Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Classic #5)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Classic #5)

Shelved: Classic (Gothic, romance)
Published: 1847 by Thomas C. Newby
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #5
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my fifth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge!  It’s not too late to join me (and 180+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

“May you not rest, as long as I am living. You said I killed you – haunt me, then”.

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.

Spoiler alert: I found it impossible to talk about Wuthering Heights without saying too much, so don’t read ahead if you would prefer to know nothing about the book!

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I have no idea! Wuthering Heights would have been one of the first classics I ever heard about, surely? Or perhaps I first heard Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush as a young child. But it was one that kept cropping up as a book I had to read.

WHY I Chose to Read It
It’s a popular classic and the only one in the Goodreads top ten that I hadn’t read. I received a lovely Penguin English Library edition through Caboodle. What I love about older classics is that I can switch between reading a physical copy and the eBook on my Kindle/iPad. I started the eBook on my way back to London from Bath and enjoyed sharing quotes on Goodreads:

“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.”

WHAT Makes It A Classic
I expected Wuthering Heights to be a classic romance story about a young couple, Cathy and Heathcliff. I expected them to roam the Yorkshire moors, proclaiming their love for each other. But it’s much more than that – and I’m not completely certain that it is a love story. Wuthering Heights has elements of a Gothic horror story. An intense story about revenge, betrayal, anger and jealousy, it’s written in beautiful the prose that the Brontë sisters are known for.

I found Wuthering Heights confusing at first because we’re introduced to a myriad of characters – I suggest viewing a family tree, although it will give you spoilers. We then become familiar with the Earnshaws and the Lintons, two families caught up Cathy and Heathcliff’s drama as well as their own conflicts. It’s narrated mainly by Mr. Lockwood (a tenant of Heathcliff’s) and Nelly (a housekeeper who was close to both families). Even so, it was Cathy and Heathcliff that kept me reading and I understand why they’re the most memorable part of the novel.

Wuthering Heights
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Before you ask, if I had to pick, I’d choose Jane Eyre, one of my favourite classics so far (and I probably should have rated it 5* rather than 4*!). I also need to read Samantha Ellis’ How to Be a Herione, which particularly focuses on Catherine Earnshaw and Jane Eyre.

I expected a lot from Wuthering Heights and was pleasantly surprised – it’s full of awful characters that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from and conflicts that were both terrible and exciting. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of mental and physical cruelty! I didn’t know that the book began with Mr. Lockwood and that we wouldn’t get to hear directly from Catherine and Heathcliff. I didn’t know that the book was split into two parts – Nelly’s flashbacks to the story of Catherine and Heathcliff and then the present day, about 18 years later. I am baffled as to why people envy Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, but it was certainly an enjoyable one to read about – I adored the drama and Catherine’s fiery personality.

Even though the second part of the novel wasn’t as enjoyable for me, I liked discovering that Wuthering Heights was more complicated than expected and that this troublesome story and cast of vivid characters finally came full circle. As it is titled Wuthering Heights, it doesn’t surprise me now to realise it’s really a story of Heathcliff’s life and transformation – from the damaged young boy in his childhood to his eventual death in his late thirties, as master of Wuthering Heights.

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
I expect so because the story of Cathy and Heathcliff continues to draw people in, although they’re only part of the story.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who enjoyed Jane Eyre and want to read another classic Brontë story. People who are curious about Cathy and Heathcliff – but are prepared to experience much more. People who enjoy intense drama!

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”

Wuthering Heights

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20 thoughts on “Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Classic #5)

  1. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is one of my favourite classic books, so I’m very glad to see you enjoyed it as well! 🙂

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  3. I am delighted you enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights and thank you for taking the time to review the novel. I first came across the book as a 2 hour abridgement on audio cassette and, later read the braille edition which still stands (all 4 braille volumes) on my bookshelves. Anyone wanting to read the novel for the first time should, in my view go for the book in it’s entirety as much of the plot and beauty of the prose is lost in the abridgement process. Kevin

  4. YAY!!!! I’m so happy you read it!

    I love this book (and like you, not as much as I love Jane Eyre), and yet I too still wonder why people idolize Cathy and Heathcliff. There are passages that I absolutely adore and wish people still spoke like that today (“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” or “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” and “I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!” and most definitely “I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you.”), and yet in context it’s obsessive, borderline emotionally abusive. In lit classes they always talked about Emily’s determination to show the most animalistic, truest human emotions, and that it shocked people then as well as now to see such horrid things and yet still love it. We can never know what she truly intended, but even still…hats off to her!

    Completely understand your confusion on the names and family tree stuff. The first time I read this, I was reading from a 1970s edition and it had a handy family tree after the title page. All the other editions I own don’t contain that (but they’re far prettier!).

    • It’s so interesting that when Emily first released her book, people loathed it. Poor girl – she also struggled with depression. But Charlotte helped her shore it up a little, and then it had some success but nothing like Charlotte’s success with Jane Eyre. But generations later, Wuthering Heights is a timeless classic and always will be! I’ve always loved Wuthering Heights. In some ways, it reminds me of The Phantom of the Opera. I love the intensity of Catherine and Heathcliff, the spectral possessiveness of both of them. Unrivaled! However, I’m still a proud optimist, so my favorite Catherine is Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey.

    • I’m happy to hear it’s not just me who got confused with the names! And yes, context is everything when it comes to Cathy and Heathcliff. Perhaps people are thinking about one of the film adaptations (which I need to see!).

  5. What a beautiful edition! I’ve read this novel twice, and have both times come to the conclusions that this story is not for me. I enjoyed Cathy and Heathcliff – esp. the part when they were growing up, but I think the tone of the book is too gloomy and melancholic to me.


  6. I didn’t like Wuthering Heights when I read it. I couldn’t stand the characters, and I knew that it was done deliberately but I just couldn’t see why. It’s funny how some books you connect to and some you don’t. My friend explained what makes it so iconic and I understand a bit more now. Although I didn’t like it, I am planning to read it again at some point so see if my outlook will change. It’s funny what time and experience does. 🙂

    • I remember, as a child listening to an adaptation of Wilde’s “The Importance Of Being Earnest”. I didn’t enjoy it at the time. However, reading it as an adult I found it funny and relished the experience. Perhaps you will find the same with “Wuthering Heights”. Kevin

    • I didn’t like Wuthering Heights either. I tried reading it several times before finally managing it last year with the help of the audiobook (I swapped between reading and listening). I agree, the characters annoyed me and it was all just so depressing. I don’t think I’ll reread it, since it was slow-going for me, but I might try a movie or TV adaptation.

    • It could definitely be worth a re-read! 🙂

  7. bookishlibrary

    Hey! This is not about wuthering heights but I’m just wondering.. What’s your favorite YA book?

  8. Morgan @ Gone with the Words

    I first read this book in my high school English class when I was 15 and I remember the class being very divided- there seems to be only love or hate for Wuthering Heights! I happen to love it, I’ve read it 6 times… and I can’t exactly say why! Like you mentioned, it’s not particularly romantic. It’s obsessive and dark and intense. But something about it spoke to me. I think it’s the language, the gothic setting, the fact that on the surface Cathy and Hareton seem to be forming the relationship that Heathcliff wished he had with Catherine (and I agree about the confusing names oh my god!). And the narrative structure really is interesting. I’m glad you liked the book! I always wish Emily Bronte had written at least one more, I’m so curious what it would have been like!

    • I’d definitely be picking up another one from her if she had written one! Wow, six times! It’s one I’ll be re-reading, but I’d like to watch some of the adaptations first.

  9. Interesting thoughts. I’ve never liked it, and dislike all the characters who are just out to self destruct, apart from the children. I’m not sure it’s because my introduction to it was when I studied it and A level and then had to do it again at uni, I’ve just found it a chore to read. I do however LOVE Jane Eyre.

    • Oh I think I like self-destructive characters – I never really thought about it. I quite enjoy the drama. I do have the benefit of not having to study it!

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