There is something about Nineteenth Century Novels that I always find intriguing. As a young university student, they were required reading and I found them over written, moralising and full of characters that bland and two dimensional. But with the Nineteenth Century Novel I felt I was stuck in a quagmire.
That is until I read Wuthering Heights.
Moors, love, cruelty, orphans, storms, broken glass, scratched names, ghosts. Wuthering Heights smashed all my preconceptions and gave me fresh eyes. It still does and gets better with every read. Now, I try to read a Nineteenth Century Novel every year. There is another lure , aside from the writing, the characters and the free time travel, there is the delicious taboo. As Mark Lawson wrote in The Guardian in his great article Timeless taboo, why 19th Century Novels still appeal to film makers:
Fiction is driven by friction and taboo but, in most parts of contemporary society, we have created a society in which there are few obstacles to people doing what they want or being with the person they desire. Numerous traditional narrative triggers – a sexual secret, the threat of bankruptcy, a spell in prison – now result in no more than a few months’ embarrassment, an expensively maintained anonymity injunction or a tearfully confessional TV interview…
Give me a fictional nineteenth century any day.
Image of Cathy from Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.