I am delighted to have Ellen Bryon here today. Ellen is the author of Plantation Shudders. She is talking about the author and book that she loves. How about you, Do you have a favorite classic?
AN AUTHOR I LOVE
I’ve been an obsessive reader since childhood. I have a scar on my forehead from where I collided with a tree because I was reading a book while walking. So pinning me down on a favorite author is tough. Is it Charles Dickens? Agatha Christie? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Louise Penny? Well, if you put me up against a wall and said, “Ellen, you must name one and only ONE author,” it would be… Emily Bronte. The author of only one novel. But that singular novel, Wuthering Heights, will always be my favorite book.
I was a depressed, insecure teen when my family happened upon The Haunted Mansion Bookshop during a vacation in Vermont. The store was housed in a spooky Victorian home across from a cemetery and run by a man with only one arm. As I wandered through the dusty aisles, the man approached and used his good arm to hand me a book. “I think you’ll like this,” he said. It was a secondhand copy of Wuthering Heights.
Emily Bronte fascinates me. She wrote with a wild passion that you simply don’t associate with the Victorian era. Yet she was so anti-social that today we might say she was “on the spectrum.” This is how her sister Charlotte Bronte describes her: “My sister's disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word.”
It’s hard to reconcile that repressed, introverted behavior with the woman who writes, “His eyes wide, and wet at last, flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder, and then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive….”
From a modern perspective, Heathcliff is basically an abusive misanthrope. But Emily Bronte paints such a vivid picture of his desperate love for Cathy that almost two centuries of women have crushed on him. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that every actor who ever portrayed Heathcliff has been incredibly sexy. Every. Single. One. From Laurence Olivier to Rafe Fiennes to
Timothy Dalton to Tom Hardy.
Tops on my bucket list is a pilgrimage to the Bronte Parsonage. I dream of walking the moors that Emily Bronte once walked.
And when that dream comes true, tucked under my arm will be that ancient copy of Wuthering Heights sold to me so long ago by a kind man in a ramshackle shop across the street from a centuries-old cemetery.
PLANTATION SHUDDERS: A CAJUN COUNTRY MYSTERY, available from Crooked Lane Books
A Lefty Nominee for Most Humorous Mystery
A Library Journal Debut Mystery of the Month
BODY ON THE BAYOU: A CAJUN COUNTRY MYSTERY, available September 2016
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