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Monday, April 20, 2009

Withering interest

Nearly 21 years ago I was assigned to read Wuthering Heights in my sophomore AP English class.  I think I may have read three chapters.  It was all I could take.  I have no idea how I managed the chapter quizzes and final test on the book.  Maybe I failed them. 


Ever since, this title has rested on a dusty shelf in my mind labeled "To Read."  This past Christmas, a paperback copy was wrapped and under the tree with a tag addressed to "Mina."  I anxiously began.

Last Thursday night, I finished.

It's important to note that I often get through a novel in 2 or 3 days, depending on how much I like the book and how much time I can steal from my other responsibilities at the moment.  Lately, I've been able to steal a fair amount of time.  Since starting Heights, I've read The Host, Spires of Stone, The Friday Night Knitting Club, Tower of Strength (which I reviewed here), the entire Twilight series for the second time, and the Midnight Sun partial draft.  I also moved, I felted two purses, I sewed two dresses and guided the sewing of another dress.  However, anytime I'd pick up Wuthering Heights, and I'd fall asleep after a chapter or two.

How do I hate thee, Wuthering Heights?  Let me count [a few of] the ways ...

I dislike the multiple narrators.  Mr. Lockwood, to whom the story is being related by Nelly the servant, seems entirely extraneous.  I see that his existance just provides a platform for the telling of the tale, but I think it's too much.  It's even a little consfusing at times when Nelly is describing accounts given to her by yet other characters.

The main characters, Heathcliff and Catherine, are anti-heros.  They are in love, but their insanely bad behavior and selfishness not only destroys their lives but the lives of most all around them as well.  I read a piece on this book that claimed that this was a more true to life situation than the typical love story with a happy ending.  Well, happy endings may be slightly unrealistic, but I can't say that I often find violent, malevolent, murderous, vindictive narcissists falling in love and ruining everything they touch, either.

Even the non-evil characters are not really good.  They are spineless and manipulative in their own rights.  There is not a redeeming personality in the lot.  There isn't even an endearing one. Nor were they characters I loved to hate.  I will conceed that by the last two pages the younger Cathy and Hareton appeared that they would fare well together with the all rest of their family finally in the grave.  Yet it hardly seemed redemptive of the story at large.

I don't get in to the Gothic themes of the mid-nineteenth century.  Plot twists become over the top for literature not meant to be fantasy.  The crazy first wife in Jane Eyre is about the most I can handle;  I at least found that story line somewhat intriguing.  Heights, no.  It's plot was just, in my opinion, long and drawn out and messy and not the slightest bit interesting.  I'd call it a train wreck, but I had no problem looking away.  It was maintaining enough interest to continue that was difficult.

I am glad I read and finished this book.  I am also glad that I ate a plate of escargot once on a cruise.  That way, if offered them ever again, I can simply reply that I'm not in the mood for snails at the moment.  But I think that neither Wuthering Heights nor escargot deserve the "classic" status that they enjoy.

21 fishy comments:

CaJoh said...

Thanks for the review. I always get a lot of the classic romances confused with one another. It wasn't until recently that I watched a lot of them as PBS specials and realized that they are pretty good stories. There probably was good reason why you never finished the book in school— now you know why.

2busy said...

Your high school English teacher would be proud of your review although would probably disagree with your verdict. I think that if High School required reading included books like Twilight or the Host, I think our reading interests would go up. Reading scores in fluency and comprehension would be higher because the youth would enjoy what they are reading as opposed to trying to swallow escargot.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Most Victorian era fiction is pretty tragic. About ten or so years ago, some guy wrote a very long tome called The Quinqunx (or something close) that was very interesting, excellently well researched but ended so tragically, I wanted to go to the guys house and beat him up. My brother told me only after recommending it as a good read that it is modeled after Dickens. If I had known that, I wouldn't have picked it up (a lot of Dickens is pretty sour). I DO like the painting on the cover of this copy pictured, though! P.S. Don't read Tess of the D'Ubervilles.

Jillene said...

I read it in AP Engilsh my sophmore year. I pretty much felt the same way about it.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I read Jane Eyre for the first time last summer and LOVED it. Couldn't believe I'd never read it before. So I picked up Wuthering Heights, and no thanks. Couldn't finish it either. And I'm not as dedicated as you are. If it can't hold my attention, for more than a few chapters, then it's lost it's chance. The same thing happened last year with Crime and Punishment. I think I gave it over 200 pages before I gave up.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Please forgive all the punctuation and grammar errors in my comment. You'd think it miraculous that I've read any books at all with writing like that. :)

SO said...

I don't think that I have ever read a "classic" I can't get past the language barrier. Sad to say. I don't feel bad about missing out on this one though, after your review.

Kristina P. said...

It's definitely not a feel good book. The movie is actually sort of interesting.

Lara said...

It's one I've never read, or even had to read in an English class. I always hear very mixed reviews of it, so it will probably be a while before I ever even think of reading it.

But congratulations on getting through!

Diane said...

I don't get into most Classics either. I did love Les Miserables though.

Brittany Marie said...

I dislike the multiple narrators, the creepy elements and the language itself. I do, however, love that particular cover. It's probably the reason I bought that copy of the book. LOL

Heatherlyn said...

I liked your review. I can relate to taking a very long time to finishing certain books. I think longer ago books were written to be drawn out, since people didn't have tv to watch in their spare time. I've never read it, but am mildly curious.

susette said...

Oh wow! I guess I'm glad I've never read it. I won't be picking that one up anytime soon. I am reading Jane Eyre now and enjoying it :)

Happy Monday to you ☼

veronica said...

I'm pretty sure I read this in high school as well. But I've apparently blocked it from my mind. Maybe it's for the best.

PS. Way back then, my little sister couldn't pronounce the title and called it "Withering Higlets".

Becky said...

I dislike even the movies. You are so right about the main characters being totally selfish! Not even worth the time to read it, IMO. Get the plot from wikipedia if needed.

Wendyburd1 said...

I don't read bonnet books.

Melanie J said...

I've been warned by people who know my tastes that I shouldn't bother with it. Your review makes me sure of that. I HATE that kind of book and those kinds of characters. I actually hate Romeo and Juliet, too, although I pretty much love all the rest of Shakespeare. Thanks for the review and the warning. Jane Eyre was okay but that's where I draw my line.

rachel said...

That is the best review of that...and I use this term loosely...book I have ever read. They did a movie on it on PBS a few weeks ago. I couldn't get through five minutes of it. I totally agree with you about the escargot...though I would go as far as to say I would rather eat the snails in my garden before I read that book again. Wow, I didn't realize I felt this strongly. Thanks Mina for bringing it to my attention! :D

3 Bay B Chicks said...

What I think you should really do is copy this post for your HS AP English teacher and send it his way. Even after all these years, you remained committed to your cause...and deserve an A!

I am sure that you could find him on Facebook! :)

-Francesca

Rhonda said...

This makes me laugh. My Susie was assigned the book last year and told me it was like eating raw, stinky liver pate...while plugging her nose the whole time. HOWEVER, we are ALL big fans of Pride & Prejudice. Not the same author, but along the same genre. MUCH better. It has been far too long ago that I too "had" to read Withering Heights.

I am sure it is some weeding out process for lonely, mean, bitter Language Arts teachers.

clan of the cave hair said...

I have never read that book. And now, even though your review cautions me, I'm curious!