Went to a fine ole’ talk this lunchtime at the Appledore Book Festival. The house in fiction was the topic under discussion by novelists Veronica Henry and Lulu Taylor. The ladies were discussing the importance of houses/homes in classic fiction, such as Thornfield Hall, the Rochester home in Jane Eyre, Top Withens in Wuthering Heights, and Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. The latter is the home of the protagonist, Darcy, in the book, said to be based on Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
The discussion demonstrated how the setting/stage is important in writing. For a story such as Wuthering Heights, for example, then nothing but the wild and bleak spartan Top Withens would do. Who can forget the burning down of Tara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind? Or the gloomy despondency of Cold Comfort Farm?
Houses in novels are almost characters in themselves. They certainly offer settings for characters to live and thrive or struggle within. Is a building gloomy, oppressive, dark, sinister? Is it excruciatingly tidy, with a multitude of modern appliances, with the potential to malfunction like a bad marriage? Is it filthy, sticky and mouldy, a health hazard? Or maybe old, tired but full of love?
Houses not only describe buildings but the relationships of the characters within them. It defines the people who live therein. They are domains, metaphors for old memories, which may be engaging or stifling, warm of austere. There may be ghosts, or shadows, secret conversations, and old hatreds. They often also depict events. Veronica Henry said that most house sales are forced by the 3 Ds – death, divorce or debt. There’s always a story in any of those.
What would you think of a cluttered and dirty house, or conversely, house with no books, no pictures, no life?
What do you think of these houses? Who would live in them? Your views welcome (vertically A, B, C, D).