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I began to read Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, in the hope it would live up to the Kate Bush song. Unfortunately it didn't. I suppose Kate Bush is hard to live up to and the book wasn't entirely bad.
Wuthering Heights is about a vindictive lover, Heathcliff, that mourns relentlessly over Catherine Earnshaw. Heathcliff is a typical "Byronic hero", brooding and tortured by his own passions. After a lot of illness, swooning, sobbing and negligence on the part of Nelly Dean, the story comes to a rather satisfying end.
So what I liked:
- The frame narrative: Wuthering Heights is set in a remote location on the Yorkshire Moors. The frame narrative is quite deep: Lockwood, our somewhat irritating narrator, is retelling a story as told to him by the surprisingly articulate housemaid, Nelly Dean. This distances the reader from the narrative, giving us a sense of this remote story that unfolds.
- The ending: the ending really redeems the book. It saves two of the main characters from being petulant idiots and gives a sense of hope at the end of this cycle of misery.
What I didn't like:
- How melodramatic it was. The blurb says it's "one of the most passionate and heartfelt novels ever written." I read "one of the most over-the-top and sappy novels ever written." The people swoon, have an attack of the spleen or get ill too easily.
- The characters: they're all irritating to some degree. Nelly Dean is opinionated; Heathcliff, heartless; and Lockwood and Linton need to grow a spine.
- Its repetitiveness: they fall in love, it doesn't work out, someone becomes a raging alcoholic, someone gets ill, they fall in love, it doesn't work out, raging alcoholic, get ill, fall in love...oh, it works out this time. It just seems like the same plot over and over again. Except the end that does do a bit of a switch and bait.
I'm glad I read it. The imagery is and descriptive writing is powerful, and Bronte uses some nice literary devices (e.g. the frame narrative).