Book Reviews · Classics

Classic Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Is this not just THE definition of a love story?  True love.  Unrepenting love. On top of all that Tom Hardy was Heathcliff in ITV’s adaptation.  If these are not good enough reasons for why you should pick up and inhale this book…I am not sure we can be friends.

To summarise this book would be an injustice to Bronte however, I have sought to highlight the main details in order for this book review to make sense!

Briefly, Bronte deals with passion, love, family, tradition and (of course) revenge.  We meet the Earnshaws, residing at Wuthering Heights, who have just introduced a new member to its family: Heathcliff.  A child wondering the streets which Mr Earnshaw could not bear to leave behind after encountering him.  Heathcliff and the daughter of the household, Catherine, grow up together and form a special bond which turns into a deep and ultimately destructive love.  Catherine’s brother feels, on his father’s death, that Heathcliff ought to know his place within the family and banishes him to the servants quarters.  Catherine meanwhile develops a relationship with the son of the family living in the neighbouring property (Thrushcross Grange) – Edgar.

Despite her feelings toward Heathcliff, Catherine explains to her maid her confusing feelings between Edgar and Heathcliff.  The latter overhears an unfortunate part of Catherine’s speech where she declares that she cannot marry him.  With this, Heathcliff disappears for three years only to return on Catherine’s wedding day to Edgar. The love triangle begins however, the reader is never in doubt as to where Catherine’s true love lies. Eventually, the love and the fear of losing Heathcliff again to none other than to her sister in law drives Catherine to a temporary insane state which ends on her death.

img_2622What is interesting about Bronte’s narration is that the story is mainly told through three narrators: Catherine (through her diaries), Mr Lockwood (the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange) and Nelly (the maid / housekeeper). If you’re like me sometimes you need a good organogram in order to keep up with the book (particularly in light of the constant interchangeable references to characters) – have a look at the family tree I drew!  This style of narration allows the reader to fully immerse itself with the story and the feelings of the main characters.

Coming back to Bronte’s main themes, her love story is deeply and powerfully evocative.  It is not a fleeting relationship or even sexual (I had to keep referring back to earlier chapters to make sure I hadn’t missed something!).  The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is more than such banality.  It grew softly, quietly and slowly but once it had imbedded within the two – it was hard and nigh on impossible to let go of.

Another of Bronte’s theme is revenge.  Heathcliff’s tireless quest for revenge against all those who have wronged him is relentless.  That being said, however odious Heathcliff became to the characters I began to become attached to, I still willed him to find peace, love and happiness.

Despite the fact that this book centres around two locations and a handful of characters this book could not be more wide ranging.  It is truly a classic and I recommend everyone read it! Once I had finished I jotted down a few questions that the book poses but never answers such as:

  1. where did Heathcliff go for three years?  There is some minor reference to the army and him coming back with a foreign accent but this theory of Nelly’s is not developed any further.
  2. how did Heathcliff make his money? Again, there is a vague reference to Heathcliff knowing how to prey on the vulnerable – did he win his fortune gambling?
  3. controversial one here: was Heathcliff actually Catherine’s half brother?  It seems strange that a man can bring a child into the family with no questions asked?
  4. and last but not least – this one has been in my mind since reading the book – did Heathcliff actually dig up Catherine’s body?  Or was he scared off?  Reading the passage again and again I keep flitting back and forth!

Let me know if you have any views on the above!

Recommended for: those who enjoy a complicated love story.

Rating: 5/5

Favourite quote:  I normally pick my top one however, there were so many beautiful passages so I have allowed myself three top quotes!

The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”

You said I killed you – haunt me, then!  The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth.  Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!…I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!

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