Witch Wood by John Buchan
In The Witch Wood (1927) John Buchan brings all the tension of his wartime thrillers to a complex story of witchcraft in the ancient Wood of Caledon in the Scottish Borders. It is a stirring and challenging tale of seventeenth-century devilry, combatted in vain by David Sempill, the parish minister, who is hindered by the hypocrisy of his parishioners and his fellow-ministers' cant. In the background, meanwhile, the civil unrest of the Scottish Wars of the Covenant tears David's loyalties between his love of his calling and his admiration for the Marquis of Montrose, the leading opponent of the extreme Covenanters. Witch Wood also tells a love story that owes much to the ballads Buchan learned from his father and is infused with a subtle, other-worldly longing, nourished by the author's knowledge of Dante, Plato, and Virgil. The Dark Wood is not merely Scottish: it is the classical and medieval symbol for the subliminal powers which challenge reason in every age. This book is intended for general readers, Buchan fans, readers of Scottish fiction.