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Beth Meacham, David Brin

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights - Richard J. Dunn, Emily Brontë
“Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights”
Kate Bush
Quoting a pop song’s lyrics is not a terribly literary way of starting a classics book review but I considered going with “Man! That was awesome!” but decided a shout out to Kate Bush may be the better option. Besides, I first heard of this book when Kate Bush burst upon the scene with this eccentric #1 hit. The lady is a genius, as was Emily Brontë.

Often mistaken for a great romantic epic, mostly by people who have not read it, Wuthering Heights is a book so dark it is probably best read in braille. I think it is about as romantic as a poke in the eye. It is rightly considered a gothic classic due to its dark brooding gothic atmosphere and supernatural undertone. More importantly it is a fairly horrifying tale of obsessive love and revenge.

I have seen a few online discussions where the forum members hated it when they were assigned to read it in school, and the hatred continues to this day. I don’t if I would have hated it if I was made to read it in school, but reading it now I find it riveting. My fascination with this book lies with the characterization of Heathcliff. Obviously he wants revenge against all and sundry, most of whom have never actually done him any harm, they just happen to be related to people who pissed him off.

Heathcliff seems to spend all his time putting into action his elaborate schemes of revenge. He does not seem to want to do anything with his life except inflicting psychological torture on his wife (poor blameless Isabella), his son (a whining Bieber-like teenager), Catherine Jr. (I tagged on the Jr to distinguish her from her mother who is the love of Heathcliff’s life), and numerous other people. If revenge is a dish best served cold cucumber sandwiches are probably his favorite food.

The supernatural parts in Wuthering Heights is quite discrete, ghosts seem to appear but they are ambiguously presented as either actual manifestations or stuff of dreams or hallucinations. The eponymous farmhouse Wuthering Heights is also imbued with its own character, a perpetually gloomy, miserable and disquieting place. In any case the misery of Wuthering Heights is not of the sort of you would find in a [a:Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1189902685p2/15905.jpg] novel, as there is a subtly spooky feel to the book to balance it out. Besides, the mood does lighten up noticeably toward the end. Interestingly this book is often compared to [b:Jane Eyre|10210|Jane Eyre|Charlotte Brontë|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327867269s/10210.jpg|2977639] by the author's sister [a:Charlotte Brontë|1036615|Charlotte Brontë|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1335001351p2/1036615.jpg], both have gothic elements to them though [b:Jane Eyre|10210|Jane Eyre|Charlotte Brontë|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327867269s/10210.jpg|2977639] is not nearly so dark. I could not say which book is better or which one I like more, both are fantastic.

I can heartily recommend Wuthering Heights if you don’t go into it with an inflexible expectation of what you want it to be about. It is complex, disturbing yet quite an accessible and strangely entertaining read. As with most classics that I read I opted for an audiobook version. This one I obtained free from the wonderful Librivox, read with consummate skill by Ruth Golding who reminds me of Maggie Smith, sometime austere, sometime motherly. The many voices she acts out for each character is amazing, especially considering that Librivox books are all read for free by volunteers. Some Librivox books are better read than others but as far as this one is concerned there is not much point in shelling out for a “professionally read” version from Audible.com.

Notes
- Have a look at this video "Top 10 Notes: Wuthering Heights" for a great summary of Wuthering Heights that will enable you to talk knowledgeably about the book even if you have no intention of reading it!

- For a hilarious recap and analysis of Wuthering Height have a look at this "Thug Notes" Youtube review. Now that's edutainment!