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'Twilight' used as a lure to the classics, on both sides of the Atlantic

In the US and Europe, publishers have been trying to use the 'Twilight' phenomenon to bring young readers to the classics.

By Staff Writer / June 29, 2012

The tagline on the 2009 HarperCollins Children’s Books edition of Brontë classic 'Wuthering Heights' proclaiming "Love never dies" is found just beneath the sticker reminding readers that the novel is “Bella & Edward’s Favourite Book.”

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"Twilight" fans know that, in Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster series, protagonists Bella Swan and Edward Cullen love the classics they read in school, occasionally referencing books like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Wuthering Heights.”

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The New York Times wrote this week about efforts by US publishers to introduce hardcore "Twilight" fans – also known as Twihards – to those older stories of romance by slapping on some "Twilight"-like covers. In fact, the 2009 version of the Emily Brontë classic "Wuthering Heights" published by HarperCollins Children’s Books could easily be mistaken for one of the Stephenie Meyer novels, using as it does the well-known “Twilight” cover format of a black cover with a single red object in the foreground. The new “Wuthering Heights” cover is all black, with a shadowy flight of stairs in the center and a white rose tied with a red ribbon in front of it.

Just in case you missed the point, a red sticker on the cover reads “Bella & Edward’s Favourite Book.”

“As a bookseller, I appreciate the classics and I love when I can sell them to a new generation,” Julie Klein, owner of the New York bookstore Book Revue, told The New York Times of the new classics covers. “Anything that gets kids to look at them.”

But European press was way out ahead on this one. In 2009 papers in France and Britain were already reporting on a “Heights” mini-boom as European readers began snapping up both the "Twilight"-linked and other editions of the Brontë classic.

In France (where the book's title translates as "Les Hauts de Hurlevent"), teens who had never heard of the Brontë sisters were suddenly enthralled, as the Monitor reported at the time.  “We have sold as many copies of 'Wuthering Heights' in the first two months of 2009 [when the movie version of "Twilight" was released in Europe] as we usually sell in a whole year,” a spokeswoman for Le Livre de Poche, the publisher of the French translation, told London's Times Online.

British teens, of course, have long been familiar with the homegrown Brontë books. But the 2009 "Twilight"-linked edition of "Wuthering Heights"  was rapidly outselling earlier editions of the book, the Monitor reported at that time.

In at least one respect it was a novel experience, Waterstone's classics buyer Simon Robertson said in an interview with the Guardian at the time. “I don't think a vampire's recommendation has ever sent a book to number one before." 

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