How can I find and put together the suitable words and write a review about one of the most iconic creations in World Literature? One of those books that provoke such intense feelings that either you worship them or you utterly hate them. There is no middle ground. Every year, I revisit Wuthering Heights for two reasons. First, it is one of my personal Christmas traditions and secondly, I prepare extracts to use in class for my intermediate level students. This year, I finally felt confident enough to write a text. I will not call it a review, but a summary of what this masterpiece means for me, what I feel each time I gaze upon its title.
I was 12 when my mother made me a special gift. (I have a mother that gave me a book about self-destructive love and a father that gave me Crime and Punishment a year later. I know, they rock!) It was a thick volume with a dark cover. A cover as black as the night scene it depicted. A young couple running in the moors against the wind, and a black, foreboding mansion looming in the background. To this day, that cherished Greek edition of Emily’s only novel is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I read it in a single day. I remember it was a windy day, a summer torrent rain that lasted all afternoon. It left me speechless. It shaped me. It shaped my reading preferences, it shaped my love for eerie, dark, doomed, haunting stories with twisted anti-heroes. It even shaped the choice of my profession.
When I was 15, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had gave us a project. She divided us into groups and asked us to make a presentation of our favourite book. She put me in a group with two classmates. Such kind and charming souls they were but would never open a book if their lives depended on it. I didn’t care, I was happy because I’d get to choose the book. We left our teacher crying buckets in the classroom, marking a heroic A+ on our papers. During the 3rd year in university, we had to complete individual assignments. I’ll let you guess the theme and the book I chose. My professor had to interrupt me at some point, kindly but firmly. ”Yes, thank you, Amalia, this is great, but there are others waiting, you know.” Were they? Anyway, you get the point. My level of obsession with this novel equals Heathcliff’s obsession with Cathy.
Emily Brontë’s novel may not be for everyone. It doesn’t matter. Nothing is for everyone. But, she has created an eternal tale -or nightmare – of a love that is destructive, dark, twisted and stranger than all the other sweet, lovey-dovey stories that have been written. She has created one of the most iconic couples in Literature, she has provided the first and finest example of the Anti-hero in the face of Heathcliff. She has ruined many girls’ expectations, because who wouldn’t want to be loved as fiercely as Cathy was? (For years, my notion of the ideal man was Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff in the 1992 film. The best adaptation of the novel, with Juliette Binoche as Cathy) How many writers who have written only one novel can claim to have accomplished all these?
One of the reasons I became a teacher was to have the opportunity to teach this book. It is my greatest satisfaction when I see its impact on my teenage students. They are familiar with the bleak and twisted tales of our times, nothing shocks them anymore. They love it unanimously, it is a rare case where boys and girls love the same book equally. So, mission accomplished.
”I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” For me, this book is my soul. It lies there, making the question ”What is your favourite book?” the easiest ever.
P.S. Please, God, when I die, put me in a sector where I can meet Emily. You can keep Shakespeare, Austin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I prefer long talks with a disturbed, fragile, wild girl…