Conversations

On Wuthering Heights – Michael Stewart on being inspired by Kate Bush

March 22, 2018

Now, 200 years after the birth of Emily Brontë, forty years after that cassette tape, it feels fitting to be publishing this book

In January 1978 Kate Bush released her debut single, Wuthering Heights. It quickly rose to number one and stayed there for four weeks. I’d just received a tape recorder for Christmas. I was seven years old. I remember filling a C60 cassette tape with the song, taped off the radio. I filled both sides of the tape and played it constantly. I don’t really know why this song in particular grabbed my attention, but I think it was the words. I wanted to know who Cathy was and why she wanted to climb in via a window. I didn’t know the song was based on a book.

My mum took me to one side and gave me a summary of the story. It was one of her favourites. I wanted to read it but she said that I was too young. ‘Wait till you’re older’, she said. ‘It’ll make more sense’.

Cut to 1995. I’m reading an essay by John Sutherland. The essay is called ‘Is Heathcliff a Murderer?’ and it starts with the following sentence: ‘When he returns to Wuthering Heights after his mysterious three-year period of exile Heathcliff has become someone very cruel. He left an uncouth but essentially humane stable-lad. He returns a gentleman psychopath.’ It gets me thinking. What had happened to him during those three years?

It took me another 26 years to figure it out. During my research I’ve read nearly 40 books and walked hundreds of miles over meadow and moor, including a walk from Top Withens, which is said to be the inspiration for the location of Wuthering Heights, to Liverpool port – as Mr Earnshaw did.

Now, 200 years after the birth of Emily Brontë, forty years after that cassette tape, it feels fitting to be publishing this book.


Ill Will

Michael Stewart

Out 22nd March 2018

Hardback

HQ

9780008248154

RRP 12.99


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