Emily Bronte must have turned enough revolutions in her grave to get out and walk the Yorkshire moors herself by now.  Her startling novel has been designated as the tragic romantic novel of nineteenth century literature which is about as far from the truth as you can get.  The book is even named after a property - not 'Cathy and Heathcliff'! It's more 'Breaking Bad' than about hopeless romantics.  It's about status, family, power and property in the barest, most realest terms - written in a way that only a woman without could write. It is a slight to the vigour of Emily Bronte's characterisation and themes, her detailed plot, to diminish it to a romance. If we really believed the author to still be the male Ellis Bell she first published under, perhaps it would be read with the scrutiny and by the male audience it deserves.

I have read the novel several times since I was ten and, every time I read it, my understanding and the visuals radically change. My mum loved it; I often think that's what drove her to West Yorkshire as a trainee nurse. She totally bought into the romanticisation of rugged Yorkshire life and every Sunday we'd be rambling up to Haworth or Ilkley. Growing up next to the moor, my imagination will always have its roots in the wilderness. But reading the novel now, my heart broke - not at the failed love affairs but at the waste and loneliness of all the main characters. Heathcliff is an orphan, a runaway, probably mixed race as Hindley Earnshaw Snr. picked him up from Liverpool. The docks meant lots of foreigners, sailors, last ports in storms, accidents of desperation and loneliness...which somehow followed poor Heathcliff.  Mixed race or non-white offspring were all referred to as gypsies and had few chances in life.  

Yet even having a home and material comforts did not change Heathcliff's position or power. He learnt bitterly that only money could do that. But, even then coupled with his feral intelligence and cunning, his lack of education and class still would not allow him to marry the woman he loved, his best and truest childhood friend. There - that's the tragedy. The change on Heathcliff's heart was finally rendered by real love - only when he was finally vulnerable enough to receive it.  

But the bulk of the book is about the tussle of property, ownership and the final redemption of both Heathcliff and Catherine. Her cruelty is redeemed by her daughter doing right by Hareton instead of scorning his lack of education.

The novel is full of sex and yet there is no sex - not the explicit torrid details the book has somehow become associated with: romps on the moor and vampire trysts. But all these genres were birthed from this one novel and the spark that lit the imaginations of millions.

For me, the characters are less vivid than the passion of this young female writer, holed up in a damp vicarage with a junkie brother and chronically sick family members, separated from sophisticated society, power, authority, status.  Yet she saw so plainly the real flaws of the new emerging society and the answers to the greater problems.

People still sleep on Emily's wisdom and skills. I recommend you actually read the novel and discover riches beyond the stereotypes currently fattened up with plastic surgery, careering through pointless 'novels' like headless chickens.  Emily Bronte may have lived three hundred years ago but her mind and spirit is still way ahead of us.