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This is a Fictional Friday post, where I review a book (but it might not always be fiction)

I will openly admit that I used to be one of those people who only read Victorian literature because I was made to.

This is because I found it dull.

Being an avid Virginia Woolf fan/addict, I much prefer the changes brought in by her and other Modernist writers.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m not glad I was forced to read Brontë and Austen and Dickens in school.

My least favourite was Austen. Maybe I’m an awful scholar, but “ironic” and “uninteresting” seem to be confused in my dear lecturers’ heads. I found Emma frustrating and nigh-on impossible to read. However, I still read it, and I can now write a half-decent essay on a book I hate. I learned a lot from dear Emma.

When we get on to Dickens, I can’t hide my enjoyment of his novels, no matter how reluctant. It’s still very Victorian, but as he was mostly published in weekly instalments, his stories had to be action-packed to get the readers to buy the next copy, and yet they maintain incredibly skilled writing throughout.

Brontë’s Jane Eyre was one of the books I thoroughly enjoyed as a child, and still vividly remember the first time I read the opening chapter. It’s gripping, interesting, extremely well written (especially for a female (I.e. uneducated) writer at the time), and centuries ahead of its time.

… And now to the title text.

Title page of original edition of Wuthering He...

Title page of original edition of Wuthering Heights (1847) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emily Brontë is not an incredibly skilled writer. You will find no beautiful, flowing prose filled with description within the pages of Wuthering Heights. What you will find is something you will find nowhere else: and for this reason, something that you won’t be able to place.

Call it Gothic, call it Uncanny, call it what you will; this novel has an eerie, ethereal grip upon its readers and characters alike. Once you’re hooked, you won’t want to put the book down until the last page has been turned.

Set in the wild moors, Wuthering Heights is actually 2 stories, narrated by two narrators, like Russian dolls. It is about 2 families, spanning 2 generations (something the films always miss out), and involves ghosts – or dreams of ghosts – forced marriages, demon dogs… and yet, does it? Nothing seems sure; the book leaves you with a sense of just having awoken, unsure whether it was real or a dream.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Emily Brontë died shortly after finishing Wuthering Heights. The novel’s raw, desperate edge is what makes it – and would it have been there if she weren’t ill and delusional? Would she have written anything that could surpass the genius of Wuthering Heights?

You won’t put the book down with a favourite character or empathy for any of them. You won’t finish the book with a sense of satisfaction. But it is the book I’m most grateful of having been forced to read, and I think everyone should read it, and experience the strange hold it will have on you for weeks after you out it down.

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