As the end of the year draws near, I thought I would share some of my favourite passages I’ve read this year – particularly, ones which have struck me for their intelligence and efficiency.
A perfect misanthropist’s heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name. ‘Mr. Heathcliff?’ I said.
There is an almost lilting tone to the beginning pages of Wuthering Heights, in which Emily Brontë introduces the tempestuous Heathcliff: through the eyes of his new tenant. Introducing Heathcliff through an external point of view allows the author to play with our perceptions and expectations. In the end, the tenant turns out to be quite an unreliable judge of his own character, while Heathcliff remains faithful to the picture drawn on this page – a true misanthropist. Apart from the unreliability of the narrator, I liked this passage, too, for its whiff of authorial humour – as if Brontë is teasing us before plunging us, a few chapters on, into the unremitting gloom of the story.
It was a warm day in August when they burned my father at the stake.
This succinct opening line from Nikki McWatters’ debut novel, Hexenhaus, immediately transports us back to the harsh period of the European witch hunts. The juxtaposition of the sun’s warmth with the heat of the burning stake captures the horror and absurdity of such events, while reminding us that these executions were treated with disturbing normalcy – considered an everyday part of life by the populace.
Fool Me Once
The black dress itched. Over the past decade. Maya had been to a hundred-plus funerals, but this was the first time she’d been obligated to wear black. She hated it.
The author of this twisty thriller plays with our preconceptions, jumpstarting the novel with an image that conjures up immediate associations in the readers’ mind. Coben slips in both backstory and characterisation, showing a great deal about Maya simply through the way she reacts to an article of clothing.
‘The clan lords will be coming here. They are in agreement about this.’ At least I hope they are. ‘You can leave early and have a chance of returning with them alive, or wait till the lords get there. They will not give you a choice and will be mightily annoyed if the strangers have died.’ Maybe.
With clever use of internal discourse, Tracy M. Joyce turns unreliable narration on its head. Here, the reader stays in the know, remaining thoroughly inside the protagonist’s head, while other characters are humorously fed unreliable information. A fun passage!
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and success in all your writing projects in 2017.