Friday, 17 June 2011

Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Firstly, this review will contain spoilers. This book is a classic, so it is likely you have read it. Normally I do try to avoid revealing much of the book, but I can't help discuss this one.

For Goodreads I can tick a box, but my blog (when I paste the widget over) will not hide the content. So if you have not read Wuthering Heights and intend to, and don't want spoilers, read no further.

*spoilers below*

I was sadly disappointed with this story. For some reason I was lead to believe this was a romance. It was a tragedy in my eyes. I did not see the romance in it. How Heathcliff behaved because he loved Catherine does not make it romantic.

I can't give it three stars, because I'm not actually sure I liked it. Yet I wanted to read it to the end, so maybe Emily Brontë achieved something with this story. So, it's more 2 and a half stars. To be fair, I liked the idea of the story, I felt compelled to read to the end even though I did not like the characters.

Most of the characters were dislikeable - especially Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, who this novel is really about.

In fact, I find Catherine the more wretched of the two, because she tortured Heathcliff and upon her death, he was out to seek revenge and did manage to make everyone's lives miserable - because he loved her! 

Catherine married Edgar Linton because she didn't think Heathcliff was good enough... yet really she loved Heathcliff and not Edgar. But she played the two against one another. Heathcliff wasn't a particularly great character returning to haunt Hindley Earnshaw (Catherine's brother and his sort of step-brother) and changed poor Hareton (Hindley's son) to the poor, uneducated thug he became. Thankfully, Hareton is restored and there is a happy ending for him, with his cousin, Catherine Linton Heathcliff (as she was forced to marry Heathcliff's son Linton).

Yes the names get abit confusing! I was confused sometimes who the narrator was talking about.

So, the only two characters I liked and empathised with were Nelly (Ellen Dean), the housekeeper and servant to the families. She, who could see the whole picture, see even why Heathcliff was as he was, even though it was not condonable, always did her best to do things right. Though she was placed in the middle of a rock and a hard place at times. Nelly is our main narrator telling the story to a minor character who is also a narrator at times, Mr Lockwood.

The other likeable character is Miss Cathy, the next Catherine in the story (Catherine's own daughter) because her heart was good really. Her behaviour at times was acceptable to the conditions she endured when moved into Wuthering Heights under Heathcliff's orders. But she showed backbone, and her behaviour proved that all that were around Heathcliff showed their worst side.

Heathcliff is unforgivable. I disliked him because he could not love his own son, that he could marry Isabella to vex her brother, (who was married to 'his' Catherine) and be poisonous to her. He could not even love the daughter of his love, even though she were not his. It was his intent to make everyone miserable and diabolical in behaviour - hence not many characters in this book are likeable.

I actually liked Edgar Linton in the end. He didn't care what Heathcliff did or took, he only cared for his daughter's welfare and whether his nephew (Linton Heathcliff by Isabella) would be strong enough to console his daughter after his own death - which he was not. Linton turned into a whining, betraying, weak wretch.  

I am not overly sure what killed Heathcliff. Madness? Starvation? Are we led to believe Catherine was visiting him in some ghostly presence (hence his happy expressions)? Or could it be like anything else in the early 19th century, you could die easily of the slightest thing? I do find Heathcliff's death weird. Maybe I would have preferred it if Hareton and Catherine had conspired and killed him. Heathcliff deserved to be avenged.

I would gladly read Jane Eyre over and over again. It moved me, even brought tears to my eyes. This book, I had no real care for what happened to the characters, only Ellen Dean and Miss Cathy at some stage.

Another thing I felt difficult to read with this book was Joseph's dialect. It was very much 'what not to do today' in writing. And I can see why. It took me forever to read it, to decipher it, to the point I'd skip over some of it.

I quote:

"Yon lad gets war und war!" observed he [Joseph] on re-entering. "He's left th' gate at t' full swing, and Miss's pony has trodden dahn two rigs o' corn, and plottered through, raight o'ver into t' meadow! Hansomdiver, t' maister 'ull play t' deveil, to-morn, ..." and it goes on!

The odd sentence was all right, but sometimes even Joseph went on a bit! Jane Eyre was so much easier to read compared to this book.

I will also state that the edition I have on my kindle (and is not necessarily the same as I've linked to Goodreads for my review) is a poorly edited version. There are some punctuation missing etc. But I did downloaded it for free, so I won't complain.

So to summarise, Heathcliff is far from a hero in this story. There are no redeeming qualities in his character. If there were, I never saw them. You'll either love this book, or hate it.

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Phew! That was a long book review! 21/40 books read this year so far!


  1. I read this book a very long time ago. The only thing I can remember is that Catherine Earnshaw annoyed me!

    It's good to read an actual review of a classic, rather than 'Oh, it's a classic so it must be good'.

  2. I can definitely relate to this review. I liked the book, but you are very right about the characters. Hah, Vanity Fair might be the novel subtitled "A novel without a hero", but WH fits too.

    If you fancy reading something that's a good antidote try Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. (Just don't get the one that's available on Kindle, it's apparently some kind of weird edited Americanized version.) That shows what happens when a sensible person (Flora) is dropped into the midst of a family living a very Wuthering Heights kind of life!

  3. Hi, Sarah. Yes, I've been wary of reading 'classics' for fear I'd find them hard going. But I loved Jane Eyre and so have wanted to include more in my reading. Wuthering Heights was downloadable for free so had to download it!

    Becky, is Cold Comfort Farm a classic or a more modern novel. Is it more likeable than Wuthering Heights, because I'm not so fussed about reading it if it is! lol!

    I'm not sure if I reviewed this book all that well, but glad it raised some discussion over it.

  4. wuthering heights is my all time favourite, its funny how we are all different isnt it. i liked it just because the characters are all flawed and admire that Emily Bronte wasnt afraid to let her MC's behavve really badly. its a very deep novel, with lots going on in the back ground that modern day readers might not be aware of. mary middleton did a post on Heathcliff a few weeks ago, you might enjoy it, she takes a rather obscure peek at him.
    ive been reading your blog alot lately, its great.

  5. Thanks, Judith, for your input. It is funny how tastes differ. I think if I hadn't been led to believe Wuthering Heights was a 'romance' then I wouldn't have disliked it so much. I liked the story idea actually. I did keep reading because I wanted to know the end - so the book worked in that way. But I didn't really feel compassion/empathy for many of the characters.

    Heathcliff is the 'hero' in the fact that he's the main character not that he is in any shape or form heroic (in my mind).

    I'll try to check out that blog when I get five minutes.


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