How Things Disappear: A Story from the collection, I Am Heathcliff

How Things Disappear: A Story from the collection, I Am Heathcliff

How Things Disappear by Anna James

A short story from the collection

   Published by The Borough Press

   an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

   1 London Bridge Street

   London SE1 9GF


   First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 2018

   In the compilation and introductory material © Kate Mosse 2018

   How Things Disappear © Anna James 2018

   The moral rights of the author have been asserted

   Cover design by Holly Macdonald © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2018

   Cover photographs © Sally Mundy/Trevillion Images, © petals

   A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

   This story is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it, while at times based on historical events and figures, are the works of the author’s imagination.

   All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

   Source ISBN: 9780008257439

   Ebook Edition © August 2018 ISBN: 9780008303259

   Version: 2018-07-17





   Foreword by Kate Mosse

   How Things Disappear

   Note on the Author

   A Note on Emily Brontë

    About the Publisher

   SO, WHAT MAKES Wuthering Heights – published the year before Emily Brontë’s own death – the powerful, enduring, exceptional novel it is? Is it a matter of character and sense of place? Depth of emotion or the beauty of her language? Epic and Gothic? Yes, but also because it is ambitious and uncompromising. Like many others, I have gone back to it in each decade of my life and found it subtly different each time. In my teens, I was swept away by the promise of a love story, though the anger and the violence and the pain were troubling to me. In my twenties, it was the history and the snapshot of social expectations that interested me. In my thirties, when I was starting to write fiction myself, I was gripped by the architecture of the novel – two narrators, two distinct periods of history and storytelling, the complicated switching of voice. In my forties, it was the colour and the texture, the Gothic spirit of place, the characterisation of Nature itself as sentient, violent, to be feared. Now, in my fifties, as well as all this, it is also the understanding of how utterly EB changed the rules of what was acceptable for a woman to write, and how we are all in her debt. This is monumental work, not domestic. This is about the nature of life, love, and the universe, not the details of how women and men live their lives. And Wuthering Heights is exceptional amongst the novels of the period for the absence of any explicit condemnation of Heathcliff’s conduct, or any suggestion that evil might bring its own punishment.

   This collection is published to celebrate the bicentenary of Emily Brontë’s birth in 1818. What each story has in common is that, despite their shared moment of inspiration, they are themselves, and their quality stands testament both to our contemporary writers’ skills, and the timelessness of Wuthering Heights. For, though mores and expectations and opportunities alter, wherever we live and whoever we are, the human heart does not change very much. We understand love and hate, jealousy and peace, grief and injustice, because we experience these things too – as writers, as readers, as our individual selves.

   SHE WAS NINETEEN WHEN she started to disappear, although there had been signs when she was a child.

   When she was six her parents took her to hospital, sure that her fingers had not formed properly, only to find they were entirely as expected by the time they reached the waiting room. When she was eight one of her teachers thought, just for a moment, that they had seen her freckles flicker on and off. She herself once thought she caught a glimpse of the colour in her irises fading away, but these things were only in the corner of someone’s eye or just as she turned away from the mirror.

   When she was fifteen she was convinced, temporarily, that her ribs were vanishing. She was sitting in an exam hall full of copy-and-paste rows of wooden desks and chairs, and copy-and-paste rows of students who were scared or confident or distracted or brave-faced. Just as the invigilator told them to turn over their papers she absent-mindedly scratched her side to discover a gap where her eleventh rib should have been. She dug her fingers deep between her tenth and twelfth without them meeting bone. She tried straightening her back, then curving it over, but however she sat, her eleventh rib proved elusive. Explore the way Bertha Rochester is presented to the reader in

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