Monday, January 29, 2024

Five notable Gothic heroines

Hester Musson studied at Bristol University and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She worked as an actress and autocue operator in London before writing full time and now lives in Scotland.

Musson’s debut novel The Beholders tells the story of Harriet, a young maid newly employed at a grand country house in the 1870s, who finds herself in thrall to her entrancing yet erratic mistress and the much-lauded yet strangely absent master of the household.

At the Waterstones blog Musson shared a list of her five favorite Gothic heroines. One entry on the list:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Catherine Earnshaw is a heroine I both disliked and wanted to be like in equal measure growing up. Proud, selfish and sometimes mean, she is also driven by a ferocious desire to live and feel deeply, torn between cultured but suffocating gentility and passionate but brutal nature.

Brontë’s tale of a tiny, stifled community on the vast and stormy Yorkshire moors and the almost demonic love affair between Catherine and the foundling Heathcliff came as a shock to contemporary critics – cruelty, coarse language and digging up your lover’s body weren’t quite the Victorian domestic ideal.

The story also makes brilliant use of unreliable narrators – we are brought in closer sympathy with our heroine purely through our distrust of the narrators’ own views of her. Whether dream or ghost, Catherine’s scraping at the window to be let in feels like the plea of every Gothic heroine to be seen for who she really is.
Read about another entry on the list.

Wuthering Heights appears on Harriet Evans's list of ten notable close families in literature, Jane Healey's list of five of the best gothic love stories, Brett Kahr's list of books helpful for understanding blended families, Siri Hustvedt’s ten favorite books list, Robert Masello's list of six classics with supernatural crimes at their center, André Aciman's list of five favorite books about the intensity of a once-in-a-lifetime love, Emily Temple's top ten list of literary classics we (not so) secretly hate, Cristina Merrill's list of eight of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance, Kate Hamer's list of six top novels with a strong evocation of atmosphere, Siri Hustvedt's six favorite books list, Tom Easton's top ten list of fictional "houses which themselves seem to have a personality which affects the story," Melissa Harrison's list of the ten top depictions of British rain, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Ed Sikov's list of eight top books that got slammed by critics, Amelia Schonbek's top five list of approachable must-read classics, Molly Schoemann-McCann's top five list of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Becky Ferreira's list of seven of the worst wingmen in literature, Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Jimmy So's list of fifteen notable film adaptations of literary classics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best thunderstorms in literature, ten of the worst nightmares in literature and ten of the best foundlings in literature, Valerie Martin's list of novels about doomed marriages, Susan Cheever's list of the five best books about obsession, and Melissa Katsoulis' top 25 list of book to film adaptations. It is one of John Inverdale's six best books and Sheila Hancock's six best books.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue