…would have to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I first read it for my A Level English Literature course, two years of trepidation at the hands of a teacher who began our relationship with the observation that I’d failed to reach the heights predicted of me in my school examinations. Another puncture to my already pin-cushioned self-esteem; I’d been gradually convincing myself that those grades wouldn’t matter once I took my place at the local sixth form…
Try as she might, she couldn’t stop me loving English; she couldn’t stop me being excited by the new things I was reading. And when Wuthering Heights showed me what pre-twentieth century fiction could be, when it took me away from prim ladies and conventional gentleman, I was captivated.
Today, over twenty years later, I still feel a sense of wonder when faced with Bronte’s narrative – non-linear, multiple-voiced, the confident immediacy of the opening line (“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with”). The extremes of love and hate, tenderness and violence, life and death that provide the novel’s pulse are, in my opinion, unmatched. From the wrist rubbed to and fro on the broken pane to the “eternal rocks” of Catherine’s love for Heathcliff, the writing exemplifies Bronte’s brilliance.
For some time, I read the book again every summer. I never tired of it… but I did run out of time for re-reading; my bookshelf began to buckle under the weight of unread texts, and so Bronte was put aside. Nevertheless, as difficult as it would be to discard Larkin, Woolf, McEwan, Keats, Owen, Waters and Longley amongst the others who people my personal library, if I were to be cast adrift on an island with just one book for company, without doubt that book would be Wuthering Heights.