reflected in much of his writing. Buchan's adventure stories are high in romance and are peopled by a large cast of characters. Richard Hannay, Dickson McCunn and Sir Edward Leithen are three that reappear several times. Alfred Hitchcock adapted his most famous book The Thirty-Nine Steps for the cinema.
1 vote | antimuzak | Jun 4, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Buchanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Massie, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
TO WALTER BUCHAN
First words
Time, my grandfather used to say, stood still in that glen of his. But the truth of the saying did not survive his death, and the first daisies had scarcely withered on his grave before a new world was knocking at the gate.
Quotations
The Kirk has made the yett of grace ower wide for sinful men, and all ither yetts ower narrow. It has banned innocence and so made a calling of hypocrisy, for human nature is human nature, and if you tell a man that honest pleasure is a sin in God's sight he finds a way to get the pleasure, and yet keep the name for godliness.
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Set against the religious struggles of seventeenth-century Scotland, with Montrose for the king against a convenanted kirk, John Buchan'sWitch Wood is a gripping atmospheric tale in the spirit of Stevenson and Neil Munro. As a moderate Presbyterian minister, young David Sempill disputes with the extremists of his faith. All around, the defeated remnants of Montrose's men are being harried and slaughtered by the faithful, and Sempill's plea for compassion, like his love for the beautiful Katrine Yester, is out of joint with the times. There are still older conflicts to be faced however, symbolised by the presence of the Melanudrigill Wood, a last remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest. Here there is black magic to be uncovered, but also the more positive pre-Christian intimations of nature worship. In such setting, and faced with the onset of the plague, David Sempill's struggle and eventual disappearance take on a strange and timeless aspect in what was John Buchan's own favourite among his many novels.

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