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Solsbury Hill: A Novel

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Overview

"Susan Wyler's contemporary take on a classic love story is utterly beguiling. Solsbury Hill is a gorgeously well-written tale of a fraught love affair that takes you from New York to the wild gothic setting of the Yorkshire moors."—Fiona Neill, author of Slummy Mummy and What the Nanny Saw

The windswept moors of England, a grand rustic estate, and a love story of one woman caught between two men who love her powerfully—all inspired by Emily Bronte’s beloved classic, Wuthering ...

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Solsbury Hill: A Novel

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Overview

"Susan Wyler's contemporary take on a classic love story is utterly beguiling. Solsbury Hill is a gorgeously well-written tale of a fraught love affair that takes you from New York to the wild gothic setting of the Yorkshire moors."—Fiona Neill, author of Slummy Mummy and What the Nanny Saw

The windswept moors of England, a grand rustic estate, and a love story of one woman caught between two men who love her powerfully—all inspired by Emily Bronte’s beloved classic, Wuthering Heights. Solsbury Hill brings the legend of Catherine and Heathcliff, and that of their mysterious creator herself, into a contemporary love story that unlocks the past.

When a surprise call from a dying aunt brings twenty-something New Yorker Eleanor Abbott to the Yorkshire moors, and the family estate she is about to inherit, she finds a world beyond anything she might have expected. Having left behind an American fiance, here Eleanor meets Meadowscarp MacLeod—a young man who challenges and changes her. Here too she encounters the presence of Bronte herself and discovers a family legacy they may share.

With winds powerful enough to carve stone and bend trees, the moors are another world where time and space work differently. Remanants of the past are just around a craggy, windswept corner. For Eleanor, this means ancestors and a devastating romantic history that bears on her own life, on the history of the novel Wuthering Heights, and on the destinies of all who live in its shadow.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/03/2014
Grand love affairs and friendly ghosts inhabit Wyler’s ambitious, Gothic-tinged debut. When New Yorker Eleanor Abbott is summoned to her Aunt Alice’s deathbed in Yorkshire, England, Eleanor is stunned to learn that she’s poised to inherit Trent Hall, her aunt’s sprawling country estate. The estate looks like it’s straight out of Wuthering Heights, complete with ghosts just like the ones who haunted Emily Brontë’s fictitious mansion, including a young woman in a long wool dress who begs Eleanor to find a bundle of letters hidden inside the house. When she finds the letters, Eleanor learns that the ghost is Brontë herself, who wrote part of her famous novel while living at Trent Hall. It’s soon clear that Wuthering Heights’s central theme of finding (and losing) a great love amid the moors was based on actual events. More than that, Brontë was not the last resident of Trent Hall who had to make Catherine Earnshaw’s famous choice between two men—and sooner than she suspects, Eleanor will be forced to make a similar choice herself. Although the Yorkshire setting is vividly drawn and its inhabitants satisfyingly complex, Wyler attempts to interweave so many stories with so many common elements that it’s difficult to feel truly connected to any of them, and using the ghosts as expository tools seems forced. More Brontë-style atmospheric gloom would have gone a long way. (Apr.)
Library Journal
03/15/2014
Eleanor Abbot, an up-and-coming New York fashion designer, finds her comfortable life suddenly upended following news that her English aunt is dying and wishes to see her. Before she can make her flight, Eleanor first catches her childhood sweetheart cheating. It is thus with a confused and heavy heart that Eleanor finds herself on the windswept moors of Yorkshire in the very house and on the grounds that inspired the classic novel Wuthering Heights. With her aunt's death, Eleanor must come to terms with a surprise inheritance, family secrets, the intriguing ghost of Emily Brontë herself, and an even more intriguing man. Wyler's debut novel contains moments of languorous detail and plenty of windy, gothic walks on the moors that sadly lack emotional depth. For all the drama, Eleanor is no Catherine Earnshaw. Her vague reactions to seemingly urgent and emotional moments, and her dubious confusion over her dishonest boyfriend, make Eleanor a less than sympathetic heroine. The story has some good moments, but parallels between Eleanor's life and Emily Brontë's seem forced, and the love triangle cannot rival that of Catherine and Heathcliff. VERDICT This enjoyable read by an author worth watching nonetheless leaves the reader wishing there had been more.—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-06
" 'Tis wutherin' weather," comments the implausible manservant in Wyler's debut, giving the reader fair warning of this wispy, occasionally farcical reinterpretation of the Brontë family legend and classic. With its cover announcing "a novel of Wuthering Heights," this offbeat, sometimes-surreal romance makes no secret of its intentions, especially when introducing its hero, Meadowscarp Macleod. "You know a meadow is a heath and a scarp is a cliff. Do you see?" asks Aunt Alice. But American clothes designer Eleanor Abbott doesn't immediately see, being preoccupied with ghosts; the heartbreaking unfaithfulness of her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend-since-schooldays, Miles; and the imminent death of Alice, whose passing means Trent Hall in Yorkshire will be Eleanor's. Her female ancestors are reputed to have a history/curse of making the wrong choice when deciding between two competing lovers. Could Eleanor herself be about to make a mistake, opting between leather-and-heather scented Meadowscarp and smooth Miles? Wyler's Yorkshire is a peculiarly unreal place, heavily detailed with furnishing fabrics—velvet and cashmere in particular—and where the locals speak a bizarre dialect. There is much striding on the moors. Not only does the ghost of Emily Brontë direct Eleanor to a cache of hidden letters contradicting literary scholarship by proving that the Victorian author knew all about passion, but Wyler goes a step further, granting her heroine a permanent place in the Brontë lineage, as well as enough self-knowledge to make the right choice. A preposterous but at moments oddly beguiling love story blessed with very good shabby-chic taste.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594632365
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 676,549
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author


Susan Wyler lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Read an Excerpt


***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014 by Susan M. Wyler

Part

One

The phone rang off the hook, she read. As she poured milky coffee from the saucer back into the cup, she wondered if old phones had startled with electricity, if they’d jumped right out of the cradle from the shock. With a blister on her heel from the recent heat and humidity, she folded down the back of her ballet flat. The café’s air-conditioning was up too high and she had no sweater to cover her bare shoulders. She was trying to read a book her friend Tabitha had lent her, but it was filled with a tedious cast of artists in turn-of-the-century Paris, so she set it aside.

Eleanor pulled her hair into a ponytail and swirled it into a bun, which she punctured with the stem of her glasses to hold in place. She pondered the word cradle. The café air was thick with roasted beans and the waiter, who set her plate with a clatter on the zinc table, reeked of coffee from his pores. She thanked him, sat up in her chair, brought the cup to her lips, and sipped. Eleanor had elegant limbs and three feet of straight spine to the top of her head. Despite the challenges of being tall, she refused to stoop. Even in high school, once she got over the drama of being taller than many of the boys, she wore heels whenever she wanted to. These days, she wandered about the East Village in five different versions of ballet slippers, one for almost every day of the week. She checked the blister and resolved to stop by the pharmacy for some liquid bandage, slipped the leather slippers off, and sat on her feet to keep them warm as a blast of thunder clapped and a downpour exploded outside.

Miles swept in and shook out his umbrella. He would be irritated by the rain, she knew. On the lake at Christmastime with pine and cinnamon in the air, he liked the rhythmic backdrop of rain, but at the end of a busy day in the city, with the outdoor tables pulled inside, he wouldn’t be able to smoke a cigarette with his coffee. She watched as he shook his wet hair and scanned the place for her profile: the angled nose, creamy cheeks on pale skin, the self-assurance in the length of the back of her neck, and then the quirky red glasses stuck in her tangle of hair.

Miles bumped through the tables on his way toward her, excusing himself to the other patrons till a young woman stood and said his name in a husky voice that carried to the back of the room and the table where Eleanor was reading, and she looked up. The pixie was pressed too close against him. There were gray bentwood chairs and metal tables urging them toward each other. The girl wasn’t trying to move away and neither was Miles. His face was flushed and the girl said, “Call me,” as Miles looked caught in a tight space between pleasing the dark pixie’s pleasant smile and tossing glances at Eleanor to say, “I’m on my way, babe. I’m trying to get there, honey.”

She studied his face, how he’d changed since they were in high school when he was awkward and stood too close at parties, popped up behind her locker door, and was hesitant to drop his tray across from hers in the lunchroom. Miles had grown into good looks over the years. His slight build had filled out, his bright hair had darkened to a curly, tousled gold, and he had stretched to six feet, two inches tall, but more than that, he had grown into a charisma, and she smiled to herself to see the boy she’d known since sixth grade exercising his newfound magnetism.

“Sorry, El,” he said as he got to the table.

He kissed her.

She kissed him and offered a sip of her coffee. “It’s a latte with whipped cream.” She licked her upper lip to catch any remnant sweet.

His legs wrapped around her legs under the table and he took her hand, kissed the tips of her fingers and took a tiny nibble, then a tender suck of her forefinger. He could be gentle. Raised genteel, from an old Connecticut family with money and manners to match, Miles wore smart shoes and tailored suits in fine wools. Still, he tangled his body around hers as often as he could.

“What was your day like?” he asked.

“Amazing.”

His hand rested above her knee on the inside of her thigh. He was distracted.

Eleanor nibbled on a corner of lemon tart as her eyes shifted to the girl who was watching them, then back to Miles. “You?”

“Average day. Mostly looked forward to seeing you at the end of it.” He pulled the glasses out of her hair and ran his fingers through the long strands, his eyes soft with affection. “What’s this?” He picked up her book. “Is it good?”

Eleanor scrunched up her face and shrugged and just then the light in the café changed and they both turned to see what had happened outside. The burst of brilliant sunlight from a break in the stormy clouds was enough to silence them for a minute. He reached for her hand. Whenever the sun broke through the darkness of clouds in this particular way, it reminded them both of the day of her mother’s funeral, when she and Miles were twelve years old.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. They were expected for dinner at her friend Violet’s apartment. Miles took Eleanor’s hand and led her through the tangle of tables, right past the pixie, out into the silver light of a tropical storm in New York City.

Violet, whose bones were beautiful but who’d grown too thin, liked giving elegant dinner parties so she could watch her food eaten, so she could dress in tiny, sleeveless, backless dresses that displayed the pale scars of cuts along her forearms. It was hard to take your eyes off her when she walked through the room: she was crystalline, sparkled like a clear glass lightbulb. Eleanor could only take small doses of Violet these days. She enjoyed the beluga in soft eggs, also the chilled, modern blend of Pinot noir and Riesling, but it was always good to leave and get home.

Eleanor’s apartment was six floors up a tight stairwell. Wet from walking in the pouring rain, they tumbled up and kissed at every landing.

“It’s great not being your buddy anymore,” he said.

She took his hand and led him around the last curve, up the last step, fumbled for her ring of keys, and let them in.

“So you’re not my buddy?” She unbuttoned the first two buttons of his soaked black cotton shirt. Unbuckled his silver belt buckle and dropped his pants. “Say you’re still my buddy, honey, sweet Miles.”

Miles stepped out of his pants, and Eleanor led him into the kitchen, where she opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of champagne. She popped it open and poured two flutes. Held his eyes, took a deep breath, and stopped time for a moment.

“Ah, your amazing day.”

She clicked her glass against his. “Barneys bought the collection.” She raised her glass above her head as Miles whooped, howled, picked her up off her feet, and spun her around. “My wunderkind!” he said.

“To you, to me, to us!” She was bubbling over.

He kissed her and his hand slipped up the back of her shirt. He tipped his glass for her to sip and then he took a sip and then he walked her backward and lowered her onto the bed without losing contact, without for a moment letting his eyes slip from hers. He didn’t let her feel the floor but kept her body lifted toward him.

She remembered when she’d fallen from a low limb of the tree in her back garden, a week after her mother had died. She had climbed the tree to get away from the visitors inside the house, and she remembered feeling high and separate from her sadness up there, and then climbing down she slipped on a low branch and somehow Miles had been there to catch her before she hit the bricks below. Now, in the ceiling overhead she saw the face of the boy Miles had been. She looked into his eyes, into this face so familiar.

In the morning, they lay in bed with the blinds cracked enough to watch the rain that had resumed, a wind so loud they heard it through the window, a rare hurricane warning for New York City. Miles smoked his cigarette at last. Eleanor didn’t mind. She had quit smoking when she was eighteen but loved the smell of it, loved the taste of it on his tongue. She inhaled what he exhaled and it made her woozy, loved it after they’d made love, loved it like she loved licking frosting off cupcakes, eating olives from martinis.

She climbed out of bed. “I’m gonna shower.” She closed the door then opened it again. “I’ve got to sleep alone here tonight, right?” she said. He was going out with guys from work.

“Yeah, is that all right still?”

“Of course.” She closed the door.

The water poured over her body and she squeezed some almond scrub onto a glove to scrape a crust of city dirt, sweat, and sex off her skin. When she shut off the water and pushed the curtain open, the small fan in front of the open window blew a chill across her nakedness. She heard the linen closet open and imagined Miles changing the sweaty sheets, snapping the fresh top sheet till it floated to rest. She wondered if he’d be able to stay for the day or whether he’d hurry away to get some work done at home.

She felt strange and she couldn’t shake it. Everything seemed odd and she didn’t know why, but this happened sometimes. There were days when she didn’t trust what she saw and couldn’t fathom how she felt, but the simplest thing to do, she’d found, was to assume that all was fine.

The bedsprings creaked in the other room. With vigor, she rubbed her hair till it was almost dry, rubbed her scalp and then her face with a rough hemp towel, then ran a thick comb through her hair.

Miles came in and moved the fan to pull the window shut. “You smell so good.” His nose in her neck. “What is that? It’s new,” he said.

“Lavender,” she said.

He shook his head.

 “Almond.”

Shook his head again.

“Karma.” A sticky balm of flowers and herbs.

“Ridiculous good,” he said.

Wind rattled the windows and the sky let loose an annihilating downpour. It drew them to the window to look up, to look out.

“Jeez,” he said, watching the storm crash down. “I guess I’m staying.” He smiled.

“You might have to.” Eleanor pulled on her blue kimono but didn’t tie it shut. “I’ve got bear claws in the freezer.”

It wasn’t plain blue, the kimono. There were ivory cream branches and vines with leaves and flowers, all on slippery silk that skimmed her body. Her skin was pale in the winter, almost blue, but in the summer turned to the color of caramel. Eleanor licked the stickiness of bear claw from her fingers, then from his. Her kimono draped carelessly, exposed part of her breast, her hip. “I feel kind of weird,” she said.

“How weird?”

“Not very.” She smiled mischievously and sipped the yerba maté she loved. Miles found it too sweet.

“I mean, weird, how?” he asked.

“Don’t know. Uneasy.” She looked outside and thought a bit. “It’s the weather, maybe.”

He kissed the mole on the inside slope of her right breast. Her mother had the same mole. When she was small her father had called it a beauty mark, told her it was a sign of a destined and great love, winked at her as if to let her in on a secret.

Miles licked the scar on her arm that looked like a souvenir from a knife fight but really came from a cookie sheet coming out of the oven, then he scooted down to kiss the circular scar where the engine of a motorcycle had burned the inside of her right calf in high school.

Even though Miles’ place was uptown and grander, an apartment his parents had kept in the city since she could remember, they liked to stay at her place. She could count on one hand the times they’d been at his place. All day they stayed in. They wandered about half-dressed, listened to music, sat side by side and read the papers to each other. Miles ordered Thai food as Eleanor went through pictures of a red-haired beauty modeling Eleanor’s sweaters on street corners all over Manhattan. They curled into each other on her deep couch and ate tom kha soup and red devil noodles. Suddenly, he stepped out of the bedroom in a smart-looking jacket and tie.

“I forgot you were going,” she said, feeling disheveled.

“Wish I didn’t have to. You okay?”

“Go.” She extended her leg, touched his thigh with her toe. “It’s okay, go.”

“I’ll be running in the morning, if the storm lets up.”

“I know.”

He turned from the door and leaned over the couch to kiss her. She dropped her head back and took his face in her hands. “See you,” she said.

When the door closed behind him, the strange feeling swept through her again.

She had just pulled a pint of mocha chip ice cream from the freezer when the princess phone rang. It startled her. Her home phone almost never rang and she had no idea who’d be calling. The sweet blue vintage phone didn’t identify the caller.

“Hello?” Eleanor’s tone was uncertain.

“May I speak to Eleanor Abbott, please?” An Englishwoman’s voice.

“This is she.”

“Eleanor, this is Gwen, Gwendolyn Angle. I am glad to have reached you. You probably don’t remember me, but I’m a friend of your aunt Alice and, well, I have rather bad news, I’m afraid.”

Eleanor hardly knew Aunt Alice, who sent her birthday and holiday cards and recently, on her twenty-seventh birthday, a ring: a striking jet cameo, which Eleanor always wore.

“She’s quite ill, and she asked me to call you.”

“I had no idea . . .”

“No, no, you wouldn’t have. It’s been recent and terribly sudden.”

Eleanor had written a thank-you note on a beautiful card, but she hadn’t given it another thought. She remembered meeting Alice only once. Eleanor dragged herself back to the quiet voice from far away.

“. . . Alice would be so pleased if you could come. The doctor thinks she won’t be with us for long, and, well, I have the sense she’s in some way almost desperate for you to come.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“I hate to impose, my dear. I know you must be busy.”

“No, not at all.” Hesitant, “I mean, I could come . . .”

“Could you?” There was measurable relief in Ms. Angle’s voice. “We’d arrange a ticket—I can do that right now.”

“Umm. I think I should be able to come . . .” Her mother’s sister, an aunt she’d forgotten. It was inconceivable. She’d had no family for so many years.

“I’m sure you have things to arrange. Your job . . .”

“I work for myself. I could come.”

“If you would, it would be wonderful. I’ll tell her, then, shall I? Thank you, Eleanor.” She waited. “No, I won’t tell her yet, but she’ll be so pleased if you come. Do you think you really will?”

Eleanor ran through the plans she had for the next few days and realized she was, for the first time in a long time—free. She’d need to speak with Gladys and maybe it would be possible for Miles to arrange things. “I absolutely will. I’ll come.”

They exchanged information and Eleanor put the phone back in its cradle. It was stifling inside the house, and she wanted to get out. She called Miles, but he didn’t answer his phone, and she didn’t leave a message. She opened the kitchen window and climbed onto the tiny balcony there, thought about what she knew of her aunt.

Alice lived on the Yorkshire moors, in the home where Eleanor’s mother had been a girl. Eleanor had never been to visit, for some reason her mother had never taken her, but she knew a bit of the story, knew that her mother left England when she was fourteen or so, that her sister Alice was fifteen years older and had stayed on. Already a professor at Cambridge when their parents decided to take their young daughter Anne to the United States, Alice had stayed in England on her own.

In the front hall her mother’s trunk had sat for years. On it was a Chinese bowl Eleanor dropped her keys into at the end of every day. Now she took the bowl off the trunk and opened it. She pulled things out one at a time. As she unwrapped tissue from pieces of a silver tea set, she grew curious. She’d lived her life without cousins or siblings, the last ten years without a mother or father, and suddenly she was part of a family. She took a box of letters her mother had saved, letters she’d once started to read when she was thirteen but hadn’t been able to finish, and put them in the bottom of her suitcase beside her old brown Uggs and wool sweaters.

She called Miles again. There was no answer.

She found her mother’s copy of Wuthering Heights in the trunk and flipped through it. She was just twelve years old when her mother died in a car crash on a visit to England. The afternoon the news had come, Eleanor had just closed the book, which her mother had loaned her, when her father knocked on the door. Happy to think he’d learned to respect her privacy, she called for him to come in.

His face was gray, the muscles limp, but the hall phone rang again, that day, and he turned to answer it before he had a chance to say anything. Still, she knew the worst possible thing had happened. She looked at the small book, whose spine she’d broken as she listened to her father’s conversation.

She hadn’t wanted to be there. It was the kind of gray day that wells with rain but never yields release. She had offered good reasons for not going to the memorial—her mother’s body was still far away in England, where she’d died—but her father insisted that Eleanor go and Miles had stood beside her all day until the moment she slipped away, tucked herself behind a nearby tree, and wished she were little again, wished she were small at the park with her mother on the swings, wished she were quiet at the edge of a battered picnic blanket as her mother unpacked chicken, then potato salad, then fresh corn on the cob. She wished she were small again and would be prepared to make any pact with God. And then the sky opened up and the sun shone through so that suddenly everything had color and contrast and shape. Eleanor had looked up through the branches above her and hoped that when she looked down again, everyone would be gone and she’d be alone there leaning against the tree with her mother waiting at home for her, as always.

It still felt like rain outside, but it was just the damned pressure of rain about to explode and clouds as dark as the steel wool under the kitchen counter. Long after midnight, Eleanor’s mind was still restless and she called Miles again. She wanted to lie down next to him, but he didn’t answer his phone.

There were no more bear claws in the fridge, there was no coffee in the canister, there were no apples in the bowl or blueberries in the freezer. Eleanor grabbed her purse and made her way down six flights of stairs to the ground and up the street to First Avenue to catch a cab.

“Eighty-third and Columbus.” Her head rattled with the windowpane. Her eyes closed, she recollected images of their weekend at the lake: the first time she popped up on one ski, the fresh fruit jam they made and spread on biscuits he’d bought in the little town. They’d kissed each other, that day, with sticky faces, licked jam off each other’s lips, tasted the crumbs of oats and berries. She remembered how her body ached in the morning after skiing. She remembered the feeling of gliding on water, breaking through the wake, Miles’ face turned toward her, perched on the top of the seat as he took her around the full perimeter of the lake.

Eleanor had said yes to Ms. Angle on the phone, but she wasn’t at all sure she should have, not at all certain she had the courage to go. She hoped Miles might come with her to Yorkshire, as she’d never really been anywhere without him.

“Thanks,” she said as she paid the cabdriver. She looked up at the brownstone’s black front door and brass lion knocker. It had once been his parents’ pied-à-terre. She’d been here so rarely.

The street was silent and all the houses were ready for Halloween, just days away. There were fallen leaves on the ground. The air smelled of earth and worms and damp. She took the steps one at a time. Stopped at the top and looked east down the long, quiet street. Perspective drew her eye to as far as she could see and then she turned to the heavy lion’s head. As she reached for the bell she noticed the ring on her right hand, the band of jet and the lovely carved cameo. It had arrived in a pink box tied with a black satin ribbon and inside the box was a handwritten note: A Victorian ring of Whitby jet, sent with love, passed down for generations and meant to be yours. Aunt Alice.

Eleanor pulled the lion’s head just to feel the weight of it, dropped it against the plate, and heard the hollow sound resonate in the inside hall. She leaned her back against the door and wondered if she should use her key. Miles often used his key to her place, but she spent so little time here, hardly any at all.

Still, she longed to feel the flannel sheets on her skin. She pictured him with three pillows around him all in pale-blue-and-white-striped flannel. She would take off her clothes and slip silently into his warm, high, king- size bed.

The key was lost in her capacious bag. She fumbled past lipsticks, pens, wallet, coin pouch, bills she meant to mail, then felt the satin ribbon. She opened the main door and then the bright red door to his apartment. Through the dark living room, she saw a low light from his bedroom glowing into the hall.

The tangle of skin was confusing at first. The breathing was vivid; they hadn’t heard her come in. She regretted using the key as she stood there. When she came to a dead stop on the carpet in the hallway, she hoped she’d got spun about and was in the wrong apartment.

If she hadn’t used the key in her bag, she’d have rung the bell. If it hadn’t rained, she might not be here. If Ms. Angle hadn’t called, she’d be asleep in bed now. Time might unwind. There would be a different tomorrow.

Eleanor stood in the hallway and watched, without Miles hearing her heartbeat or catching her shadow or feeling her.

There must be presences that linger all around us, she thought, which we simply ignore. We must get used to shadows nearby.

The light was so perfect it may as well have been on film. The light from his bathroom shone on their bodies. He’d left the light on and the door slightly open, so he could see the naked body that lay beneath his naked body, which Eleanor could see was tangled in cotton sheets. Not striped and not flannel.

He’d left the light on so he could watch as the pixie tipped her head back, the bony rise of her throat, had left it on so Eleanor could see the urgent way he sucked the unfamiliar mocha skin and the fervency of his kisses. She did this and he did that, and their bodies glistened as if they’d sprayed themselves with oil for maximum effect. Miles was moving as if he couldn’t manage enough parts at once, had left the girl’s neck and was holding her tight to flip her on top of him when he saw Eleanor’s face, just as she decided she was leaving and had begun to back her way down the hall. Too close to coming to stop, Miles finished before he pushed the girl aside and scrambled naked down the hall after her. The front door and the street door were open. The key was on the table in the front hall.

Eleanor went straight to Soho House, where Miles had a membership, to get drunk and take a wild dip in the pool on the roof, but after a quick drink at the bar she hadn’t the heart. Instead, she went home to her apartment where she broke dishes, wreaked a little havoc, and realized she had to get out of there, too. She sat in an all-night café till the sun came up and then, in the early hours of the morning, headed toward the sliver of a workshop she rented in SoHo. At Balthazar she stopped and bought two hot chocolates and a bag of buns to share with her assistant who would be there, as she always was, in the quiet of a Sunday morning.

Gladys was about to cut into a swath of wool when she saw Eleanor looking tired and lost as she struggled to open the door. Gladys hurried to open it for her. “Hey,” she chimed.

Eleanor lifted the Balthazar bag.

“Are you okay?” Gladys asked.

Eleanor shrugged, strained a smile. “I knew I’d find you here.” She made an effort to sound strong and cheery.

“It’s true. I like the quiet,” Gladys said. “I sneak out early, before breakfast, leave the paper and the kids’ waffles to Harry.” Gladys took the cups and bag and placed a gentle hand on Eleanor’s back. “You don’t look so good.”

“I’m all right. I’ve kind of been up all night.”

“I can see that.”

Eleanor picked up a pile of sweaters to sort. “I had a call from England, from a friend of my aunt. My aunt’s not well and they want me to come for a visit.” Eleanor dropped the sweaters and sat down.

Gladys pulled up a chair beside her. “I didn’t know you had an aunt in England.”

“She’s my mother’s sister. She’s fifteen years older than my mom, and it sounds like I should go. Did I already say it was her friend who called?” Gladys nodded.

“I wasn’t sure at first if I’d go, but now I think I will.”

“This was last night?”

“Yep. I think I should. Her friend was pretty insistent. She said it was important, so . . .” Eleanor shrugged and as she shrugged her eyes filled with a thin line of tears.

“Well, it’s a good time to go,” Gladys said tentatively. “The collection’s sold, production’s under way, it goes on pretty well without you, and I’m here in case of anything.” She spoke softly. “Hey, you’ve done it, El.” She quoted a yoga teacher they shared, with a lovely singsong voice, “In doing, in doing, it is done.”

This made Eleanor smile.

“You’ve made it happen,” Gladys said and gazed at her. “You deserve to celebrate.”

Eleanor took a breath as if it were her first in quite a while. Tears flowed silently.

Gladys’ voice grew even softer. “Eleanor, tell me what’s up . . .”

Eleanor closed her eyes. “I’m just tired.” She’d been working day and night since she was in high school, hadn’t gone to college with her friends because she’d already started making clothes and had made a small name for herself—reviewers called her the Wool Wunderkind for the clothes she made from recycled woolens accented with fabulous buttons. For more than ten years, she’d worked without a rest.

“I get that.” Gladys hesitated before she returned to her cutting.

The quiet rhythm of scissors slicing soothed Eleanor and she lay back on the flokati rug. She felt spent from inside out, wracked from her bones to her skin. “You must be great with your kids,” she said.

“Why’s that?” asked Gladys.

“You’re just so gentle. You don’t ever press. What’s your favorite thing with them, the thing you like to do best?”

The scissors made their silvery sound. “When we curl up with books and Lily keeps up with the words and Jonah just listens to the song of it all. That’s my favorite time.”

In the silence, Eleanor said, “If I didn’t make clothes, I think I’d make books.”

“Me, too.” The cloth fell away as Gladys cut, and a piece fell to the floor as the scissors turned a corner. “One day they’ll be reading on their own and I’ll miss it,” she said.

“We used to have this photograph—my dad framed it but I don’t know where it went—of my mother reading to me in a hammock. I was probably three or four then.” Eleanor couldn’t remember herself that small but she had cherished the picture, could almost feel the hammock swaying, hear the rustle of the low wind in the Chinese elm, loved the moment captured, her mother just kissing the back of her head, her hair probably warm from playing in the summer sun all day and her innocent eyes intent on the picture book’s page.

Gladys came back to the table and sat down, took a sip of the chocolate.

“You’re going to have an adventure in England, I can feel it. Whatever happens, it’s going to be good over there.”

Eleanor’s eyes welled again.

“Do you want to tell me? Do you want to talk about it?”

Eleanor shook her head no. “Thanks, though.”

“For how long will you go?”

Eleanor shrugged. “I hadn’t even thought of it.” She looked up at Gladys, her eyes blank with incomprehension.

“Well, you know I’ve got things covered here,” Gladys said.

Eleanor reached across the table to touch her hand. “You’re sure it’s not too much? I guess that’s what I needed to know.”

“I’m positive,” Gladys said.

Miles tried to contact her every way he could that day, and in the late afternoon he knocked at the door, even tried his key when she didn’t answer, but the chain stopped him, and though it was hard to hear him stand silent on the other side of the door, hard not to go after him as she heard his feet move slowly toward the stairs, she had nothing to say. On Monday morning, the sun rose over the Williamsburg Bridge as she headed for JFK.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 28, 2014

    Susan M Wyler has done a spectacular job incorporating the story

    Susan M Wyler has done a spectacular job incorporating the storyline of Wuthering Heights into this modern version. She brings back the Bronte sisters as ancestors of Eleanor Abbott on the windswept moors of England. So how does a modern 20 year old New Yorker with a brilliant new company that has finally started to get noticed end up in England at a house that resembles Wuthering Heights?

    Well, a call from her Aunt's friend telling her that her Aunt is dying and really wants to see her combined with a boyfriend she just caught with someone else----off she goes. She finds out that this house and all the land will be hers------whether she lives there or not. Of course if you remember Wuthering Heights you know she is going to meet another guy there. She is also going to learn some truths about her parents and her heritage.

    I can not give you much more without giving everything away-and what fun is that? I do suggest you read this book it is well worth the time!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    This is a beautifully written book with likable characters and a

    This is a beautifully written book with likable characters and a powerful sense of place.  It's an enchanting read, a lovely story about a young woman on an adventure toward knowing herself more deeply. Part of what she discovers about herself is integrally connected to the Yorkshire moors, Emily Bronte - and the private life that led her to write Wuthering Heights.  The writing is fluid is masterful. You pick it up, and the whole day has gone by, and you realize you couldn't put it down. It's not a complicated novel of ideas; it's a well-wrought tale of coming of age and learning to love oneself. I highly recommend it.   

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    A tale of adventure,  self-discovery, love and acceptance, very

    A tale of adventure,  self-discovery, love and acceptance, very well-executed!  One wants to read it all in one sitting, curious to know what the main character, Eleanor chooses to do in the end.  Totally engaging and beautifully drawn characters, with the backdrop, a castle on the English moors.  Oh, and there are ghosts and surprise twists ,  and even a curse to sort out.  I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in this tale where reality meets something otherworldly in the most believable set of circumstances.  Kudos to Ms. Wyler for a most enjoyable novel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    Susan Wyler's first novel is a perfect read.  Set on the moors o

    Susan Wyler's first novel is a perfect read.  Set on the moors of Emily Bronte's  "Wuthering Heights",
    it's a full, rich, beautifully written, thought provoking contemporary tale about a young woman's search
    to find meaningful love, a sense of self and, ultimately, a possible connection to Emily herself.  Wyler's
    consistent attention to detail, her description of the terrain, and the precise way in which she develops
    her characters are flawless. She paints a colorful picture that flows effortlessly as if simply watching a
    movie that unfolds patiently and vividly in our minds. The story pushes the envelope of time and space
    but the surprises along the way make the story uniquely believable and compelling. This was never
    meant to be a sequel to "Wuthering Heights." It's an irresistible  journey set in both worlds and reading
    Wyler's "Solbury Hill" was well worth the trip. 

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  • Posted March 25, 2014

    I loved this book.   I loved everything about Eleanor, a wunder


    I loved this book.  
    I loved everything about Eleanor, a wunderkind, a jilted lover, on an adventure into the unknown that was moving and believable.  
    the writing was beautiful, the sense of character and place. I suggest readers not read reviews that reveal the story because it's gripping the way it subtly unfolds.  I was glad Wyler went light on the dark and gothic, this is a modern novel  about a modern young woman with no interest in the kind of dark twisted love of Catherine and Heathcliff. There are many surprises in the novel. It's a light, lovely read. I highly recommend it. 

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