Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In “The Glass Essay,” her long and brilliant verse meditation on aging and self-knowledge, the poet Anne Carson invokes the middle Brontë sister again and again as a parallel to her own experience: “I feel I am turning into Emily Brontë, / my lonely life around me like a moor, / my ungainly body stumping over the mud flats with a look of transformation / that dies when I come in the kitchen door.” On its surface, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel, is a gothic romance: it follows the cruel and sinister Heathcliff and his consuming, almost maddening obsession with a childhood lover. But, for Carson and for me, it’s not the romantic tension that sets Wuthering Heights apart from all other eighteenth-century British novels—it’s the fog of gloom that pervades the book’s pages, from the somber, mist-shrouded moors where the story takes place to the towering tragedies that loom large in the protagonists’ destinies (and in Brontë’s own life). Unremitting gloom might not sound like a compelling backdrop to a romantic novel, but in the end it’s precisely that quality that makes Wuthering Heights linger in my mind in a way few other classics do.
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