Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Wuthering Heights (in audio) ~ by Emily Brontë


wuthering heights

Review by Shellie: Wuthering Heights ~ by Emily Brontë

A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put  down.

About:  A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.

The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.

The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds signet wuthering heightsthings are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.

Thoughts:   Many of you may know that John is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.

It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.

You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.

The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshireman had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.

Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007; US|UK|Canada.

Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; US|UK|Canada.

And now for some visuals - all are near Skipton, an ancient market town in the English North Yorkshire Dales and just a few miles away from where Bronte lived.

These were taken by John and myself in July several years ago:


You can see the rocky hills although most of the heather has been cleared for the cattle.


Here are portioned off areas used for sheep grazing. I would estimate the temperature was in the high 60s on the days these shots were taken, which is warm for the locals. Be forewarned that it can change in minutes to a windy rain-soaked downpour, yes even in July. And in winter it is much colder and often icy with occasional snow.

Author Bio:   Emily Jane Brontë was born July 30, 1818, at Thornton in Yorkshire, the fifth of six children. Both of Emily's parents had literary leanings. Her mother died of cancer shortly after Emily's third birthday. Her primary residence and the rectory where she lived now serves as a Bronte Museum. Emily's only close friends were her brother Branwell and her sisters Charlotte and Anne. She died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848 at the age of thirty, and never knew the success of her only novel Wuthering Heights - which was published a year before her death. She was purported to be a reserved, courageous woman with a commanding will and manner.

Wuthering Heights was first published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and a posthumous second edition was edited by her sister Charlotte. It met with mixed reviews by critics when it first appeared, mainly because of the narrative's stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty.

On our last trip to England I read a short bio on the family from one of the books in the cottage where we stayed. From what I read their lives were short and tragic.

This book will be included in a variety of challenges – The Basics, Historical Fiction Challenges, Fill in the Gaps, and where ever else I can fit it.

I have to give a big thanks to JoV @ Bibliojunkie for motivating me to finally actually read Wuthering Heights instead of just looking at it on the shelf!  She read it this past April with a group in a “mini- read- a- long”. Now that I am finished (a bit late for the group), I can go and check out the conversations and lurk a little. *big smile*

Thanks for reading!


dystopian said...

What a fabulous book this is! It comes from a similar era to Jane Austin, and I think that sometimes people expect it to be a spookier version of one of those Regency fictions, but it is so different. It is haunting in a genuine way that effects all the senses. I don't know about you, but when I read it it effects me so that I want to spit, or yell, or pound something. Thanks for posting your thoughts, it's always a good book to remember and a good book to hear people's reactions to.

Unknown said...

Punksocks -
I was so blown away by this book...nothing like I expected at all. Funny thing is I could not get through P & P - I tried 3 different versions. It did not connect for me - I was so annoyed.
Now this is my kind of read. But then I really enjoy the dark stuff.

Thanks for commenting!

logankstewart said...

Ugh. Wuthering Heights is a book I am loth to remember. I believe my aversion is because I was "forced" to read it in high school, and since I was a good little kid (well, academically, anyway), I did, forsaking whatever other brilliant work of genre fiction I was reading at the time. As you can tell, I don't remember the other book, but Bronte's work is one I shall ne'er forget, nor forgive, if only for the sake of bitterness and loss. Though, I can agree that John being a local to the setting probably makes the book come to life in a better sense for you. Still, I shall not re-read the book e'er again, lest something else "forces" me to do so.


Unknown said...

Oh Logan -
I have similar memories for other forced reads in high school. What a torture... today there are some teachers who give the students a choice. I am all for that. Its so sad that kids surface with a hatred for some wonderful classics.
Mine are The Heart of Darkness and the Iliad... so awful!
I would have hated Wuthering Heights as a kid too...

Isn't Yorkshire gorgeous!

logankstewart said...

Yech! Heart of Darkness is also dead to me, too. Blah.

Unknown said...

Logan my nickname for it was Heart of Barf-ness. lol...that was years ago and I have matured since then... *wink*

JoV said...

Thanks for the mention! Although it was a compelling read and I didn't like it that much I am still glad that you love it. :)

Thanks for sharing the pics with us. :D

Unknown said...

JoV -
Yes I noted you did not enjoy it as I did. Perhaps you will get some traffic or new readers from my mention? *wink*

I just love the chance to post pictures of our travels.

Thanks JoV.

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