#Review (sorta): Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Wuthering HeightsTitle: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Rating: 3/5 stars

“Wuthering Heights is the only novel of Emily Brontë, who died a year after its publication, at the age of thirty. A brooding Yorkshire tale of a love that is stronger than death, it is also a fierce vision of metaphysical passion, in which heaven and hell, nature and society, and dynamic and passive forces are powerfully juxtaposed. Unique, mystical, with a timeless appeal, it has become a classic in English literature.” description from the back of my book…not Goodreads, this time 😉

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Warning, if you were hoping for one of my “well-thought out”, organized, (almost) non-rambly, informative, and spoiler-free reviews…this isn’t one of them. I took on the challenge of reading a reader voted classic in the month of May. I started on May 3rd and FINALLY finished on May 30th. Since it’s a classic, I feel that my normal reviewing would be pointless and redundant of many reviewers over the 150+ years.

This will be one of those rare times  I’ll pull apart a book, bash it, mash it, chew it up and try to flatten it back out again to have something good to say about it. We’ll see how it turns out in the end.

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I think to start off, I should mention that I had a few friends rereading this book while I read it for the first time. One of them even took the time to write up her own sort of review. I’d like to mention that early on so I don’t look too bad for what I’m about to say. Also, I think she addresses things that I agree with. This is especially the case with her list of characters. So, if you’d like to read that, here’s Sarah’s review.

As I said, I address with what Sarah said about the characters. They were whiny. They were annoying. At least Edgar wasn’t exactly a bad guy. He was just too proper and weak to stick up for his family like should have been done. And Hindley, I don’t even get why he has so much hatred for Heathcliff from an early age. His father seemed to be a man who’d have taught his children to accept people as family. He really went about things the wrong way and shaped the entire book on his being a dick to Heathcliff. It just seemed like an excuse of “he’s just being a boy, jealous of this intrusion to the family” was a bit much. Mr. Earnshaw surely would have been treating them all equally if there was no conflict to make Heathcliff look better.

While we’re on characters, I’d like to point out that Linton was so fucking annoying. First, who names their kid Linton when their maiden name was LINTON? If Heathcliff hadn’t married Isabella Linton to make her Isabella Heathcliff, then her son would be Linton Linton. Enough said. But also with him, he was so weak, sickly, and easily manipulated. Just a puppet. But for a puppet he was the whiniest piece of shit I’ve ever read in a book. A close second in whininess is Catherine the first (yes, there are TWO of them in the book…way to be creative on names AGAIN Brontë). But I won’t get stuck on those traits.

There’s supposedly romance between Heathcliff and Catherine. I saw it, then it was shattered. Then I almost saw it again, just to have myself seem mistaken. Catherine is an inconsiderate bitch. Yes, I said it. I’m just going to be blunt. As this was written, there really isn’t much of anything romantic between the two characters (or any characters in the entire book until the young ones at the end get together). I didn’t see the reason Heathcliff was so glued to Catherine for so long. She pushed and pushed and he still stayed around like a lost puppy. Even when he went away for years because he overheard her saying she didn’t want him, he came back a “very rich” man for HER. She didn’t want him. I don’t care what that drama queen tried to make the reader believe with her raving fever inducing fits. (And who gets sick just from talking too much? The people in this book got sick for nothing, all too often. Linton’s the only one to have an excuse for being sick all the time.)

What’s left here? I went over my annoyance of the characters. The weak health. Well, there’s so much I could say. I picked it apart a lot already. Here’s a BIG issue I had, and Sarah seems to have had it too. The entire book is framed within the notion that a Mr. Lockwood has taken up residence in Thrushcross Grange and is the first narrator in the book. It’s not until a few chapters in that he coerced Nelly to sit for HOURS with him, until something like 1am, telling him the story that we really opened up the book to read. So my advice: Brontë, hire an editor. Cut Lockwood altogether. There’s absolutely NO need to have created him. The book would have been a better read for me if he hadn’t been in the picture. He’s the reason I ranted about the book being wordy and a bunch of shit from the beginning. Nelly was a MUCH better narrator and used her language economically by saying what needed to be said (for the most part) without dwelling on everything else that I’ve already forgotten.

Does it seem like I hated this book? Well, I did give it THREE stars, so I wouldn’t say that’s hatred. I didn’t like it much, but I did have things I enjoyed, despite all that. I DID like Heathcliff in ways. I DID appreciate the story that Brontë tried writing. And I am a MODERN reader. I think I, especially, have to keep that in mind when reading any classic. Many things can be lost on a reader 150+ years in the future. Culture is one of them. Was it legal to lock people in your house to force them to marry your son? Also, how could then not unlock the doors from the INSIDE of the house? Did locks really work that way back then? (I’m still baffled at the issues I had with doors in the book.) What were the readers of the 1850s enjoying and did they enjoy this? I can’t really tell all that (without doing research that I’d rather not do). So I can’t really call it a bad book. It’s stood the test of time. Heathcliff is basically the ultimate super villain without superpowers, unless we can count his stubbornness as a power. I liked him and hated him. I think we should have seen the years he disappeared. That would have made the story interesting, but instead it’s just a jump in narrative and he doesn’t mention what he did. Luckily, I got a book at my bookstore last year that is an author’s take on those lost years (Heathcliff, by Lin Haire-Sargeant) which I’ll read at some point since I’m interested in that.

I also found it cool that I could compare this book (if extremely slightly) to The Princess Bride, the movie not the book (only because I haven’t read it yet). Substitute Heathcliff for Westley and Catherine for Buttercup. Westley loves the woman who’s above him. Buttercup has an attitude against him (I won’t call her a bitch since Catherine’s taken the bitch card from everyone in this review and Buttercup isn’t very bad at all). Westley goes away but stays in love with Buttercup. Buttercup is set to marry a rich man she doesn’t want to marry. Westley comes back (as the Dread Pirate Roberts) a changed/rich man worthy of her heart. The difference here: Catherine doesn’t deserve Heathcliff’s love at this point, nor do I think Heathcliff should get his way either. He’s fucking EVIL and needs someone to rewire his brain. On the other hand, Westley and Buttercup do deserve each other and that’s a happily ever after, blah, blah.

Conclusion since I’ve ranted for too long: I wasn’t looking for a happily ever after. I wasn’t looking for a romantic romp across the moors. I was only looking for a book that’s not overwritten, had at least a FEW characters I could feel sympathy towards, motivations that weren’t just told (I did feel there was a lot of telling, not showing, in this book…big issue for me). Basically something I could finish and say “*sigh* wasn’t bad. I can see why people like it.” Sadly, I can’t see why people like it as much as they do. I can see why people might like it partially, but to the extent that some do. I know in saying that, I’m “pointing a finger” at fans and some friends. I’m not saying you’re wrong and I value your opinion. That statement and this review as a whole is not meant as an insult 🙂 We can all take what we can out of books. Normally I can see both sides. This is an enigma to me. I think maybe I have some of Sarah’s thoughts, yet again, on my feelings toward it. To quote her from her final paragraph: “I think this book will always sit uneasily with me.” I’m a bit uneasy. I don’t have a full grasp on my feelings toward it since I know I probably liked it slightly more than it seems in this post. Three stars I gave it, and three stars it’ll stay…does anyone think that Charlotte’s books are any better? I have a few of those on my shelf too.

P.S. – My copy of Wuthering Heights has “RL8, IL age 14 and up” typed on the copyright page. I’m 25. I’ll be 26 in October. The fact that I had to give up reading this book before the halfway mark and turned to audio makes me feel like a reading failure if this was really listed as a book 14 year olds could read and understand.

P.S.S. – You might recall, I reviewed a book with a similar title last year, Wuthering Nights. It was an erotic retelling of Wuthering Heights. Yes, I enjoyed that one more, and even having read the original now, I still enjoyed the retelling more. Even if I were to remove the erotic additions, I felt the storytelling itself was much better and painted a picture of what was going on. the erotic elements (while some were huge additions) were there to enhance various aspects of the story and characters. It worked better in that form for me and I’m actually surprised to have had this occur. I’m normally a huge advocate for originals.

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About the Author:

Emily Bronte portaitEmily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother Branwell. She wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell. (From Wikipedia)

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4 responses to “#Review (sorta): Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

  1. Ugh, I hated this book. It also took me forever to read. I don’t remember all that happened, nor do I care to go back and reread. So, what’s your next classic?

    • Not sure what the next one is. My next “challenge myself” book is Gone Girl. That’s not as much of a challenge as a pleasure read, haha. But I’m basically setting up ONE book to DEFINITELY read a month from now on. No more, no less.

      I’m also doing a summer reading challenge that’s fun. It’s a game of book bingo that doesn’t have a set book(s) to read, but categories. So there’s freedom and it helps get a diverse summer experience. I posted about it on Facebook, but you can go here too, if you want more: http://booksonthenightstand.com/2014/05/botns-282-beach-blanket-book-bingo.html (I’ve already filled in one square with a graphic novel.)

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  3. Pingback: It’s November! Read a #Classic! | A Life Among The Pages

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