Wuthering Heights

by Emily Bronte | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by BookGroupMan of Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on 3/12/2004
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Friday, March 12, 2004
Picked as our occasional book group 'classic' to make us feel worthy, int ejoocashun a marvelous fing :)

(6/09) Review to follow

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, September 13, 2004
This is one of those all-time classics that is so deeply embedded in the British psyche, that one feels one has read it (even if you haven’t). This is probably no small part down to it being a school reader, the subject of period film & TV adaptations, and (more likely) images of Kate Bush overacting and caterwauling her way through, “Heathcliff, oh Cathy, oh, oh-oh-oh, woo, o-o-o-oooh” – looking like Sandy Shaw on acid and sounding like Bjork eating an owl… Anyway, the received wisdom is of a passionate love affair between a fair maiden and a brutish (but darkly-handsome) oik, ranging over the windswept Yorkshire moors. Oh, and maybe this grand passion is somehow unrequited and/or forbidden, and some haunting stuff goes on?

Rather than write my own review, I’m going to try and capture some of the discussion from my book group, the main themes & opinions, in a ‘commentary’ style (all names, and most words, changed to protect the innocent!)

T (first time reader, token male of the group): - “What’s this idea that Heathcliff is a romantic hero; he’s a complete monster”

A (unashamed WT fan & Heathcliff groupie): - “Yes but he is drop-dead gorgeous”

T: - “Does that excuse his pathological hatred and abuse of almost everyone!“

Women: - “Duh…yes“(Conversation goes off on a tangent to identify the perfect actor to play H; some suggestions included, David Essex(!),Timothy Dalton, Colin Firth & Sean Bean. Preferred candidate was Johnny Depp, but he would need a bit of bulking up. Token Male goes off to skulk in the corner)

C: - “But, he did have good reason to be angry at his poor treatment, especially after his adopted father dies, Hindley treats (Yorkshire ‘tret’) him like a slave. And even his ally Cathy turns against him in the end to marry Edgar Linton”

T: - “No excuse. If Earnshaw hadn’t found him, what would his chances of survival have been, an abandoned child in Liverpool? At least he was fed and employed in a relatively safe & healthy environment. At that time in early C19th England 50% of children died, and the life expectancy of miners in the Yorkshire coalfields was only 19 (shows off that he has read around the subject). I think his unrequited love for Cathy, and revenge against all those he saw as complicit in him losing her, including, but not exclusively, Edgar & Isabella Linton by marriage and by association, was far more important to drive his actions and the plot”

I: - “So where did H go to after running away, and where did his money come from?”

T: - “I’m not sure that Bronte knew, it was just useful to the plot to have him return rich, successful, and…ahem...handsome. After all the Bronte sisters had quite a closed upbringing at the Parsonage, and must have had a very narrow world view“

I: - “I guess they got a lot of inspiration from reading. Books do seem to be important in the plot; such as the diary written by Catherine (the first!) which Lockwood reads at the beginning before his ‘haunting’, and the whole power struggle and then flirtation between Catherine (the 2nd) and Hareton”

T: - “Conversely, you can see their lack of first-hand experience, and innocence with regards (the lack of) sex, pregnancy & childbirth in the novel. I’m sure this is not just the prevailing morality & coyness; I genuinely think that she just didn’t know!

T: - “So why is it a ‘classic’ – besides the hunk thing – is it just because its been around for so long; not so much ‘survival of the fittest’, but merely survival of the one that doesn’t die?

I: "I’m not sure, that’s maybe partly true, that the longer a book is around, it creates its own mythology, and is constantly being renewed by each generation of readers”

M (read before, but didn’t finish this time): - “And Jude Law & Nicole Kidman read it in the recent Cold Mountain film” (there followed a discussion about the timing of the book being published and crossing the Atlantic, to be available during the Civil War)

T: - “How did they (the American’s then and now) understand the ‘yaarkshur’ dialogue? Joseph was practically unintelligible!

A: - “Apparently it helps to read it aloud. Oh, and the handy glossary helps :)"

C: - “Don’t they call this the book where ‘everyone has the same name’?”

A: - “Yes, she did show a lack of imagination. Especially confusing was that bit in the beginning, the notes written in the book margins; Cathy Linton…Earnshaw…Catherine Heathcliff…etc. etc.”

T: - “My folio-style edition didn’t have a family tree or dialect converter :(“

(You get the picture. Lots of other random chat – and we haven’t even talked about the pathetic Linton Heathcliff, the flighty & romantic Isabella, the dour Hareton, the stoic narrator ‘Nelly’ Dean, the mad old retainer Joseph…. Of course this illustrates perfectly why it is a ‘classic’. It may not have the quality, depth & range of a modern classic, say, but it has a lot of talking points, a cast of interesting (although not particularly likeable) characters, the history & social context, the author’s life and her family background. So what that its a bit repetitive and the plot has some weaknesses, and maybe the prose sometimes reads like a schoolgirl with a crush. Will people still be talking about The God of Small Things in reading groups in 150 years? I think not*

*No offence meant to Arundhati Roy and her fine novel, but you can’t compete with an institution, one author does not make a Bronte industry, no male lead can ever touch the iconic Heathcliff, and no other setting has the romance of the Yorkshire Moors theme park!

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