Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
|Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Probably the most famous love story in the English language, this is more of a psychological thriller with its themes of revenge and mental and physical cruelty. It's stood the test of time for more than 250 years and is a book that everyone should read. Highly recommended|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages:||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: Vintage Classics|
A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book
In 1801 Lockwood, one of our narrators, arrived at Wuthering Heights on the Yorkshire moors. He was renting nearby Thrushcross Grange from the rude and surly Heathcliff, but when one of Heathcliff's dogs attacked him and the weather turned against him he was forced to stay overnight. In his room he found a diary written by a young girl by the name of Catherine Earnshaw, who was close to Heathcliff as a child and it was this which caused Lockwood to have a terrifying dream in which Catherine's ghost fought to get into the room through the window. His screams of fear brought Heathcliff to the room and when Lockwood told him what he had seen Heathcliff asked him to leave the room and then sobbed as be begged Cathy to come in. Lockwood persuades the housekeeper, Nelly Dean (our other narrator), to tell him the story behind what has happened.
It's almost half a century since I first read Wuthering Heights and I've returned to it on many occasions since. It's astonishingly accomplished for a debut novel of any period, particularly when you consider that Emily Bronte was only in her late twenties when it was published. The fact that her father was a curate and the mythology surrounding the Bronte family might suggest that her experiences outside the home were limited but she had, in fact, studied literature in Belgium and spoke fluent German. This is the work of an erudite and educated woman.
It received mixed reviews on the original publication under the pen name of Ellis Bell, not least because of the structure of the novel. Readers at the time were more used to a narrative with a straight time line told from one viewpoint. Wuthering Heights is original in using flashbacks and two primary narrators and is now regarded as one of the classics of English literature. But it was the graphic descriptions of physical and mental cruelty which proved the major turn-off in the nineteenth century. From the brutality with which Hindley Earnshaw treats Heathcliff to the cruel and calculated revenge which Heathcliff brings about this is not a story for the faint of heart.
Because I know the area well it's the moorland which plays a major part for me. It's wild, bleak and uncompromising, unforgiving of any weakness. Perhaps my one (very minor) quibble with the book is that it would be unlikely that properties such as Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange would have been built in such an exposed area and it's more likely that they were based on properties in the Halifax area where Emily Bronte taught.
The story of the passionate love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw is one of the most famous in the English language. It's not just about the joy of love, but the pain and the horror when love turns to obsession. Published in the twenty-first century this would be billed as a psychological thriller. More than two hundred and fifty years after it was first published there's no loss of impact and the story is as worth reading now as it was then. Highly recommended.
If you are interested in the Bronte family you might enjoy Lyndall Gordon's biography of Emily's sister Charlotte.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte at Amazon.com.
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