In case you weren’t aware, Lucy from Lucy The Reader is the Young Ambassador for #Bronte200, this year the Bicentenary of the birth of Emily Bronte. Bronte 200 itself is a 5-year program celebrating all of the Bronte’s and has taken place since 2016. Over on Goodreads, Lucy is hosting a year-long read-along of the Bronte works, starting with Wuthering Heights for January/February, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte in March/April, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte in May/June, The Complete Poems of Emily Bronte in July/August, Shirley by Charlotte Bronte in September/October, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte in November/December.
Warning: If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights, don’t read any further – there will be spoilers!
This month I finished reading Wuthering Heights for the second time. I first read it back in university for a 19th-century literature course I took. I honestly can’t remember if I liked it or didn’t like it and diving into it again I didn’t recall a lot of what was going on. I took out my old copy of the book from university and started reading one afternoon when the kids were having quiet time and immediately I fell in love with Emily’s writing. I forgot that this was told from the perspective of Nelly Dean, a servant to the Earnshaw family who was there when the family acquired young Heathcliff all the way until his death. It was nice to have someone else tell the story since it separates the reader from the story. Both Heathcliff and Catherine are very, very passionate characters and the story would be quite different from their point of view. On top of Nelly’s narration, we also get the narration of Lockwood, a man passing through who stays at Thrushcross Grange, the home near Wuthering Heights where Catherine lives.
One thing I forgot was how unlikeable both Catherine and Heathcliff are – they’re both selfish, stubborn, and wild, and they connected so well when they were younger, with their similar personalities, but through the rest of the story I couldn’t help but think about the saying of how opposites attract – they might have had similar personalities, but all of that passion and stubbornness meant they could never be together.
“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 Healthcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
But is this a love story? For some reason, I had it in my head that this was a love story, since I’ve heard other people talk about it as such. But reading it, it felt like a story of these similar souls who were just too much for one another. I think they had such a deep friendship in their youth that Heathcliff couldn’t handle Catherine moving away from him. That led him to his path of revenge, but even that verges on the insane. Is it revenge to practically kidnap the offspring of your former friend and force them to marry your own child? THEN to keep them isolated in the house, abused by your terrible moods and outbursts? This is definitely a story about passion, but love? Maybe love from friendship, but nothing more.
I did really enjoy the ghost story aspect of this, though I think I thought it would be more. I loved in the beginning how Lockwood sees the ghost of Catherine, which ultimately led me to think of Kate Bush’s song Wuthering Heights with the lyrics, “Heathcliff, it’s me Cathy, I’ve come home, I’m so cold, let me into your window.” That combined with the ending was probably my favourite part of the story, the fact that the only way they could be together would be in death.
“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you–haunt me, then!…Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
Another thing I loved about this story was the atmosphere and mood. The whole story is so dark and tragic, but the setting of the Yorkshire moors, as well as the separation from society, gave me a shiver and I could almost feel like I was there. You could just feel the loneliness of where the story takes place. These descriptions of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange were very well written and made me realize why I love Emily Bronte’s writing. I also enjoyed how she didn’t write likeable characters – throughout the whole story, I think the only likeable character was Hareton, whose story I LOVED, especially towards the end of the book as he forms a relationship with the young Catherine. Even our narrator, Nelly Dean isn’t very likeable and one might say that her narration is a bit biased because she was never a fan of Heathcliff. As a reader, Heathcliff is an interesting character. Some might see him as a dark and brooding hero, a romantic lead; others might see him as the antihero. For me, I feel like his character brings up the concept of nature vs. nurture. Are people born evil? Looking at Heathcliff, you can see that he probably could’ve been a different person had he not been banished by Hindley and raised as he was. He wasn’t given love and affection by anyone but Cathy. If he had been a part of the family and given love and affection he might have turned out completely different, rather into the angry man, reminiscent of those who brought him up.
I’m very interested to read this again, but the annotated version. I think there are so many themes that I just touched the surface of on my second read, and I’d love to read more notes on the text, as well as what other people have had to say about the story. Emily Bronte writes very complex characters and this story has so many layers that to read it once just wouldn’t be enough.
Now what to read?
I happen to love retellings of classic literature, and found some titles based off of Wuthering Heights that I am really interested in trying out!
Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case
Synopsis: Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly learns she must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called “servant” and give herself over completely to the demands of the Earnshaw family.
But Nelly is not the only one who finds her life disrupted by this strange newcomer. As death, illness, and passion sweep through the house, Nelly suffers heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most, tempting her to leave it all behind. But when a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test even Nelly’s formidable spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice.
Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling and an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.
Catherine by April Lindner
Synopsis: Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?
Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.
Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.
The Heights by Juliet Bell
Two hundred years since Emily Brontë’s birth comes The Heights: a modern re-telling of Wuthering Heights set in 1980s Yorkshire.
The searchers took several hours to find the body, even though they knew roughly where to look. The whole hillside had collapsed, and there was water running off the moors and over the slick black rubble. The boy, they knew, was beyond their help.
This was a recovery, not a rescue.
A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.
Decades may have passed since Maggie closed the pits and the Earnshaws ran riot – but old wounds remain raw. And, against his better judgement, DCI Lockwood is soon drawn into a story.
A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge. And of beautiful Cathy Earnshaw – who now lies buried under cold white marble in the shadow of the moors.
The first one, Nelly Dean, I’m really interested in reading, and I just love that cover. The second, Catherine, is one I’d like to reread. I read it years ago and liked it okay, but now that the story is a little fresher in my mind, I think it would be fun to revisit. And the third, The Heights, is one that I just recently discovered and it sounds so interesting, with it being a retelling of Wuthering Heights and somewhat of a mystery/crime novel?
And if you have children, there’s always this adorable BabyLit Primer of Wuthering Heights – I had been curious how the story would be adapted for very little children, but this looks to be a weather primer, which could be fun. Though, wasn’t it always cold and gloomy on the moors? I guess I’ll have to pick this up for my kids to see!
Have you read Wuthering Heights before? How did you like it? What were your favourite parts of the story? Have you reread it in the past years? What would you recommend that is similar to Wuthering Heights? Have you read any other Bronte works?