I Am Heathcliff – Stories Inspired by Wuthering Heights, curated by Kate Mosse

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Review by Julie Barham


It is never easy to review a collection of short stories, especially one by such a diverse selection of authors as this one. It contains stories by well known mystery writers, gentle writers of comfortable fiction and writers only known in translation. It is possible only because these sixteen stories have a strong theme; that of the passionate, puzzling and dramatic novel, Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte’s sole novel has so many points of significance; passionate love, obsession, identities, intergenerational revenge, to name but a few, that each author has many themes to choose from. Kate Mosse’s curation has pulled together some very different stories, powerful, complex, passionate and even baffling. The roll call of authors: including Joanna Cannon, Laurie Penny, Louise Doughty, Dorothy Koomson, Michael Stewart and Sophie Hannah, give a very British flavour. They are complemented by stories by Hanan al-Shaykh and Leila Abouleia, where the longing for a beloved person or the overwhelming desire  for revenge takes place in another land, but is no less rooted in the elemental than those picking up on the very countryside in which the original novel was written. Powerful images, strong people and complex emotions combined with thoughtful stories of motives and outcomes to make this a collection of memorable tales to commemorate the bicentenary of Emily’s birth.

Some of these stories stick in the mind and memory more than others. Some are shocking in their simplicity, as a child identifies with the death of a fox, a woman violently demands to see a lover, revenge is key to a young woman’s existence. Some are more complex, as a ghost of a girl must be dealt with in terms of an old relationship, and a school days mystery is seen through the eyes of a determined parent. Some involve disturbing language and even more disturbing ideas, some left me bewildered while others filled in all the gaps. Some of these stories are memorable, others less so. While I found the Sophie Hannah story complex, it is more of the nature of a murder mystery, while “Amulet and Feathers” has a more mystical quality. There is a down to earth intergenerational revenge story, while drugs, alcohol and love are a potent mixture in another. Some end well, others less so. One or two feature children, while another demonstrates how social media can fuel and enable a distressing obsession.

 I am not an expert on “Wuthering Heights”, but the strength of the original novel is conveyed by this collection. Devotees and fans of Emily Bronte will not find exact tributes here; they may be disappointed that no story seems to follow the novel in detail. I was grateful to receive a copy of this book; it is a unique collection of ideas and well written stories. As a taster of various authors’ work it is fascinating, as a combination of strong ideas based on a unique novel it is a terrific read.  

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Julie blogs at Northern Reader.

I am Heathcliff, curated by Kate Mosse (Borough Press, 2018) ISBN 9780008257439, hardback, 293 pages.

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