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The House of Dead Maids
By Clare B. Dunkle.
Patrick Arrasmith (Illustrator)
New York: Henry Holt, 2010.
Edited by Reka Simonsen.
September 14, 2010
The child who will become Heathcliff is already a savage little creature when Tabby Aykroyd arrives at Seldom House to be his nursemaid. But the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby alone, yet this spirit is only one of many.
As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces that surround the house, she tries to befriend her uncouth young charge, but her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff has already doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.
[Charlotte Brontë] was always ready to try and do what they wished, though not sorry when they called her awkward, and left her out of their sports. Then, at night, she was an invaluable story-teller, frightening them almost out of their wits as they lay in bed. On one occasion the effect was such that she was led to scream out loud, and Miss Wooler, coming up-stairs, found that one of the listeners had been seized with violent palpitations, in consequence of the excitement produced by Charlotte's story. (Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, Chapter VI)When Charlotte frightened her fellow students in their Roe Head dormitories, little did she know that more than a century later, another writer would take a similar role inspired by the same stories that she and her brother and sisters learnt at home from their father or their faithful and much loved servant Tabby Aykroyd. Clare B. Dunkle, in fact, draws her inspiration from the novel that was more clearly influenced by the Yorkshire folk lore, among the works of the Brontë sisters, Emily's Wuthering Heights(1).
My experience has been that teens can handle quite a bit more than their elders give them credit for. But I wrote my book for one audience only: those readers who already enjoy Wuthering Heights or who would enjoy it if they got to know it. If readers can’t handle my book, then they can’t handle Wuthering Heights. And if they can’t handle Wuthering Heights, then my book is not for them.A bold statement absolutely fitting for a book that makes no concessions. And it is this cultivation of excellence and coherence that is the ultimate reason of its success. Let's take into consideration some elements of the book in order to illustrate our point:
Quite alone as a novel and as a piece of terror-literature stands the famous Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë, with its mad vista of bleak, windswept Yorkshire moors and the violent, distorted lives they foster. Though primarily a tale of life, and of human passions in agony and conflict, its epically cosmic setting affords room for horror of the most spiritual sort. (Supernatural Horror in Literature Chapter 5)