Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Wuthering Heights Readalong - Some Rambly Thoughts

Post updated to include links to other readalong participants' reviews!

Today I had my last exam (until May)! Hurrah! So it's probably about time for a post about the Wuthering Heights readalong that I've been doing with Susie @ Girl with her Head in a Book (who is hosting the readalong with Kirsty @ The Literary Sisters). Susie posted her thoughts quite a while ago, but I've been deliberately holding off on reading it until I can get my own, uncontaminated thoughts onto (virtual) paper. (But I will definitely be checking out her post right after writing this!)

I mentioned in my post announcing the readalong that I first read Wuthering Heights a couple of years ago whilst on holiday in Yorkshire (appropriate, right?), and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. But since then I haven't been able to stop thinking about it! I think my initial doubts were mainly due to my mistaken impression of what the story would be about. I expected a gothic love story, a bit like Jane Eyre. But that's not what Wuthering Heights is really about at all!

So what are my thoughts this time around?

***Warning! These thoughts will most definitely contain SPOILERS!***

Hooray for free kindle editions!

This time around, I discovered that Wuthering Heights is so much more than I gave it credit for the first time. I guess this is probably the reason I couldn't stop thinking about it, but there is so much more to this book than meets the eye.

One of the main themes that really struck me, that I didn't notice the first time around, was that of fate and the control that external forces have over our lives. In so many cases, the characters start out full of promise but are tainted or destroyed by other people's treatment of them. Heathcliff is, of course, the prime example; though the first Mr Earnshaw treats him well, he is subsequently despised by Hindley and treated horribly when Mr Earnshaw dies. Plus, there are recurring hints that Heathcliff's character was doomed from the outset by his dubious provenance. 

To be honest, my opinions of (almost) all the characters were less than favourable for the majority of the book. I oscillated between feelings of sympathy and murderous rage, and at some points I literally had to put the book down because I hated the characters so much and couldn't stand them any longer. That might make it sound like I didn't enjoy the book, but I actually found it completely fascinating how much I could love a book whose characters were so repulsive! I didn't know that was possible!

Throughout the book, the question of how much control the characters have over their own destinies continues to resurface. This was possibly what made my relationship to the characters so confusing, as no matter how much I hated their actions, there was always the vague notion that they weren't completely responsible. Linton Heathcliff is probably the prime example, and though he is probably the character I hated the most in the whole book (and that's saying something!), he arguably has the most excuse for his horrible actions. He's sickly and spoilt his entire childhood, then cruelly treated and manipulated by Heathcliff, so even though he is completely horrible by the end of the book, it's not clear how much of it is his character and how much is the result of external influence.

Heathcliff and Nelly talk about Linton's character. But what causes him to behave the way he does?

As a contrast, it was interesting (and very frustrating at time!) to experience the impotence of the household's servant and part-time narrator Nelly Dean, whose best efforts to remedy potentially harmful situations never seemed to be enough. Powerlessness, both in terms of one's own life and that of other people, was a pretty huge theme throughout, and I found it super interesting! The themes of revenge and forgiveness were also pretty prominent, especially since it is the whole reason for Heathcliff's hateful actions towards the other characters.

I was also fascinated by hints at the supernatural, and not just through Cathy's ghost in the dream and in Heathcliff's mind, but also through the extremes of human nature (especially Heathcliff's!) and the generally oppressive and haunting atmosphere of the Heights. Basically the whole thing is full of atmosphere actually! It really made the book for me.


(Wow, so that looks a teensy bit like a mini essay... Can you tell what I've been doing with my time lately?)

But what were my *concise* overall thoughts?

It's actually pretty hard to pinpoint exactly how I felt about this book. I most definitely enjoyed it a lot more this time around, partly because I knew the plot already so I could concentrate on some of the other stuff, and partly because I know how much it has haunted me and will continue to haunt me... I think having a long-standing relationship to a book is essential if I'm ever to consider it a favourite.

The most amazing and fascinating thing for me is how this book can inspire such incredibly strong emotions in me, and how it can create such a haunting atmosphere. I don't really know what else to say, except that I loved it!

Please check out these posts by the other readalong participants:
...and please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. What a great review, Rachel! When I read WH (last year I think) I really wasn't impressed. But I do like how you pointed out the powerlessness of the characters, because I think this was one of the issues that bothered me. The characters were powerless but it wasn't necessarily always plausible; I felt the hand of Emily manipulating them throughout the story and because of that, I felt the book lacked a life of its own. I don't fault her for it, because she was still young and inexperienced but it prevented me from connecting with the story. I did think her writing was marvellous though and it's sad that she didn't live long enough to be able to refine her craft.

    1. Thanks so much! I was completely nonplussed by it when I first read it, probably for that same reason.. it's so frustrating to read a book where you're just willing for something not to happen and it does anyway (or the other way round). I think the main reason for my loving it this time was the fact that my emotions towards it were so strong. I kept thinking about it even when I wasn't reading it (even when I was trying to sleep).. It is such a shame Emily didn't survive - I'd love to try another book by her! Alas...

  2. I'm so glad I gave this book one more chance for this readalong. I'm finding it increasingly fascinating. It was also hugely influential -- there are many other books (e.g. The Secret Garden) that could not have been written without it, and I'd love to look at that. Thanks for participating!

    1. It's so interesting how many of us have completely changed our views on the book this time around! I hadn't thought about The Secret Garden being influenced by it.. I absolutely adore that book! (another one for the re-read list!) It's been a pleasure to take part in such an interesting discussion! Hooray for book-blogging :D

  3. What a great review! I was so glad I gave this book a second chance. I loved your point about the supernatural. Reading all these other reviews of the book made me realize things I forgot to mention in my post. That was one of them.

    This book discussion was so fun! I would definitely do this again.

    1. Thanks! Yes, me too! It's so strange how all of our views have changed. The supernatural element really intrigued me, especially now I've thought about it a bit more and can see how it could all just be in the characters' heads (or just Nelly Dean's head, since she's the one telling the story), but while you're in the story it seems so powerful and real.

      I definitely forgot to mention loads of stuff in mine, or just didn't notice loads of stuff that other people picked up on! Everyone seems to have mentioned the unreliable narrator, for example, and I didn't pick up on that at all :P

      Yes it was, wasn't it!? I definitely would too :)

  4. Hello! It has been so much fun doing a readalong together! I am so excited that so many people joined in! I really liked your review - I know what you mean about not liking the characters. I did end up liking the younger Catherine and Hareton but that is still a bit equivocal. My least favourite character was Linton too! I think you're right though about the landscape, it's just such a stunning novel and I've really enjoyed revisiting. Hope your week is going well :)

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment! I loved taking part. Talking about books is so much fun :D Yeah, Catherine and Hareton are by far the most redeemable characters, though they still have their moments! I'm so glad you chose this book - I loved revisiting it too! What's up next??? And thanks, same to you :)


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