Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging, captivating read, one of wildness and the dark, destructive side of love. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In 1801, Lockwood, a wealthy man from the South of England who is seeking peace and recuperation, rents Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire. He visits his landlord, Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There Lockwood finds an odd assemblage: Heathcliff seems to be a gentleman, but his manners are uncouth; the reserved mistress of the house is in her mid-teens; and a young man seems to be a member of the family, yet dresses and speaks as if he is a servant.

Snowed in, Lockwood is grudgingly allowed to stay and is shown to a bedchamber where he notices books and graffiti left by a former inhabitant named Catherine. He falls asleep and has a nightmare in which he sees the ghostly Catherine trying to enter through the window. He cries out in fear, rousing Heathcliff, who rushes into the room. Lockwood is convinced that what he saw was real. Heathcliff, believing Lockwood to be right, examines the window and opens it, hoping to allow Catherine’s spirit to enter. When nothing happens, Heathcliff shows Lockwood to his own bedroom and returns to keep watch at the window.

At sunrise Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. Lockwood asks the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, about the family at Wuthering Heights, and she tells him the tale.

Favourite Quote

I narrowed it down to my two favourites:

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

*

“Alas, for the effects of bad tea and bad temper.”

Review

I read this as part of The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte being April’s selection. And, just a quick word of warning: my review contains the word “wildness” so many times I lost count 😉

Where to begin? Wuthering Heights is an epic of a book. It is a book of wildness. Wildness seeps into everything. Untamed personalities, who love wildly, who behave wildly, unsocially, acting like a force of nature, whenever the mood takes them. It is a book on the wildness of nature, and the wildness of human nature.

The landscape plays a big part in the telling of this story, in a similar way that Bodmin Moor plays a significant role in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. We see the changes in the landscape through the changing seasons, we are told what birds are where and when, what is in bloom, what grows up on the moor, told of the power of the wind and of the barren, stark landscape.

But this untameable wildness seeps into everything, creeping across the empty landscape, a space of isolation and limited civilisation. Houses are like islands, cut off from other houses and villages and towns by this harsh but beautiful expanse of moor. It, this wildness, creeps under doorways, and over thresholds, and takes hold of those who dwell within.

For me, Wuthering Heights is a story of the destructive, dark side of love. Of course, it’s melodramatic, and the majority of the characters are not nice, nor do they necessarily behave in a socially-accepted way. And, the wildness found within the characters varies by degrees. Isabella Linton suffers greatly for a rather short moment of wildness, in which she succumbs to her foolish feelings for Heathcliff, and the latter uses them to his best advantage. Heathcliff, on the other hand, has his wildness nurtured and encouraged by Cathy and her own wildness as a child, and this seems to take on a life of its own, growing as he grows until it almost encompasses his entire life and governs every choice, every decision he makes.

It also depicts the cyclitic form of nature, of life. Consequences follow actions. How a thing is nurtured will be reflected in how it grows. And yet, these cycles are not closed and doomed to repeat themselves in an endless round of repetition. Cycles can be broken. Good can come from the bad. Natures once wild can be tamed, as we see in the closing pages of the book.

For me, Wuthering Heights is a story of wildness, perhaps even the story of wildness. It is raw, it is savagely, intensely romantic, it is dark. It is a story of love, a story of a lack of love, a story of one soul inhabiting two beings. It is the story of the wind howling on the moor, rattling at the windows, whispering of the wildness of the human spirit, of the untameable power of love.

Rating

Short Story Review: A Selection of Ghost Stories by M.R. James

For my Halloween Reads 2020, I read four spooky short stories by M.R. James, and although I am going to review each one separately – and briefly – I thought a single post was a more efficient use of time and blog space 😉

Count Magnus

Summary – Mr Wraxhall, a travel-writer, goes to Sweden, where he comes across the interesting character of Count Magnus in the local history. But interest quickly turns into something far more deadly…

Favourite Quote – “…and found myself (as before) turning in at the churchyard gate, and, I believe, singing or chanting some such words as, ‘Are you awake, Count Magnus? Are you asleep, Count Magnus?’…”

Review – It took me a little while to get into this story, but when I did I found the sense of place that M.R. James conjured was captivating.  As the story progressed, it gained momentum and the tension certainly increased. Although there are certainly horror elements to the tale, I think it’s the psychological element of this one that makes it memorable.

Rating

The Mezzotint

Summary – The story of a picture that is so much more than it seems at first glance…

Favourite Quote – “What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor, and he declares now that if he had been left in the dark at that moment he would have had a fit.”

Review – The Mezzotint was my favourite of the four short stories I read.  It was tense, atmospheric and dramatic. Some paintings do have eerie qualities to them, so for this one to achieve what it did and tell such a sinister story…all I can say is that it was the perfect Halloween Read! Chilling. Highly recommended!

Rating

‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’

Summary – A college professor takes a short holiday on the East Coast, and is asked by a colleague to check out a site for an archaeological dig. But he finds so much more than he expects…

Favourite Quote – “Few people can resist the temptation to try a little amateur research in a department quite outside their own, if only for the satisfaction of showing how successful they would have been had they only taken it up seriously.”

Review – This story took a little while to get going, but once it did, my! As I mentioned in the previous two reviews, the tension builds quite dramatically, and I must confess, unexpectedly, because at first, I wasn’t quite sure I was that hooked into the story.  There’s an almost nightmarish quality to this one, so if like me, you feel the beginning is too slow, stick with it. I wasn’t disappointed, and I hope neither will you be.

Rating

Casting the Runes

Summary – Mr Karswell writes books on esoteric subjects, but good luck to the reviewer whose finds his writing less than remarkable…

Favourite Quote – “Why, my dear, just as present Mr Karswell is a very angry man.  But I don’t know much about him otherwise, except that he is a person of wealth, his address is Lufford Abbey, Warwickshire, and he’s an alchemist, apparently, and wants to tell us all about…”

Review – My least favourite of the four stories, this one felt it took a great deal of time to get going, and probably suffered for being the last one I read.  I thought it more of a mystery with an almost fantasy bent to it than a truly ghostly read like the other three. The story was interesting, and I was keen to see how the tale was resolved, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to the characters. The locations were interesting too, but unfortunately, this probably wasn’t a good choice on my part for a Halloween Read.

Rating

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean, cold-hearted, miserly man, whose life is changed when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.  Marley informs him that he will be visited by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

And so begins one of the most famous tales of redemption in literature….

It has only been a few years since I last read A Christmas Carol, but I was surprised to learn that when I checked my review index, I hadn’t reviewed it.  (I knew that A-Z index would come in handy one day).  So, I thought it would be a great addition to this year’s Festive Reads Fortnight.  To add a little festive fun to the reading of it, I read a chapter a night, by candlelight, in the run-up to Christmas Eve, the last chapter being reserved for the night before Christmas.

What struck me most about the story on this particular reading, was the humour with which Dickens tells the story of Scrooge, something that I think I haven’t picked up on previous readings.  Of course, humour isn’t something one readily thinks of when reading Dickens, but it’s refreshing to read an old classic in a new light.  However, that doesn’t mean that the philanthropic message and the plight of the poor was lost.  Nor the warning that by putting money before all else, you will create a cold and lonely life for yourself: a message that is just as important today, as when the story was written in 1843, I think.

Compelling reading, and perhaps my favourite Dickens story.

Book Review: The Chimes by Charles Dickens

The Chimes, or A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In is a short story / novella by Charles Dickens published in the 1840’s.  It is the second of the five Christmas stories that he wrote, the most popular and well-known being the first, A Christmas Carol.

Toby Veck, called Trotty due to the strange way he walks, is a hard-working, honest but poor man, who has a deep obsession with the bells in the church tower, the porch of which is where he waits for work as a ticket porter.  The strange thing about Trotty is that when the bells chime, it’s as if he hears them ringing out messages.  He lives with his daughter, Meg, who is planning on marrying her sweetheart on New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Eve, Toby hears the tolling of the bells, and thinking they are calling to him, he goes to the church, where he finds the door to the bell tower unlocked and open.  Climbing the stairs, when he reaches the bells, he is greeted with the vision of a multitude of goblins dancing.  But what message does the spirits of the bells have for Toby this particular New Year’s Eve?

As you make your way through The Crimes, it would be hard to miss the strong social and moral theme that is the backbone of the story.  This is no surprise as Dickens is well-known for depicting the plight of the poor and downtrodden of Victorian Britain.  One of the main things to strike me as I read the story was the terrible and cruel personality of the rich characters, the worst part being that they actually believed that they were kind and generous, compassionate and helpful to those less fortunate to them.

There are also a number of strange character names, which, when I read Dickens, I must say I look out for and make a note of 🙂  My favourite strange-sounding name in this story would have to be Mrs Chickenstalker.

The story is a fairly gloomy one, one that brought tears to my eyes at one point, but it clearly brings home the message of how hard life was for the poor of Victorian towns and cities.  And yet, the message in the story might be one of hope or overcoming the despair of the circumstances you find yourself in.  Still, it is quite a dark, gloomy read.

In my opinion, if you enjoy the classics, this is a great story to read over the Christmas and New Year period but if you are looking for a more light-hearted festive read, you probably won’t enjoy this so much.