Today, I am thrilled and delighted to be able to welcome my friend and editor, Sue Barnard to my blog. Sue’s here to talk about the themes of her latest novel, Heathcliff…
LOVE, HEARTBREAK AND REVENGE
On 30 July 2018 – the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë – my latest novel Heathcliff was published. The book is a Wuthering Heights spin-off which explores what might have happened to Heathcliff during the three years when he disappears from the original story. The themes in Heathcliff reflect those of the classic novel which inspired it. These themes are love, heartbreak and revenge.
The predominant theme in Wuthering Heights is love. Indeed, the book has been described as one of the greatest love stories of all time. It explores love from various different perspectives; in addition to romantic love, the book addresses love in its social, domestic, maternal and transcendent forms. The latter certainly describes the book’s central relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, in which the conventional notion of romance is infused with unconventional behaviour and gothic fantasy and horror. Catherine continues to love Heathcliff despite being married to another man, and she continues to dominate his life for the eighteen years between her death and his own.
Heathcliff never recovers from hearing Catherine say it would degrade her to marry him, and this single event colours all his actions for the remainder of his life. His knee-jerk reaction is to run away from Wuthering Heights, although by his own admission he constantly thinks about her during his three-year absence. When, on his return, he finds that she has married Edgar Linton, his first thought is to take a final look at her then end his own life. In the event this does not happen, but it does provide a springboard for what he does afterwards. And he never recovers from her early death; to use his own words, “I cannot live without my soul.”
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” The origins of this well-known expression are uncertain, but there can be no doubt that it must have been at the back of Heathcliff’s mind as he gradually transforms from victim to villain. Heathcliff never forgets the ill-treatment he had received at the hands of his adoptive brother Hindley (first when they were children, then latterly when Hindley inherits the family home following the death of old Mr Earnshaw), and vows to punish his oppressor for this suffering and humiliation. Heathcliff’s first thought on returning to Yorkshire is to kill Hindley outright, but when he discovers Hindley’s twin addictions (alcohol and gambling), he sees these as a means to a slower, longer-lasting punishment by tricking him out of his possession of Wuthering Heights. Hindley’s son Hareton, who should by rights have inherited the Earnshaw family home and land, is reduced to the status of a dispossessed, unpaid and barely literate labourer – just as Heathcliff himself had been under Hindley’s rule. The sins of the father are visited upon the child…
Young Hareton is not the only character who is used as a proxy in Heathcliff’s plans for revenge. Edgar Linton’s naïve sister Isabella develops an overwhelming infatuation for Heathcliff – something which he fully exploits to persuade her to elope with him. By doing so, and thereby taking advantage of the inheritance laws of the time (which are too complicated to go into here), Heathcliff also gains possession of the Linton family home. He sees this as an act of revenge on Edgar for depriving him of Catherine.
I’ve always believed that Heathcliff has an enormous capacity to love. The great tragedy is that this is tainted by heartbreak and a desire for revenge, and hence is never fulfilled during his lifetime.
“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”
Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life. At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.
Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance, and prosperity.
But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?
For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered. Until now…
About the Author:
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.
Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.
Sue joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. Since then she has produced four more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017) and Heathcliff (a Wuthering Heights spin-off story about Heathcliff’s missing years, published on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë).