Friday, 28 October 2011

Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte



One of the classic novels of English Literature, Wuthering Heights tells the story of the passionate but doomed love affair between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, taking place on the North Yorkshire moors.

Now, personally, I haven't read as many of the classics as I really should have done, especially seeing as I studied English at university for three years. But I have made it my aim to try and read two or three a year, to add a bit of variety to my to-be-read pile. And also, having recently invested in a Kindle e-reader, they have the added bonus of being free (due to public domain rights).

I decided to start with Wuthering Heights.

And you know what, I'm glad I did.

I must admit, it was a lot easier to read than I was expecting. I did struggle with Joseph's strong Yorkshire dialect, and on a second reading I would probably take a lot more time over it, to try and pick out every word. But as with the other 'olde world' vocabulary and language used throughout the book, the context fills in the gaps.

I think I also benefited from knowing a little about the basics of the story before I set out reading it. I was slightly confused with the structure at first as the story begins at a certain moment in time, and then as you read further on, the narrator fills in the gaps for you, and you start to get a feel for the timeline and characters involved.

I don't really want to give too much away plot-wise, but I think everybody knows that the action centres around the violent and vengeful Heathcliff, who is consumed with love for his foster sister Catherine. After her early death, he sets out to exact his revenge on everybody that in some way kept him and Catherine from being together. He is a selfish, manipulative lead character, but in a way I enjoyed reading about him, because I wanted to find out what was going on in his mind, what made him tick.

I actually enjoyed the second half of the book a lot more than the first. Heathcliff and Catherine's relationship takes a back seat as the story concentrates on the next generation of inhabitants of Wuthering Heights and the Linton's residence, Thrushcross Grange. Catherine's daughter, Cathy, is a spirited young girl who grows up to be a feisty woman, and although she can be quite manipulative and selfish, she is also quite naive with it. I found myself warming to her more than most of the other characters, with the exception of Hareton and Nelly. This may be due to the somewhat biased narration of Nelly, the housekeeper, who looks upon both Cathy and Hareton with a great deal of fondness.

I can understand why some people love this book, and others hate it.

It can be viewed by one reader as a marvellous triumph of a novel, revolving around an all-consuming love between two flawed people. Their love for each other, in a way, goes some way to redeeming their flaws.

On the other hand, another reader could see the book as a story full of self-absorbed, unlikeable characters and have no interest in it whatsoever.

I can see merit in both of those views. However, I enjoyed the story, and will be checking out the latest adaptation which should be hitting the cinema's soon. I will also re-visit the book at some point in the next few years, and give it the second reading which I think it deserves.

Star rating: **** (4/5 stars)

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