I was a huge fan of the Brontë sisters, Emily, Anne and Charlotte. Now I’m older, wiser and have had a couple of genuine love affairs, I see that their work, in particular Emily Brontë’s novel “Wuthering Heights”, reflects their own thwarted love lives.
Due to society, etiquette and limited opportunities for women in 1847, and through no fault of her own, Emily was greatly restricted when it came to writing about tainted male/female relationships. To me, “Wuthering Heights” mirrors a lack of follow through; this inability to write a believable mental and physical connection between two people doesn’t come about because there’s no inherent knowledge behind it. Although it could be argued that it’s a fictitious story and, even in her sheltered life as a clergyman’s daughter, the themes of domestic upheaval, male aggression and marrying for prestige was something she may have encountered. One man I almost felt sorry for in the novel was Edgar Linton, the second-best husband with good prospects. To quote from Catherine “Whatever our souls are made of, his (Heathcliff) and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning or frost from fire.”
Nevertheless, I have re-read this novel and could just about smack the protagonists heads together and say “get real, guys!” If I were Catherine I would have stayed well away from Heathcliff, walked off without a backward glance. Either that or suggest he has counselling; obsessive and vengeful man that he is. No, wait, they both needed counselling! Catherine certainly had issues. She says of Heathcliff “I'd as soon put that little canary into the park on a winter's day, as recommend you to bestow your heart on him!...He's not a rough diamond, nor a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic; he's a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man” but she doesn’t heed her own warning. To add to the angst, her brother Hindley is a nasty fly-in-the-ointment with his uppity treatment of adopted Heathcliff. Gotta have someone to abuse, eh Hindley, especially Heathcliff with his uncontrollable gypsy blood?
The sense-of-place is strong for me, dark, brooding Yorkshire, and I shiver when reading some of the almost poetic descriptions. I'd love to walk through that countryside. But from my viewpoint, to say Catherine and Heathcliff were passionately in love is overstating their affair when they caused each other so much misery. Their families are destroyed and their agonising love does not redeem them in the end. This novel is billed ‘romance’ but for me it’s a turmoil of mixed emotions between two foolish individuals who should have known when to call it quits.
My vote is 2 stars, allowing for the fact it was written in another time, another era. Don’t let me put you off, if you are into gothic torment and unrequited love, this is the book for you!
(P.S. It’s a pity that Emily Brontë died young and this is the only book she wrote; published under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell. Today we know that she could have elaborated and maybe gone far beyond the doomed Earnshaw family).
"Every story has three sides to it - yours, mine and the facts" Foster Meharny Russell