Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I'm kicking off March with a big-hitter of a book that features at #12 in the BBC Big Read List.
Back in November we moved house and area and have come to a lovely village in North Yorkshire. Having lived in our previous house for nearly 20 years, I was quite worried about leaving the community and my friends. I need not have been so concerned. My friends have stayed with me, we now do virtual chats and a couple have been up to stay. The community here is lovely. So far we have been to a bonfire and firework's display, a lighting of the Christmas Tree, a Valentine's disco and now I have joined a classics book club which had our first meeting last night.
The idea of the Classics book club is to meet once a month and discuss a much loved classic. We have a different category for each month including; a pre 1918 classic, a modern classic, a children's classic, and a classic from a different country. Our first choice was Wuthering Heights which I was DELIGHTED about, having received a beautiful edition for my birthday.
It begins in a snowstorm, when Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter at Wuthering Heights. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, her betrayal of him and the bitter vengeance he now wreaks on the innocent heirs of the past.
I first read Wuthering Heights when I was a teenager, being all dreamy and wearing a lot of floaty clothes. I loved the intensity, the passion and Heathcliff. In fact I wrote an A-Level English paper which disputed the fact that Heathcliff was evil (and was awarded an A from my teacher for it.) But age can be a funny thing. Would I still feel the same years later?
I am pleased to report yes-ish. Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte's only novel, and it is so powerful, so intense, so passionate and so absorbing. That passion still carries through to this day, some 180 years after it was first published.
Essentially it is a novel of two parts. The first section concerns the triangle between Catherine Earnshaw, the foundling Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. If Heathcliff is all darkness, demons and brooding, Edgar Linton is pale, virtuous and good. Heathcliff breathes wildness, Linton culture. Catherine and Heathcliff have a powerful, destructive love leading Cathy to say:
'‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!
However Catherine still chooses to marry Linton, and sets in motion a series of events that ultimately destroy all 3 in the process.
The second part focuses on the descendents of Catherine, Heathcliff and Linton who are used and manipulated by Heathcliff to ensure that he gains everything that Linton ever owned.
Reading this many years later, the first thing that struck me was what a remarkable author Emily Bronte was. If we consider the Victorian obsession with morality and religion, this novel takes almost the opposite lines. Heathcliff is almost devil-like in his actions, morality is portrayed as being insipid, meek and sterile. The women in the novel are strong, the first Catherine is strong-willed, the second, Catherine refuses to be cowed even when she is taken from her home to Wuthering Heights and forced to marry the second Linton.
We have Nelly as our narrator to convey us through the tale, and a witness with Mr Lockwood, whom she tells her story to, and who conveys our feelings as reader. The moors are beautiful, wild, brooding and reflect the outlooks of our characters.
Heathcliff did not inspire the same passion, but he really is a rather marvellous character. I wanted to shake Catherine for marrying Linton, and as for the second Linton, well do not get me started! He was a brat.
I loved the gothic elements that feature throughout the novel, the idea of Catherine wandering the moors long after her death. Heathcliff's exhumation of the body of Catherine, his pleas for her to haunt him and the eventual peace he finds in the last weeks of his life as he has found her again. It's chilling, eerie and really quite beautiful.
And so to bring this post to a close, I loved this book and have no hesitation in awarding this a very well deserved 5 stars. It is a remarkable piece of work and one which I am delighted I read again.