Sometimes I feel like I must have had the strangest middle/high school English class experience ever. We were never forced to read Tom Sawyer, The Great Gatsby, Animal Farm… instead reading books like Brave New World, A Wrinkle in Time, Ender’s Game, and The Handmaiden’s Tale. It’s no wonder that I developed a strong love of science fiction and fantasy early in life.
But, now that I’m a full-fledged adult and apparently now a book blogger, I figured it’s about time I go back to catch up on some of the classics I missed out on. I figured I’d start with a little Emily Bronte.
Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
Eh, it was okay I guess.
There is no doubt that Bronte was a talented writer. Her characters are vividly rendered and emotionally complex. Bronte tells her story from the first person point of view, an interesting choice since the narrator is an outsider, unfamiliar with the family and the tragic history of The Heights. The majority of the plot is revealed in the bedtime stories of the narrator’s kindly housekeeper, told in bits and pieces decades after the majority of the story actually happened. Despite this strange timeline paradox, the story pacing is steady and easy to follow.
Bronte also manages to paint her settings in lovely detail. The gorgeous English countryside and rural manor house create a wonderful contrast to the Heights, a decrepit crumbling old homestead, falling apart from years of disuse. The haunting scenery adds a nice bit of mystery and creepiness to an otherwise pragmatic story.
Beyond that, Wuthering Heights reads like of cheap soap opera. Between the child abuse, drunken debauchery, forced marriages, and selfish behavior all around, this story is a horrendous display of all the ways human beings can be terrible to one another. This book was utterly painful at times, but I couldn’t help but continue on with the story. I had to find out what happened to the characters in the end. The snowball of travesties just kept growing as the story continued…
I can understand why some people enjoy this novel, but I can honestly say it was not for me. I give it three out of five stars. It would have been two stars, but I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt since it’s a classic…So, if you’re looking for a literary classic and can handle a whole ton of horrible people being horrible to one another, then Wuthering Heights might be the book for you.