What Katy Did: How a hit pop song kick started Kate Mosse’s career
“Wuthering Heights endures because it is a novel of infinite colour. It’s a kaleidoscope.”
- Photograph by Alice Hawkins.
- Articles written from interviews by Sophie Robinson, edited by Natalie Smith.
Picture a teenage Kate Mosse, sitting next to a tape recorder. She’s trying to record the Top 40 off the radio. A song comes on, and a girl a few years older than her is singing a song about a ghost tapping to get in at a window.
That, of course, was Kate Bush, and her 1978 single ‘Wuthering Heights’.
“The song was inspired by one of the most violent scenes, right at the beginning of the novel, where the ghost of Cathy puts her hand through the window. The narrator, Lockwood, drags her wrist across the broken glass to get himself free. That, I thought, is the most powerful writing I’ve ever read,” Mosse says as we film in a warehouse in London’s Shoreditch.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a novel Mosse keeps coming back to and it’s been a different book every time.
“To start with, you think you’re reading a love story, but it’s not a love story at all. It’s a novel about obsession, about revenge, about ghosts, about landscape, about the lives that women can or can’t lead. It’s the most beautifully poetic novel, and each time I’ve gone back to it, I’ve thought, “How does she do it?”
“When I first read, it was with a sense of admiration and awe that one writer, could have achieved so much in one, single novel. Now, as a novelist myself, I admire her lyricism, her style, her plotting and her passion even more. It’s the most extraordinary laying bare of relationships between women and men, within families, between children and absent parents. Hate, as well as love.” explains Mosse.
“What I love about Wuthering Heights now, as someone in their fifties, and as a parent myself and most importantly as a writer myself, is that on the surface you feel that it is a novel about constraint, and about what women and men can, and do, do to each other.”
“It is a very violent novel. It is a novel full of ghosts. It is a novel that’s set up in dualities, black and white. There is this terrible place, Wuthering Heights. The name comes from the noise that the wind makes round this isolated place up there on the Yorkshire moors,” explains Mosse.
“Down in the valley is Thrushcross Grange - the perfect society. That’s acceptable society. All the way through the novel there’s storm and there’s peace. There’s dark and there’s light. All the descriptions of Heathcliff with black skin and black hair, and then the pale, elegant Isabella Linton, who is the person, of course, he marries and ruins.”
“Scratch beneath the surface and what you see is Emily Brontë writing about men and women as passionate, equal people.”
“With Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë changed the rules of what was acceptable for women to write. Up until that point, everything women had written was domestic. With this book, she said that anything a woman wants to write is acceptable.”
Kate Mosse, the Co-Founder & Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, is the author of the multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy - Labyrinth, Sepulchre, Citadel - as well as Gothic fiction, including The Winter Ghosts, four works of non fiction and three plays, including the award winning Syrinx. On the board of the National Theatre and the Executive Committee of Women of the World, she won the Spirit of Everywoman Award in 2012 for services to women and the arts and was appointed OBE for service to literature in 2013. She chose poet and novelist Emily Brontë’s 1847 masterpiece Wuthering Heights.
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