Saturday, 7 November 2015

Bronte revisited

We've had some Dickensian fogs in south-east England recently which have provided a suitable backdrop to my Bronte reading this month!  While I was waiting for the publication of Claire Harman's new biography of Charlotte Bronte I re-read Wuthering Heights.  Although I adored it as a student it is harder to read when you are older because the passion between Heathcliff and Cathy seems so overblown.  But in a way that's how it should be because those intense emotions are the preserve of the young.

What doesn’t change when you re-visit Wuthering Heights are Emily Bronte’s beautiful poetic descriptions of the natural landscape. Edgar Linton placing a bunch of golden crocuses on the dying Cathy’s pillow which remind her of the first spring flowers at Wuthering Heights. Cathy’s burial in a corner of the kirkyard ‘where the wall is so low that heath and bilberry plants have climbed over it from the moor and peat mould almost buries it ' and the fantastic scene where the young Catherine puts primroses in Hareton’s porridge to make him laugh.

I was interested to read in Claire Harman’s biography that it was her sister Anne’s Agnes Grey and Emily’s Wuthering Heights which inspired Charlotte to create the story of a governess with a passionate nature and a steadfast refusal to be suppressed which became Jane Eyre. The longed-for literary success of Jane Eyre is of course overshadowed by the loss of Emily and then Anne. Harman’s depiction of Charlotte searching the moor in December to find a living sprig of heather to take to her dying sister is heart-breakingly sad.

It’s a meticulously researched biography and Harman is not over-awed by the genius of her subject. There are some cool asides about the sometimes bizarre behaviour of the Rev Bronte and some excellent analysis of Jane Eyre. However, I’m still not sure that this is the definitive biography of Charlotte Bronte.

Just a word about the stunning cover which is a Chloe Giodarno embroidery commissioned by Penguin. You can see her amazing embroidered animals on her website.

10 comments:

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I read Wuthering Heights when I was so young, but I remember absolutely loving it. Since then, I have heard that it's not quite as fun to read as an adult, which makes me sad. I might have to revisit it, and just fall back in love with it, even if it does become a little sappy! :)

Audrey said...

I've never really gotten into the Brontes, but I loved her book Jane's Fame, so I put this on my reading list. And the cover is stunning!

Audrey said...

Oh, no!!! The U.S. Edition (coming out in March) has a boring, unembroidered cover. I think it would be worth special-ordering this one. :)

Kat said...

Oh, I'm longing to read this! I am such a fan of Charlotte Bronte! I read an article about this in the U.S. but was disappointed to learn it won't be out here till next year. (I've been rereading the Brontes this year and especially love Villette. Emily is a great writer though: Wuthering Heights is so weird!

Sunday Taylor said...

Oh I am getting this one! I have been collecting books on the Brontes for many years and this one sounds like a wonderful addition. When I was in Scotland in June and it was raining every day I bought a used copy of Jane Eyre at the local bookshop. It was as good as I remember. And the perfect book to read when you have to stay indoors. Thanks for letting me know about this new biography.

Grad said...

Wuthering Heights is one of those books that when first experienced when young is apt to stay forever. I loved the book when I read it in high school. I think I still have that old copy, but I don't think I've re-read it since. I wish I could remember who said, "Women always fall in love with Heathcliffe but they marry Edgar Linton," but to be honest, I really would rather have Edgar! Thanks for the info on the bio. Hopefully, my library has a copy - or will get one.

Nadia A said...

I read Wuthering Heights a few years ago and loved it! Such a good read. I loved Villette, but not Jane Eyre. Of course, I've always thought about re-reading Jane Eyre - perhaps its time. I love the cover of Harman's book - its wonderful! And it sounds like such an interesting read. I'm so glad you posted about it! I've been wanting to do a month of everything Bronte for some time - maybe next spring? Cheers!

Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock said...

I read and loved Wuthering Heights when I was young, I was nervous to read it again in case it didn't live up to my high expectations, but when I picked it up again a little wild ago I found that it did. This one is on order at the library, but I suspect I shall want a copy to keep.

Vintage Reading said...

Natalie, yes I think Emily was a rare genius, who knows what she would have accomplished if she had survived.

Audrey, I discovered a few things I didn't know about the Brontes and I thought I knew a lot! I liked the American cover of A Spool of Blue Thread, UK cover was terrible!

Kat, I think you will love this book, it strikes the right balance between academia and readability.

Sunday, oh I love Jane Eyre, I must have re-read it four or five times. I too, have bought much-loved books again when I am away from home - sometimes only the finest literature will do!

Grad, yes, I would take Edgar Linton over Heathcliff anyday! I prefer the younger Cathy to the older one, too.

Nadia, ooh I hope you do a Bronte month on your blog. I've never loved Villette as much as Jane Eyre, don't know why. I mean to read Charlotte's early novel The Professor, soon.

Jane, yes, sometimes you need to own a book! I remember an English lecturer telling me that the narration in Wuthering Heights is like Chinese boxes, a story within a story within a story. So cleverly plotted.







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