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REVIEW: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I’ve been meaning to read this book since forever. Wuthering Heights may not be the first Gothic novel, but it’s definitely one of the most famous. From what I knew of the book, I always assumed that I would like it a lot – what’s not to like about a brooding hero, doomed love, and copious helpings of sturm und drang?

I’m wondering if I waited too late to read this book, though. The fact is, I’m not the same reader I was fifteen years ago, or even ten years ago. Oh sure, I still love angst, but I have little patience with characters who suffer endlessly for no good reason. Okay, maybe Heathcliff has some reasons for being angry and bitter, but still, he goes way (way) overboard. Cathy, on the other hand, is just a nasty brat.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Wuthering Heights Bantam ClassicsWuthering Heights begins with a framing story: a Mr. Lockwood has rented a home called Thrushcross Grange in a remote area of Yorkshire, amidst many storm-tossed, evocative moors. He pays a visit to Heathcliff, his landlord, at Heathcliff’s home, the Wuthering Heights of the title. Lockwood considers himself to be a bit anti-social, but he is nonetheless put off by the odd, abrupt and rough manners of the residents of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is rude, angry and sarcastic, Heathcliff’s young widowed daughter-in-law is similarly ill-mannered and unwelcoming, and then there is a mostly silent young man who is not clearly identifiable as either family or servant. Lockwood ends up forced to stay the night among this unhospitable company when the weather turns particularly bad, and he finds himself dreaming (or is he?) of a ghost trying to get in the window of his room. She identifies herself as Catherine Linton and begs to be let in, claiming to have been lost on the moor. The name Catherine Linton is significant, maybe, in that Lockwood is aware from writings that he’d found in the bedroom before he went to sleep that the room had once been inhabited by a Catherine Earnshaw.

When Lockwood returns to Thrushcross Grange the next day, he gets the story of the Earnshaws and Heathcliff from his housekeeper, Ellen, who just so happens to have once worked at Wuthering Heights. At the time that story begins, the family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw and their children Hindley and Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw returns from a trip with a wild “gypsy-looking” boy he found on a street corner; he christens the child Heathcliff, and sets him up as his favorite, above his two biological children. A lot of suffering could have been averted if he’d just gotten a cat, instead.

I think I’ll just try to summarize the rest of the plot in a paragraph; it’ll be spoilery so skip it if you’ve been planning on reading Wuthering Heights for the past 150 years and just haven’t gotten around to it. (Apologies for the forthcoming copious use of the word “asshole” – I assure you it’s necessary.)

So, Heathcliff and Cathy become fast friends; Hindley hates Heathcliff. When Earnshaw dies, Hindley sees his chance to revenge himself on his rival by forcing him to be a servant. La, la, la – Heathcliff and Cathy still have each other, so they are happy, roaming the moors and behaving like little heathens. On one of their jaunts, Cathy is injured and ends up convalescing at Thrushcross Grange, the home of the rather more civilized Linton family. Cathy subsequently acquires Airs. Heathcliff broods. Cathy is bitchy. Heathcliff goes away and Cathy marries the son of the Linton family, who has an advantage over Heathcliff in that he’s not psychotic. Heathcliff comes back and is mad; he broods some more and then seduces Isabella, Linton’s sister, because he’s an asshole. Cathy has some sort of fit and then abruptedly gives birth to a daughter (also called Catherine; oh, that’s not going to be confusing later!). I hadn’t even realized she was pregnant. Damn impenetrable 19th century writing! Anyway, Heathcliff and Cathy loooove each other, because they are both assholes and how anyone else can stand either of them, I’m sure I don’t know. But Cathy is dying! Why? How? I don’t know. I guess it’s the baby. Anyway, Cathy dies. Heathcliff broods. Linton is sad, too, but he manages not to be an asshole about it. Oh, while all this is going on, Hindley has married, had a son – Hareton – been widowed and become dissolute. Heathcliff has gained revenge on Hindley by winning Wuthering Heights in a game of poker or Go Fish or something, and when he’s not brooding over that dead asshole Cathy, he is tormenting Hindley, or tormenting poor Isabella, or trying to shape Hareton into Heathcliff 2: Electric Boogaloo, because Heathcliff is all revenge, all the time, when he’s not about the brooding. So then Isabella is finally like, I’m out of here, and goes to live somewhere else and has Heathcliff’s son (my suggestion: kill it with fire; seriously, he ends up almost as much of an asshole as his dad, and 100 times whinier. Though on the plus side, not as brooding). Then Isabella dies. So we have widower Mr. Linton living with his daughter Cathy at Thrushcross Grange and widower Heathcliff living with his mini-me at Wuthering Heights, brooding and being an asshole and plotting Terrible Things. Then Isabella and Heathcliff’s son Linton comes to live at Wuthering Heights. (Linton? Linton! Are you just toying with me, Bronte? Do you realize how hard it is to keep these people straight as it is?)

Okay, never mind the one-paragraph thing. That was getting too way too dense. I’m going to try for even more brevity: Linton is a sniveling whiny asshole. Heathcliff is terribly abusive to him. Heathcliff manipulates Linton and Cathy 2.0 into getting together, and then forces them to marry – his aim being getting his hands on Thrushcross Grange. Linton conveniently dies (the body count in this book is starting to resemble that of a Shakespeare play, though with more natural deaths, I guess). Cathy 2.0 hates Heathcliff. Heathcliff doesn’t care. Cathy 2.0 torments Hareton in much the way that Cathy the Original tormented Heathcliff; this is gonna end well (spoiler within a spoiler!: it actually does! This book is INSANE!).

Heathcliff comes to learn a Very Important Lesson, about how revenge is wrong and all. I mean, I guess. He kind of repents before he, too, goes to that Great Moor in the Sky. But it’s a little too little, a little too late, IMO. I mean, he was crazy and sadistic and did I mention CRAZY for the great majority of the book (I don’t think I even mentioned him digging up Cathy 1.0′s corpse at one point…), so really, just being rid of him is its own reward. The bonus is with all of the horrible people of Wuthering Heights now dead (except for Joseph, the creepy caretaker, but no one seems to pay much attention to him), Cathy 2.0 and Hareton aka Heathcliff 2.0 are able to live more or less happily ever after (I KNOW! WTF, right?). Though I still find myself hoping they don’t reproduce.

I have no idea how to grade this clusterfuck of a classic. There were points where I was all “F, baby”, but it’s really not an F book or even a D book; it’s definitely not a C book (I associate a C grade too strongly with “average”, and Wuthering Heights is anything but average). I think I will give it a B-, but that grade does not fully reflect how utterly confused my feelings about this book are.

In summary, Charlotte was obviously the more normal Bronte sister. I’m not sure I even want to try Agnes Grey, at this point. Though I can’t imagine Anne was any loopier than Emily.

Best regards,

Jennie

This book is in the public domain and is freely downloable at sites like Project Gutenberg.

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

71 Comments

  1. Julia Broadbooks
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:21:19

    Funniest synopsis of that book I’ve ever read. I actually liked this, although I wouldn’t consider it a romance. I could get past the body count. It’s the aforementioned assholeness that kills the romance.

    If you really love someone it should make you less of an idiot.

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  2. KB/KT Grant
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:23:33

    Cathy and Heathcliff are the most disturbing and psychotic couple in the history of romance, and yet they are one of my favorites of all time.

    Cathy’s monologue on why Heathcliff makes her who she is beautiful.

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  3. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:25:58

    Oh, Agnes Grey is all about the evils of marrying the Bad Boy, b/c he’ll continue to be bad and abusive and nothing you can do will make him better. It’s MUCH more depressing and not as well written. O.O

    And thanks for the laugh. I wonder how much attention Emily would have received over the years if it weren’t for Charlotte.

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  4. raych
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:29:37

    I hated this book when I read it in my teens, but even though my tolerance for angst is pretty near my tolerance for thumbscrews, I loved it on my recent re-read. I think you have to go into it knowing it’s going to be awful and tormented and that you’re going to hate everyone involved. And yes, Heathcliff = the worst, but when he’s all, ‘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 weep a little into my sleeve.

    Charlotte is definitely my favorite Bronte, but there are passages in WH that are so beautiful I could die.

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  5. Ros
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:29:39

    Anne was not loopy at all and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an utterly amazing (and very sane) book.

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  6. Marie
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:36:13

    LMAO! I read WH when I was late middle school/early high school (~15 years ago)and despite my unconditional love of all things angst at the time, I really disliked this book. I couldn’t have really said why since I didn’t remember much about it beyond a vague loathing for both Cathy & Heathcliff and a recollection of it as being a thoroughly depressing read. Now I know! Thanks for reliving the trauma for me. ;)

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  7. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:38:25

    Sigh. Shows you what I know. Tenant of Wildfell Hall is about the perils of marrying the Bad Boy. Agnes Grey is about how terrible it is to be a governess. Thanks Ros, for the reminder.

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  9. Lori Brighton
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:54:06

    I remember reading this as a teen and being rather fascinated with it, but I didn’t really like it. I have never reread it and never really wanted to. I like my characaters to be actually…likable. But then again, I grew up on romance where everyone is honorable and there is that hea (at least there used to be. That seems to be changing now, but that’s another discussion). Give me Jane Eyre anyday!

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  10. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 13:57:48

    Heh. I read this in my teens, and I liked it. Didn’t love it or hate it-’or remember it all that well. Kate Bush’s song has probably reminded me of the names of the two main protags. I read Jane Eyre around the same time as WH and that made more of an impression overall.

    However, doesn’t Wuthering Heights have a great sense of place? This I vaguely remember, though God knows I could be thinking of something else.

    I thought Anne was supposed to be the most sane, but I haven’t read her books. On my to-do list.

    As for all the deaths, well, given that poor Bronte family and its members dying all the time, no wonder.

    I enjoyed reading this review :)

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  11. joanne
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 14:00:04

    And yet… people KEEP calling it a romance, lol!

    Great review Jennie, really well done.

    Oh, and a time saver for those who don’t want to wade through Bronte’s story: http://tiny.cc/6fmaw

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  12. Phyllis
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 14:02:10

    I hate Wuthering Heights. There. I said it. It never made sense to me. I’d give it a D, because I think people should read it so they know who not to marry.

    And yes, Anne was the sane one. She died before her sisters and they did their best to quash any reprints of her books, because she wasn’t as much of a nutcase as them and they thought her artistic vision was too sane.

    http://beatonna.livejournal.com/109102.html

    I have to post a link to that every time the subject comes up :)

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  13. karen wester newton
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 14:03:58

    This is a great review! I always considered WH way overrated in terms of being a powerful love story. As you point out, it’s really more about a bunch of self-centered, not nice people.

    Please tell me you’ll review GONE WITH THE WIND, too! Another overrated book, if you ask me–which no one did, but why should that stop me? -)

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  14. Pat
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 14:43:20

    I did love this when I was 14, but I’ve never dared reread it, fearing that my adult self might have different tastes. Although I did as an adult love the movie with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Sigh.

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  15. sao
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 14:51:01

    I thought Bronte did a good job of showing why Cathy 1 married Linton 1, not Heathcliff. Heathcliff sulked and ran away when Cathy suggested a few more baths and manners might benefit him. Linton 1 told her she was great, H snarled.

    The happily ever after worked because Earnshaw 2 actually listened to Cathy 2 and was willing to learn to behave better and to read. Cathy 2 was perfectly nice to him when he was willing to be a bit civilized.

    And just about all books before the end of the 20th century make associations between manners and a character’s character. To quote Lucinda Holforth in the book, Why Manners Matter,
    “Manners give us dignity . . . unlock our humanity, (and) . . . make life beautiful.”

    Is it any wonder Cathy 1 chose the swain with good manners and Cathy 2 required Earnshaw 2 to acquire some?

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  16. Antonia
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 15:31:35

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while and now I finally found the courage to post. Don’t kill me :P

    So here goes:

    Oh, Agnes Grey is all about the evils of marrying the Bad Boy, b/c he'll continue to be bad and abusive and nothing you can do will make him better. It's MUCH more depressing and not as well written.

    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is about marrying a bad boy. It’s my favorite book as a matter of fact. :D Anne is definitely the sane Bronte sister and in my opinion the most underrated. :( Blame it on overrated Charlotte for being an envious cow.

    Agnes Grey (Anne’s first book) isn’t as good, so I wouldn’t recommend it as much as the other one. The second one is a huge improvement.

    Also:

    I really enjoyed reading your review, Jennie, though I liked the book more than you did. I’ve never considered it to be a romance and it’s kind of hilarious when I hear it mentioned; it’s more of a character study for me – it must be why I enjoyed it.

    I don’t know how it would fare with a re-read, though. I did the same thing with Jane Eyre and ended up being really annoyed by it. One thing’s for sure about Wuthering Heights: this book will always seems cause a reaction whether it’s love or hate. It’s very hard to be indifferent towards it.

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  17. EGS
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 15:58:51

    Anne Bronte is the least loopy of the three sisters. Agnes Grey is a fairly quiet, normal novel, while The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a difficult but, again, more realistic view of life than the novels of the other sisters.

    I’m rather fond of Wuthering Heights despite its ridiculousness – Emily had a way with words, that’s for sure. It makes me sad that both Emily and Anne died so young and were unable to write any more novels than they did.

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  18. Pat A
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 16:53:13

    I had to read this in high school, and write a book report on it. Basically I said, Heathcliff was jerk, Cathy annoying, and
    Linton was a fool. That was the first book report I got a D on. Later I found out that this was my English teacher’s favorite book. I think she would have given you a much higher grade. However, a favorite is Jane Eyre, it can’t get much better than a mad wife in the attic.

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  19. nasanta
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 16:58:11

    Loved the review. You pinpointed the reasons why I did NOT like Wuthering Heights when I read it when I was younger, and again for high school English class. I got the offspring all confused, and I didn’t like the characters.

    I didn’t care for Jane Eyre either.

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  20. Milena
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 17:19:49

    Apologies for a very long comment, but you’ve hit a nerve here.

    It seems that nobody here noticed one of the key points for the reading of WH: we are not really told the story “straight”. We get it third-hand, filtered by the first-person narrator, Lockwood, and his own source for much of the story, Nelly. Now, from the very start, we see that Lockwood is more or less a complete idiot when it comes to social relations and/or reading people (he can’t get a girl because he’s socially inept; on first meeting Heathcliff, he immediately supposes they are similar because they’re both quiet, etc.). And the main part of the story comes with the additional filter of Nelly, whom we can also easily see as judgemental and very set in her views. Which means — it’s really rather obvious to me — that the whole melodrama must be read with a truckload of salt. In other words, we are warned from the beginning not to believe the story — which makes it a very modern book.

    Also, yes, Cathy (#1) chooses comfort over her nature, lives to regret it, and then whines about it, but she really has very little choice in the matter since a divorce would have been unthinkable. So whining about her cruel fate is the only thing she can do except accept it — and she doesn’t want to do that.

    And Heathcliff is really just an extention of Cathy (this is openly spelled out in the book, starting from his status of her non-brother, continuing with their physical similarity, and culminating in to the famous “I am Heathcliff”); he is her own wild nature, left free (because, among other things, he is a man, so he gets more choices) to wonder the world, get rich and finally get revenge on the civilised world that made it an outcast. But, of course, he (she/they) finds out that following only the natural side doesn’t work, either, as that leaves the person isolated and more or less mad.

    Which makes it a very powerful and even feminist story, showing (in the final pairing) that only balance between the natural and the civilised — and between man and woman — can give any kind of hope.

    Not that I would call it a romance under any circumstances, however: the central love story is really just one person in two versions. So I would support giving it a D as a romance. But as a non-genre book, it’s always been an A for me.

    Feel free to ignore me, though, and apologies again for going on so long.

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  21. Karen
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 17:27:34

    Loved the review! So funny! When people say this is their favorite book I always say “Really? Did you actually read it!?” I’m not an English teacher but had to teach it to a group of high school students for an academic competition. We were all tortured souls before we finished it!

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  22. Janine
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 17:56:07

    I read Wuthering Heights when I was about nineteen and I quite loved it. Yeah, Heathcliff and Catherine were selfish and their relationship was unhealthy, but the strength of their obsession riveted me. Somehow, for me, that towered over everything else.

    Also, I have a tough time with fiction from this time period. The prose tends to be very dense and the pacing slow, so I need powerful emotions to keep me reading.

    I remember seeing some interesting literary theories about this book, for example one theory held that Heathcliff was brought to the house as a child because he was the illegitimate son of Catherine’s father, and Catherine and Heathcliff were half siblings.

    Another theory I read held that Emily Bronte believed in polyamory and that Catherine wanted Heathcliff to share her with her husband, but he was unwilling to do so.

    I wish I could recall who the authors of these theories were; I think I may have read them in prefaces to twentieth century editions of the novel, but I’m not sure.

    One of the things I find interesting about this novel is the way it’s received. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t immediately respected the way Jane Eyre was, and it seems to me that it’s unpopular right now, yet it would not have become a classic if it hadn’t also been admired by many people for many years.

    E.M. Forster praised it in Aspects of the Novel. Here’s some of what he said about it:

    …the emotions of Hearthcliffe and Catherine Earnshaw function differently to other emotions in fiction. Instead of inhabiting the characters, they surround them like thunder clouds, and generate explosions that fill the novel from the moment when Lockwood dreams of the hand at the window down to the moment when Heathcliffe, with the same window open, is discovered dead. Wuthering Heights is filled with sound–storm and rushing wind–a sound more important than words and thoughts. Great as the novel is, one cannot afterwards remember anything in it but Heathcliffe and Catherine. They cause the action by their separation: they cause it by their union after death. No wonder they “walk”; what else could such beings do? Even when they were alive their love and hate transcended them.

    I don’t know how I would feel about the book if I were to read it now, but I tried very hard to read Jane Eyre a few years back and couldn’t make it to the halfway mark. Rochester was just insufferable to me. So for me at least, Wuthering Heights trumps Jane Eyre.

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  23. Ros
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 18:41:04

    @Sarah Frantz: Yes, that’s right. But I’m surprised you find Wildfell Hall depressing. I love that it’s about a woman who manages to rescue herself from an abusive marriage, without having to be rescued by another man. She is, to me, an incredibly strong character who admits her foolishness in falling for the completely unsuitable man, but doesn’t whinge about the consequences and instead sets about making her own life and looking after her son. And to my mind she thoroughly deserves her happy ending.

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  24. Erika
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:09:00

    I hated this book when I read it. Heathcliff and Cathy (1.0, ha!) were truly psychotic. Yet, this book is held up as The Most Romantic Thing, Ever. Yuck. Charlotte Bronte was a much better writer, imho.

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  25. Jennie
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:16:47

    @Julia Broadbooks: I would hope that it would at least not make you absolutely bonkers.

    @KB/KT Grant: I’ll have to reread that part – honestly, I was so sick of Cathy before she kicked the bucket, I may not have given her words much weight.

    @Sarah Frantz: I don’t feel comfortable saying that Emily was riding Charlotte’s coattails, or anything. I mean, it’s been a while since I finished Wuthering Heights and it’s kind of stuck with me (much more so than several mainstream romances I’ve read over the past month). I think it has some value as art. I’m just not sure I understand that value. Also, the book is nuts.

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  26. Tae
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:22:56

    I don’t remember liking WH that much when I read it in high school probably for most of the reasons listed in the review. I loved Jane Eyre however and I think I enjoyed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I read Anne Bronte for my own pleasure, read two of her books actually. Not as depressing as her sisters, by far.

    Since it’s been about 17 years since I read WH, I’m sure a re-read is in order, but too many good books out there to try to take the time to read something I didn’t like much in the first place to see if I changed my mind.

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  27. Jennie
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:32:04

    @raych: I knew that Heathcliff was tormented going in, but I guess I didn’t expect him to be quite so mean. I mean, my jaw was figuratively hanging open through a lot of the middle section of the book. It was really hard for me to relate to the strength of Heathcliff and Cathy’s feelings because they were so unrelatable in general. That may have to do with how the story is told – I never felt any kinship, especially to Cathy, which made all the crappy things she said and did seem all the worse. Still, I can imagine that if I were tempted to reread it, I could concentrate on the language (and maybe the emotions) more, since I already know what to expect from the plot.

    @Marie: I think I’m lucky in that it didn’t even really depress me because the histronics felt silly more than anything. I’ll admit to being very mildly touched (as well as confused!) by the HEA for Cathy 2.0 and Hareton.

    @Lori Brighton: I much prefer Jane Eyre, but mostly for different reasons, though I appreciate the HEA there. It’s obviously a lot more conventional as a book and a romance, while still seeming (at least to me) to be somewhat groundbreaking for the time. Jane’s strength and stubbornness and lack of humble piety make her an appealing heroine.

    It’s mostly that Jane Eyre better represents the sort of 19th century English novels I like and can, to some degree, relate to. It mixes social commentary with a fairly straightforward story* with characters that are understandable. Rochester isn’t always likeable but I understood him, at least. More than Heathcliff, anyway.

    * Okay, I realize that Jane Eyre is not exactly a realistic little slice-of-life, featuring, as it does, the madwoman in the attic. What can I say – Wuthering Heights has skewed my view of “normal.”

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  28. Jennie
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:34:02

    So, the consensus seems to be that The Tenants of Wildfell Hall is a better place to start with Anne Bronte than Agnes Grey?

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  29. Isabel C.
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:48:19

    I read WH for the first time a couple years ago, on the advice of a friend who said I had to read it as a trainwreck where horrible things happen to horrible people. Which: pretty much.

    It’s well-written and all, and I can see how the trainwreckitude is really compelling, but I Do Not Get Heathcliff as romantic hero. The man LITERALLY KILLS PUPPIES. I just…what…no.

    I actually like Jane Eyre, though I always skip over the bits with her drippy missionary cousin, and I’m too twenty-first century to really appreciate the morals. (Run off to Paris with the guy, Jane! Have really really hot sex! Just…get him to give you hard cash first so you’re set when he dies. Oh, right, Victorian morals, hum de dum…I’ll be over here.)

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  30. Bonnie L.
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 20:32:19

    I loathe this book. In my senior AP English class, I spearheaded a vote to read Wuthering Heights (over Pride and Prejudice of all things!) thinking that it is this awesome, romantic story. To say that I was disillusioned is an understatement. I had the hardest time writing an essay about WH my disappointment was so great.

    Years later, when I finally got around to reading P and P, I really kicked my self for passing up such a fantastic book for the mess that is WH.

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  31. Jennie
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 20:52:05

    @Jorrie Spencer: The moors are definitely evocative! Bronte spawned a legion of imitators there. I suppose Heathcliff is the original (or one of the original?) brooding tortured hero(es), but luckily most that have followed haven’t been quite so unhinged and nasty.

    @joanne: Ha! I haven’t checked that site out in a while, I don’t think. I know what I’ll be doing later tonight…

    @Phyllis: OMG, I swear I’ve seen that before! Or are there other comics by the same artist that feature the Brontes? I don’t know if I recall that one exactly, but I remember the drawing style. I was even thinking of it earlier today, but I couldn’t remember the comic itself.

    @karen wester newton: I will consider that a challenge. I’ve never read GWTW; somehow I’ve never been *that* interested in it. But I always meant to read it.

    @Pat: I’ve never seen that the Olivier/Oberon version, though when I was in the middle of reading the book I noticed there was another version on cable, so I taped and watched that. Ralph Fiennes was Heathcliff and Juliette Binoche played both Cathys (does Merle Oberon, too?). It didn’t really make me like the book more or less. Ralph Fiennes was too greasy to be appealing in his brooding, and Juliette Binoche was annoying and not very good at hiding her French accent.

    @sao: You make some good points there. I hesitate to suggest that the books should have been longer (who knows what other shenanigans Heathcliff would’ve gotten up to!), but WH is pretty short. I’ve not sure I got the motivations as clearly as you did.

    @Antonia: I guess I have trouble seeing it as a character study because, again, Heathcliff and Cathy just aren’t that clearly drawn IMO.

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  32. Courtney Milan
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 21:04:24

    This cartoon is appropriate to the discussion:

    Dude watching with the Brontes

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  33. John
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 21:26:25

    @karen wester newton: Aw, you HAD to bring it up. *brings out debate gloves*

    I personally adore Gone with the Wind. It may not be a romance novel by today’s standards, but it’s great in showing a woman that, for all her faults, knows she is just as much of a person as the men. She’s not always smart, but she’s tough.

    Definitely NOT a romance novel, though, despite the romantic elements. Rhett and Scarlett are very messed up in an awesome, non-puppy killing way.

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  34. karen wester newton
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 21:40:46

    @John:

    OK, everyone has different tastes. Some like vanilla, some like chocolate, and some prefer tutti-frutti. Feel free to like what you want. That said, Scarlet is so NOT a feminist. She isn’t motivated by any noble feeling, she’s just a spoiled brat who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. She marries a guy– MARRIES him– in a effort to spite the guy she really wants. 15 minutes of life as one of her family’s slaves would have given her a new perspective on what it means to suffer.

    My objection is not that GWTW is not a romance novel, but that it’s a whole lot of ink about a very unlikeable protagonist. If you ask me, the movie was better than the book because at least it broke new ground in a technical sense. I’m with Rhett; I don’t give a damn about Scarlet.

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  35. Barbara
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 21:47:39

    I’m so not going to argue about the place of WH in the universe, beyond saying that I alternately love it and hate it depending on the time of the year. I have an ancient hardcover copy that belonged to my great-grandmother that is one of my treasures, so I love it sometimes just for that. I also swooned so hard I fell off the couch when I was watching the movie with Ralph Fiennes in it, in the scene after Cathy died and he was out on the moors and he said (paraphrasing horribly), “haunt, me, drive me mad, just do not go where I cannot find you.” Gah. Agree that Juliette Binoche stank that one up though. The blonde hair when she played her own daughter was laughable.

    Anyway. Hilarious review, Jennie, I loved it, along with the very proper usage of the word asshole. Heathcliffe did deserve it most of the time. The man knew how to hold a grudge.

    For some reason, I feel compelled to drag out my copy of Rebecca. I don’t know what the Bronte/duMaurier connection is, lol.

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  36. Isabel C.
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 22:47:31

    Ahh, Gone With the Wind. Loved it when I was a kid, can’t really read it without cringing now, what with the flagrant racism and all.

    That aside, I do find Scarlett an interesting and not wholly unlikeable character. Worst at the beginning, for sure, when she’s very much sixteen and spoiled, but I find the late-wartime-early-Reconstruction bits kind of cool: she may not get squishy about people so much, but the determination to take care of her own (even when “take care of” means “be enormously bitchy to”) is fairly admirable.

    That said, that’s kind of the only major growing up the girl does until it’s too late. Which is kind of the point–one of the reasons I have some lingering fondness is that few books make the True Love Does Not Conquer You Being a Dick point–but makes for a less-than-sympathetic character in the end, and that makes the book less fun to read.

    Plus, again: racism, ye gods.

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  37. Gennita Low
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 23:10:36

    I love Wuthering Heights. I reread it every few years, actually, and never get tired over the emotional roller-coaster the story brings. I’ve never thought of it as a romance; it’s a gothic story, with all its elements–brooding main hero, dark and dank surroundings, the monster within and without, secrets, all the atmospheric drama that cliched vampire movies have.

    What gets me each time is how Bronte’s story has all of today’s tropes in romance, yet these same tropes were shown completely opposite, and perhaps, more realistically. The dark brutish alpha hero is really, really brutish and monstrous; that possessive mineminemine love we readers love in our romance today is uncomfortably sociopathic in WH. The heroine chooses, not the man of her heart, but the man who would give her status.

    As literature, I was fascinated with the study of passion and Platonic love in WH. Sexual (savage) love vs higher (educated) love, with all the different variations in between as represented by the various triangles shown in the story. “Lower” love could destroy a man’s reason but “higher” love produces, perhaps, a hopeful future.

    Also, WH was markedly a different read for me because of its characters’ very vocal attitude about God and heaven during a time when these subjects would be controversial, especially voiced by a woman. The author, though, did show through actions how her characters suffer from their selfish choices, yet, I’m drawn by the terrible beauty of their passion every time I reread the book.

    I guess Heathcliff holds a fond spot in my heart for being my first taste of the bad boy in the Byronic tradition. He was an anti-hero, actually, with very unheroic qualities. His capacity to feel made and break him, and his decisions were never half-measured. Basically, for me, Bronte was asking, “Dark and dangerous–is that really what you want?”

    As a romance writer, I focus on the positive and beautiful side of the romantic ideal of an all-consuming love, but Bronte’s Heathcliff is always lurking in my head about heroes that walk that edge of passion, that the choices I give them might make them more Heathcliff and less romantic bad boy.

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  38. John
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 23:32:09

    @karen wester newton: Acknowledged.

    I never said she was a feminist. Selfish she was, but she did have the ‘I am allowed to do this whether they say it or not’ mindset, which was pretty cool for me. Granted, I am a romantic teenager who has not been jaded by life yet and found her life pretty awesome despite not caring about her first two kids or husbands respectively…

    What’s good about the book is that a lot of people end up liking it despite how unlikable Scarlett is. I am clearly one of them. Most books with protagonists like Scarlett would not go anywhere in the world, but Gone with the Wind manages to have a good chunk of its readers see something in her underneath the selfishness.

    Or maybe they just find Rhett Butler hot. *shrugs*

    I may need to reread it now that this comes up…

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  39. SamG
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 00:41:43

    Oh Thank Goodness,

    I hated this book. I could not understand why it was supposedly a love story. The people in it were just too damn self-involved to give a rat’s ass about anyone else.

    I have felt that way since I read it in my mid-20′s or so. I usually refrain from talking about it though, as I felt so uneducated, unrefined and classless for not loving a classic.

    Thank you!

    SamG

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  40. Jennie
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 01:25:25

    @Milena: Interesting observations! I really hadn’t thought of it that way.

    @Janine: Interesting theories! I had meant to do a little research to try to understand the book better. What WH is really “about” is kind of a cipher to me.

    @Isabel C.: OMG, you are so right – Heathcliff KILLS PUPPIES! It’s a description that pretty much trumps all. I know what you mean about JE (especially about St. John), but I guess I considered it kind of revolutionary that Jane at least was tempted to do those things, even if she resisted the temptation.

    @Bonnie L.: Oh, that’s awful! I know how it is when you’re *sure* you’re going to love a book and then it turns out to be really different from your expectations. So disappointing.

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  41. Jennie
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 02:11:00

    @Barbara: I’ve never read Rebecca – or any Du Maurier, for that matter (maybe I should?). Joan Fontaine is super-smackable in the movie, though – she is such a drab little thing, I’d almost root for Mrs. Danvers if she weren’t so crazy.

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  42. galwiththehoe
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 05:07:29

    I feel a bit pompous saying this but the general “Oooh, it’s so romantic! Let’s only turn half of it into a movie and make Heathcliff the poor misunderstood passionate hero!” opinion drives me nuts. Heathcliff and Cathy 1.0 are the antagonists of the novel and they are terrible people. Their “romance” is not the point. Why do these people think there are so many more pages after Cathy dies?

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  43. Malin
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 06:15:54

    I first read Wuthering Heights when I was around 13, when a librarian recommended it to me, saying it was very romantic. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. I then proceeded to read Jane Eyre and was disappointed when Jane didn’t go off with her blond and handsome cousin. I hated both the books.

    I had to reread both WH and JE at University, and write papers on them. That pretty much confirmed my utter hatred of WH and every single person in it – no one is likable, certainly not Lockwood or Ellen. I guess Cathy 2.0 and Hareton can be explained as victims of their upbringing, but I frankly wanted even them to die painfully by the end of the book. Bunch of psychos, the lot of them.

    Fortunately, when I was more mature, I discovered that I love JE, and that it’s a much much better book, and of course Jane can’t go off with her drippy overly religious cousin and be a missionary. I later tried to read Villette as well, though, and only made it a third of the way through before I gave it up, bored out of my wits. My next attempt at reading the Brontës will be The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

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  44. AmiaEagle
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 07:09:58

    I have always felt guilty that I could not bring myself to wade all the way through Wuthering Heights. Your review was hilarious and makes me glad I didn’t waste my time.Thanks for the feeling of vindication!

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  45. Brussel Sprout
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:20:56

    I’m with Milena, Janine and Gennita – I love this book and I’ve taught it a couple of times very successfully. It’s one of the most stimulating of the classics in that it gets adolescents thinking about the true nature of love, passion, lust, elemental emotions and hyperbolic drives that they themselves are experiencing.

    But I first encountered it in the company of the Worst English Teacher in the Entire Universe, when I was 12/13 and waaaaayyyyyyy too young to enjoy it. We had to read it out loud ploddingly, lesson by lesson, chapter by chapter, we never discussed it and I didn’t understand it at all. I hated all the characters, I thought the structure was weird and bizarre and the plot was just shtyoooo-pid.

    It was at university that I fell in love with the book, and for me it was never about romance, but all about the Romantic impulse and how women were excluded from Romantic ideals and aspirations. Heathcliff is an intentionally Byronic bad boy, and the book all the way explores his inadequacies. There is also the constant filtering of the narrative through Lockwood and Nelly Dean, neither of whom is the sharpest of knives in the drawer when it comes to EQ. It’s a clever and beautifully written book, one of the great ambiguous classics of the 19th century and a forerunner of many a great book of the 20th century in its turn certainly in its development of the unreliable narrative thread.

    That said, if you read it expecting a great romance, you’re in for a bit of a shock….and I rofloled over the synopsis, a cracker!

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  46. Claudia
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 10:26:20

    Great review, but I’ll continue to pass on WH. I never had to read it (or any Bronte) in school and everything I’ve heard and read about it makes it a wallbanger for me.

    It would also seem I’m part of a minority that likes GWTW. I’m specifically fascinated by the portrayal of Scarlet’s response to sex and motherhood/parenting and feel the sometimes ambivalent to often downright negative feelings is something some women relate to despite Scarlett’s perceived failings.

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  47. AmiaEagle
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 14:16:31

    GWTW! “Sigh” I have read the book too many times to count over the years. The diehard movie watchers will never know what they’re missing by not reading the book. I still remember reading one passage over and over when I was a pre-teen thinking it was SO romantic. It’s when Scarlett begs Rhett for money and he cruelly turns her down, though his hands are fisted in his pockets in flustration that he can’t help her. Rhett. Now THERE is a hero! (Sorry for the temporary insanity). lol

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  48. Lenice
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 21:57:23

    @Courtney Milan – LOL!

    @Milena, Janine, Gennita & Brussel Sprout – your responses resonated with my own reactions to WH. I haven’t read it in years, but it’s left a lasting impression as did Alice Hoffman’s ‘Here on Earth’. I found her novel an interesting exploration of similar themes in WH. I’d be interested to see a comparison review here. I’m a Romance reader and love the genre. What WH and Here on Earth does for me, is complicate my engagement with some of the elements of Romance – which can be uncomfortable, and depending on my mood, downright unwelcome. However, I think both are great novels. I did a bit of googling and came across Hoffman’s view of WH, complete with some historical literary critique. I agree WH is not a ‘Romance’ novel, but think that it’s a great conversation piece for Romance and does share some elements. Hoffman’s views are here:
    http://www.alicehoffman.com/hoffman-classics-wuthering.htm

    I noticed there are a lot of references to WH characters being ‘assholes’ ‘insane’, ‘mad’ and ‘psychotic’. However, if we’re talking ‘assholes’ and ‘madness’, Rochester & JE, viewed from a post-colonial feminist angle, score quite a few points towards those prestigious titles. Rochester constantly compares ‘quiet, good’ English Jane to the avaricious coquette Adele, and the “racially suspect” (e.g. hints of mixed Creole/English blood), non-virginal, mad Bertha who certainly didn’t mind getting down and dirty when she first married Rochester, and who brought him a dowry that financed his rutting round Europe and the upkeep of the family pile. I know he was the victim of Aristocratic English machinations as a second son, but he’s capacity to only take a paternalistic, self-absorbed victim view at best, and vitriolic, abusive view at worst of Bertha, is unsettling to me. Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” provides a great response to JE and Charlotte’s portrayal of Bertha and what, whom, and why certain people might be labelled “insane” or “mad”. (N.B: WSS is also an uncomfortable engagement with Romance genre themes but not a Romance, IMO).

    I can identify and appreciate Jane’s strength, determination and finer qualities in a way I cannot Cathy. JE’s plot enables a justification for Rochester’s behaviour so I can enjoy his likable qualities, as well as his single-minded love & appreciation for Jane, in a way that I cannot do with Heathcliffe. However, for me these things are what makes JE and Rochester sneaky in a way that WH isn’t. The former gives me permission to enjoy the romance and the characters at the expense of others. Emily and WH, give me an honest -if melodramatic – reckoning of the ugly aspects of human behaviour which are sometimes justified in the name of ‘love’ or righteousness.

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  49. Janine
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 23:13:37

    @Lenice: Thanks for the link to the Hoffman essay — there’s a lot of food for thought there. This discussion has made me want to read Wuthering Heights.

    I’ve actually read Here on Earth, back when it first came out, because of the Wuthering Heights connection. I didn’t care for it though. Hoffman’s prose is beautiful, but the characters in that novel did not have the larger-than-life presence of Heathcliff and Catherine, and I don’t have much interest in rereading it. I think that my affection for Wuthering Heights interfered with my ability to enjoy Here on Earth. The juxtaposition of the two novels in my mind made me feel that Here on Earth lacked the ability to transport me that Wuthering Heights possesses (but then, perhaps, that was Hoffman’s aim — her novel is called Here on Earth for a reason). I wonder if Jennie might enjoy Here on Earth since she disliked Wuthering Heights.

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  50. Jennie
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 23:44:03

    @Brussel Sprout: Regarding the idea of Heathcliff as “Byronic” – maybe that’s my problem. I find Byron interesting but, well, an asshole. Not romantic. I recently read Young Romantics, a biographical sketch of some of the leading romantics, and it confirmed for me that Bryon was just such a prick that it’s hard for me to swallow any of the romantic nonsense about him. His treatment of Clair Clairmont (much as I’m not *her* biggest fan), for one thing, was atrocious. Shelley was pretty bad too – a little better, but his treatment of his first wife and at times of Mary was extraordinarily callous. But I digress…maybe this goes back to the “things I’d find romantic at 15 that I don’t at 41″ idea. Not to suggest that anyone who finds WH is an adolescent (real or maturity-wise) – just that I have gotten less starry-eyed and more practical as I’ve gotten older, and that means I sometimes focus on different things when I read.

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  51. Jennie
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 00:10:06

    @Claudia: I’m really not sure how I’ll fall on the Scarlett issue. I don’t love or hate her in the movie, but honestly I’m not sure that I’ve ever watched the movie the whole way through. I can see appreciating her as a strong if flawed woman; I can see thinking she’s an unbearable brat. I guess I’ll just have to see!

    @Isabel C.: The racism is probably one of the reasons I’ve never read GWTW. I can intellectually put it in historical context, but my feelings tend to be very knee-jerk and ragey on the subject.

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  52. Jennie
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 01:02:50

    I’ve not read Here on Earth; I stopped reading Alice Hoffman before it was published, though I have read a number of her books (Illumination Night probably being my favorite). I may have to try it, though – I am curious about Hoffman’s take on WH.

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  53. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 09:10:49

    @Jennie:

    The Byronic hero was never meant to be romantic in the sense we connect with romance today. The Romantic Movement was anti-intellectualism, so every emotion is bigger-than-life and overwrought–the anti-hero as hero, the loner, the hint of depravity. For me, when I was a teen reading WH, it was more the rebeliousness and anti-establishment factors that was “romantic,” not the characters.

    Also, Bronte suffused the Byronic elements in her story with Gothic ones, bringing the horror, rage, irrationality, and insanity to the forefront. The Byronic hero is what we’d call a Romantic extremist today :P. He is reckless, seeking to remold the world to his own view regardless of laws or morality. We don’t like them (Faust, Frankenstein) but we’re interested/fascinated by them.

    In the romance genre, not Romantic or Gothic, the writers incorporate those elements, but our focus isn’t about individualism. We celebrate dualism, the hope of HEA, the mutual sharing of individual needs. I don’t think WH or even GWTW (off-topic, but sort of connected), is about that at all.

    As a general observation, the romance genre in the past few years have been dabbling with Romanticism and Gothic, moving on from the classic mythical heroes to the folk tales, of angels, demons, witches, etc. The genre exalt love the way Romantics did, and in the sub-genres (urban fantasy), we even explore some of the darker aspects of monstrous love, but the genre itself is unique and we readers are unique in seeking the satisfaction promised by its constraints.

    The Byronic hero. OTOH, doesn’t promise that kind of romantic ending. IMHO, the librarians who recommend WH, calling it romantic or romance, aren’t typical readers of the romance genre. Sorry for the long post.

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  54. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 09:18:26

    @Jennie:

    One more thing and I’ll shut up :). Regarding Byron and Shelley being assholes and affecting the reading of their works, that’s true of today when readers are talking about misbehaving authors etc., and not buying their books. Maybe it’s better not to know too much of the creators, eh?

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  55. Christine Rimmer
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 11:59:50

    Really loved Here on Earth. And yes, exactly. Cathy is a nasty little twit. Still, I love the way WH reads, the intensity and the way I could actually get so lost in the creation of the world I felt I was there. Great review.

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  56. Jennie
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 20:03:33

    @Gennita Low: Sorry, I didn’t mean to conflate “romantic” and “Romanticism” – I have a bit of knowledge about the Romantic movement, though there’s probably a lot more that I *don’t* know.

    I’m intrigued now by the idea of parallels and differences between WH and Frankenstein – the latter being such a representative Romantic work. (I liked the Monster better than Heathcliff, and he murdered children!)

    I also thought of the connection between complaints about authors’ personalities today and my disdain for Bryon and Shelley. It doesn’t affect my opinion of their work except (and this is a big but, I guess) in that the very tenets of Romanticism seem clearly flawed when one looks at how they were practiced by these men.

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  57. Lenice
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 23:18:54

    @ Janine
    That was really beautifully put about Here on Earth not transporting you in the way WH did. It reminded of how my reading experience of the former actually did leave me feeling heavy and even claustraphobic at times – which, like you, I assumed was intentional by Hoffman. The juxtaposition is obviously pivotal in many ways to reading Here on Earth. I don’t think my connection with WH was as strong as yours, so it makes sense to me how that might have jarred your reading experience in the way you describe.

    @Jennie, Gennita and all: this has been a great discussion!

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  58. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 11:26:53

    Could I just point out that Wuthering Heights isn’t a romance, and was never meant to be one?
    The pivotal scene between Cathy and Heathcliff is the one in the kitchen when she tells Nelly that she feels like half of a whole, that she and Heathcliff were separated parts of the same whole. Her story is her attempt to get away. She doesn’t love him, not in a romantic way. If she loves anyone, it’s her husband.
    I love this book, not quite as much as Jane Eyre, but close. The writing is rich and different. Emily was the poet, and it shows in this book. The prose is gorgeous.
    The narrators have distinctive voices, a really hard thing to achieve. It’s an important part of the history of the novel, not because of the form and structure, which is so different, but because it’s part of the transition between the gothic and the high Victorian novel.
    What would we be without Wuthering Heights? A lot worse off.
    My favourite book, for the record, is Bleak House. I’ve never got over the depth and variety of narrative, the richness of the language and the staggering acheivement of the whole thing.

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  59. Chris
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 12:39:56

    If you read one of Anne’s, read Tenant. It’s excellent. Agnes is boring.

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  60. Barbara
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 22:54:44

    Great site for buying the books – myBantu.com

    ReplyReply

  61. readinrobin
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 11:33:25

    Best review ever!

    ReplyReply

  62. REVIEW: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James | Dear Author
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 12:34:14

    [...] work. Plus, I try to remain relevant and useful by not always reviewing books that are more than a century old.All this build-up is to say: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed When Beauty Tamed the Beast. [...]

  63. Payel Sengupta
    May 08, 2011 @ 09:22:15

    Emily Bronte Is A Great Author & Wuthering Heights Is My One Of The Most Favourite Novel…..

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  64. Payel Sengupta
    May 08, 2011 @ 09:27:22

    Wuthering Heights Is A Great Novel…..

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    Oct 12, 2011 @ 06:40:40

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  66. Caitlin
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 19:22:58

    I laughed very loudly at this review. I suppose I don’t really have a right to say anything about Wuthering Heights, because I haven’t read it. My Advanced Placement senior english teacher this year basically threw the book at me, and told me to write a review on it. I’ve always intended to get around to reading it, so I was very excited! Until I realized something important-I had NO time. I go to school, were I’m enrolled in three college level courses, then to work, then back home to try and ATTEMPT to get my homework done. I knew if I began to read the book at the pace I needed to, I couldn’t truley enjoy it. So…I suppose I’m writing an essay about Wuthering Heights, when I’ve never read it. But I must say, it sounds very intense, and very horrible in every sense, but it sounds great! Very excited to read it when I have time-Maybe over thanksgiving break. For now, though, I shall write about the characters in a way that makes it seem I actually know about them, which, of course, I don’t. Great rewview though, it seems to sum up how confusing and complex the book really is.

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    Mar 22, 2012 @ 12:01:30

    [...] this was recommended to me in the comments after my review of the clusterfuck of insanity that was Wuthering Heights. Agnes Grey could not be more different. I’m about halfway through it, and so far it’s [...]

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  69. Ken Waltz
    May 21, 2012 @ 10:55:56

    Where does the name “Wuthering” come from?
    Thx!
    ken

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  70. Reading List by Jennie for June through August
    Aug 29, 2013 @ 13:51:27

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