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Witch Wood

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  153 ratings  ·  27 reviews
In 1644 Reverend David Sempill begins his ministry at a small Scottish town, but soon comes in conflict with the extremists of his faith.
Published July 1st 1989 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published January 1st 1927)
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Ancestral Gael
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 th
Dan Clore
The plot may be slow-moving, and the Scots dialect is pretty thick, but this is a powerfully atmospheric novel set in 17th-century Scotland with the horrors not only of a witch-cult (drawing on Margaret Murray) but of hypocritical witch-prickers.

The novel is realistic rather than supernatural, the fantasy being in the beliefs of the characters. But it is effective enough in the mood created by (e.g.) the descriptions of landscape and weather that it seems quite believable that a woman who freque
"What do your Presbytries and Assemblies or your godly ministers ken o' the things that are done in the mirk? What do they ken o' the corps in the kirkyairds buried o' their ain wull wi' their faces downwards? They set up what they ca' their discipline, and they lowse the terrors o' Hell on sma' fauts like an aith, or profane talk on the Sabbath, or giein' the kirk the go-by, and they hale to the cutty-stool ilka lass that's ower kind to her joe. And what's the upshot? They drive the fold to the ...more
Matthew Miller
When I started reading this book, I wasn't so sure. There was a lot of dry dialogue and a bit of a language barrier.

As I continued it got better and better until I was reading quite a bit every day. It's both encouraging and thought provoking. It is also theologically sound. The main character is likable (A pastor that isn't a wuss? How cool is that?) and not too perfect, leaving room for moral dilemmas.

Definitely read it.

Becky Norman
I had read this novel many, many years ago and the pervasive atmosphere of the setting has stuck with me through hundreds of other books I've read since then. Set in Scotland, but steeped in the similar traditions and brooding landscape of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Witch Wood tells the story of a young minister, David Sempill, who witnesses diabolical goings-on in the the woods near his new parish. Members of his congregation are caught up in sinister "extra-curricular ac ...more
A solid, captivating book. Never has a book with so little supernatural activity been able to stun me so much.
Rog Harrison
This was apparently first published in 1927. The story is set in the Scottish Borders during the civil war and the main character is the new young minister in a small village. The minister wrestles with his own christian faith as opposed to the severe presbyterianism of the Kirk and also has to deal with a pagan coven, a wounded soldier from Montrose's defeated army as well as falling in love. It's a good read though a lot of the dialogue features many Scots words which even having lived in Scot ...more
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John Pendergraft
A powerful story (a favorite of CS Lewis) about a young and idealistic minister, David Sempill, set in 17th century Scotland with the Monmouth rebellion as the backdrop. As David grows into ministering to his congregation he finds a coven of witches and warlocks being led by the most powerful and influential of his flock. As David sets out to spiritual battle he finds an unlikely ally in a young noblewoman, Katrina Yester, who is both a source of goodness and a symbol of grace over against a chu ...more
This book is truly awesome. True, there are passages that took some interpreting (the broad Scots dialogue for example) znd the book leaves you angry at the injustice that is ultimately done.
At the start, you do assume that things will work out alright, but the bleakness of the ending shocked even me. I loved the fact that it was not predictable, and adored many of the characters, and admired the ending.
I will certainly be reading more Buchan.
Ann Marie
Actually more of a 3.5. The tone was reminscent (to me, at least) of Thomas Hardy and I did get occasionally confounded by the Scots dialect (even after living in Scotland for 9 years!) But a good story with an interesting commentary on religion for religion's sake. Worth persevering through.
Dillwynia Peter
I loved this book, but I have been lucky and have read Sir Walter Scott's early novels on Scotland. Buchan takes no prisoners & thus has minimal explanation on language used and the historical period. Wikipedia became my friend when I decided to study up on the religious wars of England & Scotland. Such a nasty & intolerant period.

The story is based on fact - from a pamphlet found by Buchan - but he changed the hero significantly & added local colour. If you are a fan of late 19t
Mark Wilson
Although I took a little while to get into this book, I was truly gripped by the time I'd got to the second half. I was particularly pleased to find the central character of the book to be of such an orthodox christian belief, and this was a particularly interesting tale of the struggle of a minister seeking to be true to the Word, albeit imperfectly, against a church more interested in the look of being true to the Word. Very worthwhile reading.
Loved it! Once I got past the Scottish speech patterns, I could just get involved in the story and deep issues; love, church over King, application of the Word in life, Reformed theology gone very wrong. I love most of Buchan's books and this one is different than the others. It is not just an adventure. I actually had to look up words! (in a dictionary). That is a good thing. Not for the faint of heart, but I would recommend this one.
Kim McKay
Terribly sad, captivatingly eerie, and darkly suspenseful. Three things I hate in a book! But we read Witchwood just after one of our church elders was kicked out of the church, another quit, and a third was arrested. It was a strangely healing tale in those circumstances. John Buchan's father was a minister: I wonder what experiences prompted this book. Godspeed, David Sempill!
This is the first john buchan i have read and thoroughly enjoyed despite the fact i needed to constantly refer to the scots glossary at the rear and a separate scots dictionary to understand much of the dialogue. I am scottish myself by the way! Very intriguing, containing, as most classics do, much more than the rendering of the cover note implies.
Written in Scottish dialect (the Canongate edition has a glossary), with lots of insight into folklore and the religious tensions of the 1600s. I didn't entirely get the black witchcraft storyline but it's meant to be an historical adventure, after all. The last third of the book and Buchan's unusual take on the witch-hunt was the highlight for me.
Every time I read anything by Buchan I feel like I missed more than I caught. I found this book very humbling and disturbing. It made me wonder, how God sees the church's mishandling of justice. I found that very unsettling.

I found the characters very inspiring. Oh for the days when the battles went on face to face.
I think this book could have been vastly improved by a greater role being played by Daft Gibbie, the village idiot. He was my favourite character by far but we only caught glimpses of him after an introduction that seemed to promise much more.
Ian Carmichael
Splendid fiction woven around the religious controversies of the Scottish Covenanters time - and this is integral to the story - not a mere backdrop.
(So some readers tire of the content, having no sympathy for the tenor of the events.)
I'm a young minister in a Reformed Church. This book is terrifying. It's real. I think I should change my name to David Sempill. Don't read it. It's too good.
I really liked the Richard Hannay series with all the surprising and shocking imperial language, so this was a surprise as the language wasn't as stylised, but the book was even more enjoyable for it
I read this for a book club. It was a great pick! Too bad I didn't make it to the discussion.

I thought the book was very moving and I would recommend it.
Not exactly a thriller but an interesting look into the life of a Border parish during the times of the Covenanters. Buchan fairly knew his stuff!
I didn't like this at all. I just couldn't get into it. I only made it about 2/3's of the way in.

Jeff Boettcher
Interesting tale of a small town minister... Nothing too that great though...
Alexa marked it as to-read
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John Buchan (1st Baron Tweedsmuir) was a British novelist and public servant who combined a successful career as an author of thrillers, historical novels, histories and biographies with a parallel career in public life. At the time of his death he was Governor-General of Canada.

Buchan was born in Scotland and educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. After a brief career in law he went to Sou
More about John Buchan...
The 39 Steps (Richard Hannay, #1) Greenmantle (Richard Hannay #2) Mr. Standfast (Richard Hannay, #3) The Three Hostages (Richard Hannay #4) Prester John

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