Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I listened to Ruth Golding’s audio book reading of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights while crocheting Attic 24‘s Moorland afghan. I drank tea. It was a cold, foggy weekend. It all set the scene for this dark and brooding class British novel which completely enthralled me.

Bronte’s novel, first published in 1847, came out to mixed reviews. Critics thought the story demonic, shocking and too dark to be in good taste. The graphic descriptions of physical and mental cruelty were too much for a Victorian audience used to romance narratives that followed along sequentially. Despite all that, some acknowledged its brilliance and novelty in style.

The story is told in flashbacks by two unreliable narrators: Nelly, the housekeeper and guardian of Miss Catherine; and Lockwood, the tenant at Thrushcross Grange who found Catherine’s diary. Neither of them know the whole story with Lockwood getting most of it from Nelly and Nelly often intervening in the events or embellishing her telling of it.

It is a romance classic, albeit of a love too passionate for the lovers to survive it. A haunting, gothic novel that follows the life of Heathcliff, a street child found and brought to Wuthering Heights by Catherine’s father. He obsessively loves Catherine as his own soul and spends his life getting revenge on everyone who dares come between them. Catherine laments that she is Heathcliff and ultimately dies of a broken heart from his pain. Not able to let her go, he curses her to haunt him until his dying day. She obliges.

The second half of the story involves Catherine and Heathcliff’s respective children: Cathy and Linton; and Hareton, Catherine’s nephew; all of whom grow up in less than ideal circumstances on the bleak and lonely Moors. Cathy under the shadow of her dead mother, Hareton under the punishing neglect of Heathcliff and Linton under the cruelty of Heathcliff’s hatred for the boy. Linton dies from a weak constitution and Cathy and Hareton eventually fall in love and are planned to be married as the book ends.

Attic24’s afghan is based on the Yorkshire Moors in summer, with the yarn depicting the beautiful greens and browns of the earth before giving way to the purples of the blooming heathers and then the blues of the piercing clear skies. A time Catherine loved to roam the Moors. It’s hard to imagine the book being set anywhere else. The landscape dominates much of the story – the freedom of roaming the hills on warm days, the musical calls of the birds, the hidden dangers of the storms and darkness both in the Moors and in the people who call Wuthering Heights home.

The telling of story may be done, but I continue to crochet this Moorland afghan, contemplating the raw beauty and power of the narrative with each stitch. Perhaps by the time the afghan is complete the tale will have stopped haunting me. But I doubt it.


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