I didn't like Wuthering Heights the first time I read it. I was a university student, it was my first Bronte and I thought it was heavy on the melodrama, to say the very least! Since then, I've read and loved books by both Charlotte and Anne Bronte, so I added Emily to my Classics Club list in the hope that my opinion would change with time. Collectively, the Brontes are my favourite group of classic writers as their books are the ones that really speak to me. I come across as very calm and collected but my life is really an emotional rollercoaster and I feel that whenever I read Villette or Jane Eyre. I might admire the cool, sparkling wit of Jane Austen but the raw emotion of the Brontes is what gets to me every time. And on this read, I just loved Wuthering Heights.
Wuthering Heights is all about Heathcliffe, a 'dark gypsy' boy rescued from poverty and bought up amongst the Earnshaw family in Yorkshire. Although Heathcliffe quickly forms a bond with the daughter of the house, Catherine, he suffers from prejudice and discrimination from everyone else he meets. When Catherine consents to marry Edgar Linton, a proper gentleman, Heathcliffe's bitterness and desire for revenge consume his life, with tragic consequences for those around him.
The first time I read Wuthering Heights, I was expecting a love story, and even though it sort of is, it's about the darker side of love, love that destroys and doesn't make any logical sense. Heathcliffe is a prototype for the kind of man that lots of women want to rescue. Isabella Linton thinks she can rescue him at one point, even though he makes it clear that he isn't about to change ("You'd hear of odd things if I lived alone with that mawkish, waxen face; the most ordinary would be painting on its white the colours of the rainbow and turning the blue eyes black.") Of course, life isn't a fairy tale and Isabella ends up miserable. I do like it when authors avoid the temptation of a cliched sub-plot, like Bronte did here.
Despite all of the bad things that Heathcliffe does, I couldn't help but maintain a bit of sympathy for him and this is the genius of the story for me. Bronte has created a layered, ambiguous character that does repellent things but never quite manages to fully repel the reader. The unreliable narration of Nelly works to further this ambiguity and I closed the book with more questions than I had answers. I don't know what was 'right' or 'wrong' in this novel.
The wildness of the setting and the wildness of the characters was the thing I enjoyed the most about Wuthering Heights. We all live our day to day lives suppressing our emotions and putting a brave face on things, so it was refreshing to see all of that put on the page with beautiful writing. The hidden, wilder part of me simply loved this book, and I now count it as one of my favourites.
"For mercy's sake, let us hear no more of it now! Your cold blood can not be worked into a fever - your veins are full of ice-water - but mine are boiling, and the sight of such chillness makes them dance."
Source: Personal Copy
First Published: 1847
Score: 5 out of 5
Classics Club: Book 9 of 72
My list can be found here.
Ohhh, Wuthering Heights! I do love it so. It's all so dramatic and messed up and also, you know, AWESOME.ReplyDelete
I know you totally didn't say this, BUT I resent the idea that a person has to choose between Austen and The Brontes, and you can only like one or the other. Because obviously they're quite different, but I just think they're equally as good, just at different things? I've never felt the need to choose, anyway, and ALSO I hate the thing where you're supposed to choose either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. NO! They're both The Best.
Sorry, I just got all weird and ranty there! But yes. Wuthering Heights!! Thumbs up and things. :)
I do love reading dramatic, messed up books :)Delete
Maybe it makes me a bad reader, but I could easily choose between Austen and the Brontes without losing sleep!
Wuthering Heights has been one of my favourite books since I first read it as a teenager and I'm so pleased to hear that you loved it this time! I think the melodrama is actually one of the things I like about it, along with the setting and the dark, gothic atmosphere. And I agree completely with your thoughts on Heathcliff! I'm looking forward to re-reading this too at some point for the Classics Club.ReplyDelete
I was surprised I didn't like it the first time round to be honest, as I love gothic fiction in general.Delete
Hope you enjoy your reread.
I love the Brontes, the earthiness, the passion. Jane Eyre just edges it for me but I really like WH too. I'll never forget the thrill of visiting Haworth. We stayed two nights in the village and I swear you could sense their presence...or maybe that's just melodramatic me. I also like Austen especially Northanger Abbey.ReplyDelete
I think I would find it very hard to choose between Jane Eyre or WH, but Villette definitely beats both for me. I'd absolutely love to visit Haworth one day.Delete
I felt the opposite to you - I loved it when I was younger, but didn't really enjoy it much when I reread it recently. I wanted Cathy to be more sensible!ReplyDelete
I am quite sensible in real life, so I have a lot of appreciation for people that aren't!Delete
Heh, this is exactly the kind of experience I wish from my own re-read of Wuthering Heights. I read it back in high-school and though I didn't exactly dislike it, it didn't leave me any bright memories (except for the strangely drama-prone characters). But now being older and more read, I hope I can take a look at it from a different angle (it's also in my CC list, as a re-read).ReplyDelete
I hope you like it as much as I did when you reread it. I think it's a book that works better if you know what to expect, so you can settle down and focus on the language and characters.Delete
It's so great that you gave this book a 2nd chance! And tah dah, it worked out! :DReplyDelete
It makes me wonder how many other books I should give a second try to...Delete
My experience was the same as yours. I was expecting a beautiful love story when I read it for the first time in high school, and it just isn't that. But then I read it again in college and appreciated it for what it was. I've read it one more time since and loved it. Jane Eyre remains my favorite, but I have a lot of affection for this book (and for the books of Jane Austen--lucky for me, there's no real need to choose).ReplyDelete
Yes, my expectations were all wrong the first time around.Delete
I think I'm in the minority because even though I love this and Jane Eyre, Villette is still my favourite.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh...good old Wuthering Heights. I love this book.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the memories.
Glad you loved it too :)Delete
Wuthering Heights has been my favorite book for years, I've reread it several times and I always come away thinking that no novel will ever measure up to what WH makes me feel.ReplyDelete
We don't see quite eye to eye here - I stopped finding Heathcliff even remotely sympathetic shortly after Cathy died - but this:
The wildness of the setting and the wildness of the characters was the thing I enjoyed the most about Wuthering Heights. We all live our day to day lives suppressing our emotions and putting a brave face on things, so it was refreshing to see all of that put on the page with beautiful writing.
I wholeheartedly agree with. The raw, sheer power behind Emily Brontë's writing is so moving and everlasting that it gets to me every single time. If anyone could capture passion in words, it was her.
I'm so glad you enjoyed this book so much more on your re-read of it. I really love the melodrama and gothic mood of this book. The only other Bronte work I've read is Jane Eyre which didn't quite do it for me. I'm hoping a re-read of it will improve my opinion of it.ReplyDelete
I've never actually read it *gasp*. We tended to do slightly more modern authors at school. I guess it's something I want to read at some point, but so many shiny books getting in the way. I think I have a copy somewhere...ReplyDelete
I read WH for the first time a few years ago and liked it, but didn't love it. I do plan to revisit it at some point and have a feeling I'll enjoy it even more the second time around. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is my favorite Bronte novel at the moment, but Jane Eyre is up for a reread very soon. We'll see...ReplyDelete
This is one of my favourites, like you I expected a love story but got something so much better. Great review.ReplyDelete
I read it for the first time a few winters ago and I fell in love with it, especially as I let it marinate on my mind. At first I thought "these two are crazy and not about each other", but then I thought it was "only" a book which allowed me some freedom and then I saw the love story. If theirs would happen in real life, it would verge on criminal behaviour but the pages gave me the safety to say: "you can adore it and nothing bad will happen." I agree it's about love, but some kind of 19th century passinate love we can only relate to through the safety of literature. And that's the best part!ReplyDelete
i rather liked Wuthering Heights, one of my favourites actually. Will be reading it shortly as it is a re-read on my Classics ListReplyDelete
One of the most beautiful, tragic love stories ever written. Neither Cathy nor Heathcliff are very nice characters but the fact that they are deeply flawed makes it all the more interesting.ReplyDelete
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Perhaps I will like it more next time, but right now I have my doubts there will be a next time. You offer an excellent review though, and it is good to read differing opinions. I'll say this...Heathcliff DID INDEED manage to thoroughly repel me. I didn't hat WH, indeed I liked it...just didn't love it. It is superbly written.ReplyDelete
My own review of WH: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2014/11/wuthering-heights-by-emily-bronte-33.html