One summer, not too long ago, I decided it was time to up my reading game. A dive back into the classics, I thought would be the perfect antitode to too many potboiler beach reads. I decided to revisit books that I had read before, usually as an angsty suburban teen and books I had always meant to read but somehow never got around it.
Now, I am putting together my notes on my Classic Rewind Project. DId the classics hold up? Did I hold up - i.e. was I able to finish them? Have times changed too much to enjoy these books? Did I change? Have I been corrupted by too many distractions, modern language...Did Video kill the classic author star?
I'll let you know. I'll start with a summary of the book, then my (me, myself, and mine) opinion. Feel free to share your comments (nicely, though you don't need to agree) below.
First up, and perfect for the spooky time of year, the gothic romance classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
The Plot Summary: Feel free to skip to the notes and comments section below,,,
The Bronte sisters, including Emily Bronte, are known for their skills as writers. Charlotte Bronte, Emily's older sister, wrote a novel called Jane Eyre. This novel is widely considered to be the best of the published works of the Bronte sisters. Emily Bronte's book, Wuthering Heights, was edited by Charlotte Bronte. It was published in 1847 under a pseudonym.
Emily Bronte was a teacher, a pianist, a poet and a novelist. She was the second eldest of five children and the middle of the surviving Bronte girls. She attended several schools and died at home of prolonged illness.
Wuthering Heights is a favorite among readers of romantic fiction. It begins in 1801 with the arrival of a man named Lockwood, to rent a remote home, Thrushcross Grange on the windy moors. His landlord is the moody and quite frankly, ass hat Heathcliff who lives in the nearby manor, Wuthering Heights.
Lockwood who is chronically ill, is intrigued by the story of Heathcliff and his strange family. He also notices strange sounds in the house and around him on the moor. Very spooky.
While convalescing, he asks his maid Nelly, to explain their history to him. The novel then moves back in time to the arrival of Heathcliff to the Grange many years before.
Mr. Earnshaw was original owner of Wuthering Heights. went one day to Liverpool and returned with a dark-haired orphan boy. His family was then forced to accept this orphan, named Heathcliff, as their brother.
Earnshaw's daughter, Catherine, loves Heathcliff's company and they are never apart. The son of Earnshaw, Hindley, detests Heathcliff and makes this extremely clear. Earnshaw's wife isn't too happy. When Mr. Earnshaw dies Hindley becomes the head of the household.
Hindley marries a woman named Frances and forces Heathcliff to work like a servant. Frances dies giving birth to a son Hareton. and Hindley descends into an abyss of anger and alcohol. He becomes more and more abusive toward Heathcliff.
Catherine, though she loves Heathcliff, chooses to marry Edgar a man with wealth and privilege over her true love.Heathcliff is devastated and leaves for several years. He returns a few years later, now a man of "wealth." He manages to call on Catherine, but it clear she is not well. Shortly after his return, she dies giving birth to her and Edgar's daughter Cathy.
Heathcliff then decides to get revenge by marrying Edgar's sister Isabelle, whom he tricks into falling in love with him. He also preys about the sad sack loser Hindley by loaning him money. Hindley, an alcoholic dad to son Lindley drinks himself to death, but not before signing over the rights to Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff, not satisfied makes his wife Isabelle's life a living hell. She gives birth to their son Linton, but then runs away with Linton.
Several years go by, Nelly tells Lockwood. Isabelle, dying, reaches out to her brother Edgar who rushes to her and brings back her son Linton. Heathcliff, raising his "nephew" Hareton at Wuthering Heights makes Linton come live with him.
Still bitter, Heathcliff hatches a plot to have Cathy and Linton wed each other so Heathcliff can control both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Good thing these two actually do love each other and carry on a not-so-secret romance.
However to speed things along, Heathcliff Kidnaps Cathy and forces her to marry Linton. marriage to Linton. Cathy's father, Edgar soon dies, as does Linton. Now, Cathy, still technically Heathcliff's daughter in law is forced to live at Wuthering Heights with the meanie Heathcliff and Hareton, who is not so mean.
At this point, Nelly stops talking to Lockwood - remember him? Lockwood makes a play for Cathy but it doesn't work out. Heathcliff is mean and broody and there are ghostly things afoot at Thrushcross Manor. Lockwood returns to the city.
A few months later, not the picture of good health, Lockwood returns to the moors to check on things. He learns that Heathcliff went off the deep end searching for Catherine's ghost on the moors and that Cathy and Hareton have fallen in love and plan to marry.
Lockwood ends the book, contemplating the vastness of the moors and the cruelties of love.
The book was well received, a best seller and considered quite an original when it was first published. The downward spiral of Heathcliff from a sweet loving boy into a vindictive, revengeful man made him into a romantic character as did his unrequited love for Catherine.
GOT ALL THAT?
As a re-reader, I found that the story, which was told as part of a journal recording conversations between Lockwood and Nelly the housekeeper lacked the immediacy of a first person or even a third person narrative, those were the times. Plus the plot is pretty dense and the language is straight out of the 19th century as you might expect.
Unfortunately as a modern reader, I've come to appreciate a more modern style of writing - showing, not telling, first or third person narration, etc.
Putting all that aside, I found that I wasn't quite as taken with the story and the tragic love between Heathcliff and Catherine as I once was. I used to have sympathy for them. Now, I kinda thought they got what they deserved and made everyone else more miserable than they deserved.
Overall though, I found that Heathcliff was too much of the villian. It was hard to find what made him the object of Catherine's love. Except she was vain and a snob, so in that sense the two of them were made for each other.
However, I do remember vividly renting the movie from the library and watching the black and white version over and over again - very romantic, and a little ghostly...
The movie was able to tell the character's story directly - we saw how Heathcliff and Catherine and the rest of the characters looked and felt about each other. Suddenly the bond between Heathcliff and Catherine seemed more powerful and Heathcliff's actions, while deplorable, more understandable.
Here are links to the book and movies:
Buy the Book - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Original Black & White version starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier
The newer color version starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes
What do you think? Love WH? Hate it? Book or movie - let us know!
Looking for a more modern love story? Check out the Queensbay Series by Drea Stein - 4 full-length small town feel-good contemporary romances for the price of 1!
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