Each week I invite someone bookish to tell us about one of their all-time favourite works of fiction, and why it’s so special to them. This week’s Friday Fave comes from author SA Jones.
Wuthering Heights was my first literary obsession.
I first read it when I was fifteen. Itdiscomfited and unnerved me but my overwhelming sense was of a preternatural power. I was stunned by a sense of something alive in the white margin of the text. Something I thought I could see moving out of the corner of my eye. Only my reason kept me from a certainty that I could hear a presence breathing close by, as Heathcliff does when he desecrates Catherine’s grave. I felt, and still do feel when I pick it up now, that there was a ghost in the book – a palpable presence that I never quite saw but equally could not disprove.
I devoured everything I could find about the novel and its mysterious author whose solitary work of genius seemed to have arrived without reference to any literary tradition and stands alone there in the pantheon, defying comparison. When I was nineteen I made the pilgrimage to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth in Yorkshire. I walked the halls where the Bronte’s walked and sat in the church pew where the Reverend Bronte used to preach and where he, Emily, Charlotte and Branwell Bronte are now buried in the family vault. (Anne is buried in Scarborough, where she died). I walked, hushed and reverent, through the parsonage halls where Emily had lived thinking ‘She walked here. That was her writing desk. This is where she baked bread’. I walked out across the moors, thinking how apt Sylvia Plath’s description was ‘stepping off into clouds’. I felt so intimate a connection with the novel that it ceased to be Wuthering Heights and became, familiarly, Wuthers.
SA Jones is the author of Red Dress Walking, published by Allen & Unwin in 2008. She holds a PhD in History from the University of Western Australia and is a regular columnist on Australian books and writing for Kill Your Darlings Journal.
I am ashamed to admit that I have never read Wuthering Heights. What about you? Do you think you’ll ever reach ‘nickname’ status with it like SA Jones?
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