Publisher: Cameron House
Published: 2008 (Australian edition)
My boyfriend's sister gave me this book as a Christmas present this year. She read it in High School and it is her favourite book so it came with a high recommendation. I didn't really know what to expect to be honest, but I don't think it was what I got. I can't remember the last time I read such a dark book.
It is the story of an unfulfilled romance between Catherine Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff, the young orphan boy her father adopts and brings to their home to live with them. Catherine and Heathcliff are close throughout their childhood and teenage years, although Catherine's brother Hindley Earnshaw deeply resent Heathclif and special place he holds in his father's heart. Despite her love for Heathcliff, Catherine marries the son of their neighbour, Edgar Linton, at Thrushcross Grange, a young man closer to her in social status. This destroys Heathcliff, who then dedicates his life to taking revenge on Hindley and proving to Catherine the poor decision she made in marrying in Edgar.
What really surprised me is how many people had told me that they really liked Heathcliff. I have to admit to disliking Heathcliff immensely, in fact, I didn't find myself able to sympathise with any of the characters, not even Ellen Dean. Heathlcliff particularly - I found him to be evil, controlling, abusive and a manipulator. He is selfish to the extreme. What makes it worse is that he doesn't even pretend that he cares - he is so openly out to cause harm to others in return for the harm that he himself has suffered. I'm not denying that he was treated poorly at all, he had a difficult like which collapsed in around him when his love married elsewhere. And yet regardless of this, I can't help but think that there is no excuse for the deliberate harm he inflicted on others, including those that the purported to love.
Ellen Dean was about the only character that I thought that I could possibly like, and even then she was definitely a little annoying. Whilst she had good morals and a good nature, she couldn't resist but put her two cents worth in whenever the opportunity arose. She struck me as somewhat controlling, always so sure that she knew what was best for everyone and trying to make sure things according to idea of what is good and proper. Having said that, she genuinely cared for those that she served and I think genuinely wanted to protect and help everyone, a lot more than could be said for any of the other characters. I also found it frustrating that a lot of time time she just watched these horrible things happen, and didn't put a stop to some of the goings on that she so much wanted to put a stop to. I supposed this a product of the times, as the servant she had little control over her masters, even when they are children.
The book had so many themes and messages in it. I saw the dangers of pride in all of the characters, although particularly in Catherine Linton nee Earnshaw. She was so certain of her own self worth I think in some ways this turned into her downfall. The effects of selfishness were also very apparent - Hindley Earnshaw failed to care for his son after his wife's death because he was too wrapped up in his own loss and self pity to give a thought for anyone else. As a result Hareton fell under the influence of the evil and manipulative Heathcliff. Heathcliff too was clearly selfish, caring only for himself and totally focused on getting his own revenge at the cost of others happiness. I was especially surprised at the portrayal of Linton Healthcliff, he was such an unpleasant child, so focused on himself and his sufferings that he seemed incapable of proper human feeling most of the time.
I think that the book was also making an important comment on the issue of nature v nurture. There was this tension between the idea of some of the characters having a bad character on the one had, but on the other hand, you could see that each character became the person they were being treated as. For example, Heathcliff was treated terribly as a child, and grew up to treat others terribly. I think Ellen Dean had some insight into this tension between nature v nurture:
"The masters bad ways and and bad companions formed a pretty example for Catherine and Heathcliff. His treatment of the latter was enough to make a fiend of a saint."
"I divined, from this account, that utter lack of sympathy had rendered young Heathcliff selfish and disagreeable, if he were not originally;"
It is an easy read, but for its size it did longer to read than I expected. That perhaps can be put down to the language used. I definitely had to spend some time figuring out what the character of Joseph was saying. The kind of read that is good when you need something a bit seriousness after a row of really happy books. Something that would be good when you want a reminder of what true human nature can be like.
Do I recommend it? Despite the fact that I didn't necessarily like the characters and still don't understand why everyone likes Heathcliff so much, I still couldn't put the book down. So, I definitely recommend others read it, just to see what you think of the characters and their goings on.
Do I recommend buying it? Usually I think that I would recommend buying most books, but not this one. You can tell that I'm in two minds about it, for as much as I was sucked into the story and the characters, it wouldn't be a book that I would need to have on my bookshelf.