Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I bought this from the Bronte museum in Haworth while on holiday there just before Easter. I last read it while I was a student, and bought this copy because I knew I had to wait in a car for a while later that day and had come without my Kindle or other reading material! Disaster! Anyway it was so long since I read it or saw a dramatisation of it that I thought I might as well re-read. The edition I bought had reasonably sized print as well (I'd also forgotten my specs).

What struck me is the way the story is told. I'd forgotten it is all told at second hand or even third hand. You start with Mr Lockwood, and he tells of his night at Wuthering Heights and the spectre of Cathy appearing at the window. Then Nelly Dean picks up the tale and recounts Cathy and Heathcliff's childhood onwards. At times she is reporting what someone else, eg the housekeeper Zillah, told her. It can all be several times removed.

Would anyone publish a book written like this today? Writers are generally advised to think whose story is it (in this case, Heathcliff's) and write from that point of view. Or mostly from that point of view. But Heathcliff is a pretty awful character - cruel, mad, vindictive. Would we take to a story told from his immediate point of view? Maybe the story is Cathy's (first half) and then the young Cathy's (second half). But the older Cathy is not a particularly likeable character either.

Anyway, all that aside, this book is a masterpiece at creating atmosphere and making the setting a character in its own right. Those moors, and that dark brooding house. And it does have a happy ending. Not my favourite Bronte but worth reading if you never have.

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