Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

This marks the first time I have ever read Wuthering Heights without needing it to be Jane Eyre. And I hope Wuthering Heights appreciates that I made sacrifices in order to read it with eyes and mind uncontaminated by my frantic, abiding, decades-long love of Jane Eyre. That Mia Wasikowska movie came out and I went to see it and afterwards I really, really wanted to read Jane Eyre, and it just so happens I have a beautiful copy of Jane Eyre with gorgeous woodcut illustrations, which Legal Sister got for me and then wiped down every page with a dryer sheet so it wouldn’t smell like smoke. True story. But I didn’t read it, because I wanted to be fair to Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights is about an unpleasant, spoiled girl called Catherine Earnshaw, whose unpleasant father adopts an unpleasant waif called only Heathcliff, who falls in love with Catherine and whose life is made miserable by her unpleasant bullying older brother Hindley, whom Heathcliff gets revenge on by raising his (Hindley’s) son Hareton to be an unpleasant asshole — I know, right? Lamest revenge ever. There’s also a whiny posh kid called Edgar Linton, whom Catherine marries even though she’s in love with Heathcliff, and subsequently there’s an entirely new generation of unpleasant characters growing to adulthood so they can insult each other all over the moors of Yorkshire.

I got through the first half of the book fairly quickly, then ran out of juice and hid it from myself under piles of clothes in my bedroom for several weeks. (Sorry!) Then, reminded that I was doing this for a readalong, I excavated it and staunchly carried on. I took the local train instead of the express on the way home from work several times, because I knew I wasn’t going to finish it unless it was the only book available to me. I would still not have finished if it hadn’t occurred to me to pretend that Isabella Linton, who is subjected to Taming-of-the-Shrew-style mistreatment by Heathcliff after they (spoiler) marry, was Bella Swan from Twilight. This worked a treat, as it allowed me to enjoy Isabella’s misfortune without feeling like a bad feminist. I was all, Yeah! That’s what happens when you fall in love with creepy, abusive guys just because they’re tall, dark, and mysterious. And when Isabella Swan Heathcliff has her rotten son, Colin Linton Heathcliff, I pretended that his nastiness was only temporary until Mary and Dickon came around to teach him about spiritualism Magic.

I don’t know, y’all. I understand that the point of the book is that Cathy and Heathcliff have this unrelenting hatred and love, and that’s supposed to enthrall and fascinate us. I get that about it, but I don’t find it enthralling, or even interesting. I couldn’t keep the characters apart (must all their names be so similar?) and I barely cared that I was confused. Nobody likes anybody. Nobody is ever nice to anybody. It’s exhausting and dreary to read about everyone being loathsome all the time, up until about twenty pages before the end, when two characters finally decide to be nice to each other. Well, great, kids, you couldn’t have thought of this at the beginning of the story?

(They weren’t born at the beginning of the story.)

Well, it’s official. I don’t like Wuthering Heights. I have given it every opportunity to thrill me. I’ve read it numerous times after Jane Eyre, and now I’ve read it not after Jane Eyre, with the openest of minds. I wanted to love it and I found that I could not. So much for Wuthering Heights. If Mr. Mybug wishes to prove it was written by Branwell Bronte, I have no objection. Bella Swan can have it. Harper can reissue it with absurd taglines until the cows come home. I do not care.

Thanks to the lovely JoV for helping me motivate myself to give this classic a fair try! I am glad to have the book’s plot properly fixed in my mind at last, and glad that I never have to worry about it again. My readalong buddies were JoV, Ana, and Kelly — go check out their reviews too!

59 thoughts on “Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

    • Yeah, I did like Hareton. I felt bad for poor old Hareton, and I was glad things worked out okay for him in the end. I might have liked Cathy Mark Two if she hadn’t spent all her time being a jerk to Hareton.

  1. I love Wuthering Heights with an abiding and unrelenting love. But I did laugh at the Isabella-Bella Swan passage and read it out loud to my daughter. I think you’re too old for it. It’s a book that should be read somewhere between 12-17, with the ideal age being 15.

    • But it can’t be that because I read it when I was younger! I read it for the first time when I was in my teens, I’m almost positive. I didn’t miss my window. I think the book’s just no good. :p

      • okay, then I was sillier when I was younger; I love the later comment about it being like reading a thunderstorm. Maybe it’s a story for only the overly dramatic.

  2. Pingback: Wuthering Heights : The end of mini Read-along (and the Royal Wedding!) « Bibliojunkie

  3. Aw.. thanks for the mention. At least now we know why we hate / (or between love and hate) the book!

    I’m glad you hate it though, it shows you are more sensible than me! (I still gave it 4 stars, maybe I should change my mind, it’s a strange book, mess up my head!)

    Thanks for the review. Don’t worry about oversleeping. 🙂

    • It at least shows I am more unpleasantly judgmental than you. :p I have to say, there were very few points in the book at which I thought it might be possible I’d like it after all. I wanted to though!

    • If you didn’t like it the first time, there’s no good reason you should like it in future. I always want to give books another chance, but in the case of Wuthering Heights, it’s just not the book for me.

  4. Hehe but also OH NO! This is my mum’s favourite book and I have decided to finally read it this year, even though someone told me there is puppy killing in it. I figured whatever happens I can hold out the prospect of watching the Tom Hardy BBC version of it as a treat/bribe to get myself to finish it. I want to like it a lot, because it is nice when you like favourite books of the people you are related to, but the more I hear the more I fear.

    Also I am a passionate JE fan (at the same time I think Jean Rhys was so RIGHT ON for writing the revisionist ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’) and maybe you can only like one Bronte the best? Yay for you reading it. My opinion of how I view the ending changes every couple of months, but I never stop loving it.

    • There is puppy killing but it’s not, like, it’s not a focal point of the book. I mean it’s in the olden days so it’s not like you see it and all the characters are going, ZOMG, TEH PUPPIES. I just pretended it wasn’t happening, and the characters didn’t talk about it much.

      Tell me what you think of the BBC version! I tried to get it at the library when I was there on Friday, but alas, it wasn’t where it claimed to be on the shelves.

      I support Jean Rhys, but I’m never going to read Wide Sargasso Sea. I’ve decided it’s not worth it if it will ruin Jane Eyre for me even a little bit. I want to love Jane Eyre forever. I can’t risk losing that. :p

      • Hard to say. It won’t ruin Jane for you (says the devoted Jane fan – isn’t she awesome?). Where you might end up on the ‘Kind of glad a house fell on Rochester’ scale is harder to predict.

        I still like him for Jane, because Jane should have everything she wants all the time and I think she corrals Rochester into an equal partnership through her strength of will. But now whenever he is doing something off the wall in the book (dressing as a gypsy, lying to Jane…) I am less inclined to be tolerant of his actions. So he is no longer my perfect romantic lead (Captain Wentworth forever now then), but I don’t spend the whole book wishing they didn’t end up together. And I’m still very pleased by the ending.

        Besides if I ever do get a bit too annoyed at him I just think about the satisfying ending to ‘South Riding’ which seems to me to be yet another Jane Eyre riffing book (based on what I saw of the recent BBC series). The dodgy man who is supposedly the hero gets his well deserved death and the mad woman gets to go back to her house. That’s one of the great things about JE being such a well loved classic I guess, everyone is riffing on it so you get multiple alternate universe versions of it.

  5. Well, at least you gave it the old college try as they say. Even if you are totally wrong about it. 😉 I had a similar reaction when I first read it in high school, but later had the more correct reaction when I read it in college and loved it. Still do.

    I give you credit though. If I had had the reaction to any book that you had to W.H. I would not have finished it, even for a read-a-long. There are too many wonderful books out there that I have not read yet to spend time on a book I’m not enjoying. This is why I’ve never gone more than 50 pages into Joyce’s Ulysses or more than 100 into Moby Dick.

    But this W.H. Read-a-long has got me interesting in re-reading it.

    • Hahaha, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I’m wrong. I will probably not read it again, but I’ll keep it in mind that I’m wrong.

      Can I just say, Moby Dick is not worth your time. I’m all for giving books a chance, but I’ll spare you the trouble about Moby Dick: Not worth it. Unbelievably long and not that good.

  6. Kudos for giving this one more shot! I loved Wuthering Heights the second time I read it – I loved the creepiness of it and the sheer insanity of the characters – so OTT! But I admit that I do not reread it – and I DO reread Jane Eyre.

    • So there you go. I reread Jane Eyre constantly. At least once a year, and often more. Thanks for giving Jane Eyre to little me, Mumsy!

  7. I loathed WH the second time I read it, which was when I was in high school. I only read it a second time because it was assigned in a college class, and then I really liked it. It doesn’t hold a candle to Jane Eyre, but I still find the over the top melodrama fascinating. I’ve since read it a third time (but on audio), and it held up for me, but it’s not one I tend to crave rereading.

    • I can’t imagine craving it, but maybe now that I’ve read it properly, and kept all the characters straight in my mind, I’ll find I do want to reread it someday. (Doubt it though.)

  8. Aw, it’s my favorite book, and I can’t tell you why because the characters are absolutely horrible people. I don’t like any of them. Just as Brontë seems about to make me feel sorry for one of them, they do something reprehensible. This seems to be a book people either love or hate. I highly recommend the audio version narrated by David Timson and Janet McTeer for folks who might be thinking of giving the book a try.

    You know, I think I just like the gothic atmosphere in that book. The structure is brilliant once you pick it apart. It has 34 chaptes, divided into 17 chapters up until Catherine dies and 17 chapters after. It’s put together like those Russian nested dolls, and it’s really clever: http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/faq.htm#chineseboxes.

    • I like the notion of the structure, actually. I love a book that uses good narrative structures, and I think if I liked Wuthering Heights I’d be raving about the structure, and the different narrative viewpoints, and so forth. And I’d be raving about the gothic atmosphere too. But the characters just put me off.

  9. WH is one of my favorite books ever. I read it about once a year; I love it so much that I had to stop reading Karen Savage’s mysteries after I realized her characters were named after the Heathcliffs and Lintons – it seemed insulting.

    But, I have to agree when people complain about how gloomy and nasty it is, and how all the characters are unloveable (I always try to stick up for Hareton, but he is just as bad as everyone else until the very end). I think the reason I like it is because of the story-within-a-story structure, which is all complicated and onion-y and makes rereading interesting. And nearly everyone is completely insane, and the plot is sort of operatically tragic, and the house itself is Gloom Central…I just love it. It’s like reading a thunderstorm.

    Have you read the other Bronte book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall?

    • “Like reading a thunderstorm” is my favorite thing anyone has ever said about Wuthering Heights. Since I frantically love that locution but do not love Wuthering Heights, I am going to steal that and apply it to other books. 😀

      I haven’t read Tenant, no, but I hear good things about it. My sister read it and pronounced Anne Bronte to be a badass feminist (her words), so I’m well excited to read it.

      • I was very surprised at what Anne has her protagonist get away with… the romantic part is strictly lite Harlequin but I think you’d enjoy Helen Graham. She is pretty badass.

  10. I hated, hated, hated this book, and I could barely get through it. I listened to part of it on the Janet McTeer audio, and though I think she’s a great actress, I couldn’t stand the way she made Cathy whine about Heathcliff. It really turned me off the book.

    But your review reminds me of why I hated this book and I don’t think McTeer’s reading could have been that much of a factor. I probably would have hated it if I’d only read the print version as well. Cathy and Heathcliff deserve each other.

    And don’t get me started on Bella Swan!! Ewwwww.

    • See, audiobooks are perilous. They can make or break a book, and once you hear a character in a particular voice, it’s hard to unhear it in that voice. But yes. Whatever voices they had, Cathy and Heathcliff would deserve each other.

      • Yesss! Unhearing a voice is almost impossible — I feel the same way about TV and movie adaptations. If I’ve seen a movie first that’s how I picture things in a book.

        Sometimes it’s a good thing though — I listened to the audio of Anansi Boys and Lenny Henry was so brilliant, I always imagine his voice when I reread the book, which is one of my favorites. I always picture Fat Charlie as looking like Lenny.

  11. I read this one for the first time this year and was left with lots of mixed feelings. I didn’t hate it but I sure didn’t love it either. And the characters were very frustrating for me. I do plan to reread this book at some point just to see how I feel after reading it for a 2nd time. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts 🙂

  12. I find it really difficult to read the classics, and I tend to dislike 90% of the ones I do read, but I remember that I did enjoy Wuthering Heights when I read it (YEARS ago). Although I honestly can’t remember what I liked about it, so LOL to that. Maybe I would hate it if I read it now.

    • Did you read Jane Eyre? And hate Jane Eyre? Because Wuthering Heights is very hateable (in my opinion), but Jane Eyre is brilliant genius AND contains loveable characters. So.

  13. I loved Wuthering Heights when I read it but will give you that it can be, and is in many parts, annoying. Two people hate each other and why should I care? I still don’t know why I care but I do. You’re making me think about re-reading it to see if I still have the same love for it.

    • It’s funny — people seem to have a hard time articulating what’s good about it, even when they love it. I think it may be one of those things you have instinctive reactions to.

  14. Someone once described Wuthering Heights to me as a “great love story.” Somehow, I’ve never been able to see it that way myself. Your description seems more apt.

    You do realize, though, that this is a by different Bronte? Of course you do…

  15. You know, I had a very strange reaction to this book. I read every page hating it and it’s codependent and abusive characters, but I couldn’t stop reading it! It was like not being able to stop picking a scab ( I know, gross analogy, but it was). I just had to see what twisted thing the characters were going to do next! It was awful and gave me a stomachache, but still, I kept reading! Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with me!

    • Hahaha, what you’re describing was my best-case scenario — I was hoping it would suck me in, even if it were in a very unpleasant fashion. Whyyyy could I not even be sucked into the story?

  16. That idea about Isabella/Bella was brilliant. I will have to reread Wuthering Heights (something I’ve been avoiding) with this in mind. I like your Secret Garden connection too, because The Secret Garden is another of those books that divides into two halves, and I like the first half much better than the second half, mostly because the second half is all about Colin.

    I keep going to the library and looking for The Secret History, and it’s never there.

    • Both will help. Except, of course, that the Colin character (don’t tell, spoilers) dies, which puts a stop to my Colin/Linton pretending game. :p

      I love the first half of The Secret Garden, even though it’s light on Colin. I like seeing Mary discovering how to be a less-unpleasant child.

      I am sorry for your Secret History difficulties! If you’re in the US, send me your address (you can use my Contact Me form) and I’ll have PaperbackSwap send you a copy. 🙂 If you are in the UK…mm, interlibrary loan?

  17. While travelling, my friend read this book, and she was so angry at it the whole time that I have been totally turned off from it. I swear, every fifteen pages or so she’d mumbled something angrily and then slam down the book asking why in God’s name she was reading it.

    I just don’t know if I can do it!

    • Hahahaha, if I’d been anywhere near anyone else when I was reading it (not counting my fellow subway riders, obvs I didn’t want them to think I was a crazy person), I’d have done the same. It was very bash-down-able. :p

  18. Pingback: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë « What I have been reading…

  19. You know I love the Brontes but Wuthering Heights is the biggest load of dross ever and I have read it about ten times over, trying to find something brilliant or enjoyable in it, and each time come up with absolutely nothing. It’s a book full of hatred and I don’t understand why it’s supposed to be romantic.

    Give me The Secret Garden any day. Now that’s gothic loveliness.

    • Yay! I’m pleased you hate it too. But I can’t blame Emily Bronte, because didn’t Charlotte sneakily steal the manuscript and publish it on the sly? Maybe left to her own devices, Emily would have sorted it out and published a non-hateful version of it.

      I mean, The Secret Garden would still have been better. Of course.

  20. It took me exactly FOUR TRIES to get through Wuthering Heights and then it sucked. That’s what I get for persisting. However, I will say that I’m proud of Bronte for exploring the ugly, dark side of love. Sweet, chipper love is for suckers.

    • I like sweet chipper love! As long as it doesn’t feel fakey — but I mean, I like it when the people in question are best mates. Like Jane and Mr. Rochester. If they weren’t in love with each other they’d still want to hang out together, which is a pretty good criterion for me deciding whether I support any given couple. Peter and Harriet Vane! Same thing!

  21. I felt the same way about Wuthering Heights. I just couldn’t stand the characters or the story. I keep thinking I’ll like it more if I re-read it again, but I’m doubtful. I wanted it to be like Jane Eyre, I wanted something to happen to redeem the characters, but it never did.

  22. My uncle read Wuthering Heights in high school and taunted my younger, more impressionable mother with descriptions of up-digging of certain persons. Which descriptions my mother, without reading the book, passed on censoriously to me. “Oh, Wuthering Heights, I’ve never read it. *shudder* It’s that book where…” So I went into it as a teenager gritting my teeth, expecting an actual right-there-with-him description of the grody escapade. All the time I was reading I was thinking, “This is very strange. When do we get to the part with the corpse?, and anyway, this doesn’t seem like the sort of novel with graphic descriptions of perverted acts. It seems like a 19th century novel, only everyone is horrible and a bit boring, like in a much more recent book.”

    The whole thing was like that girl in the window for me! Promise undelivered, dead ends. And believe it or not, I was considering doing a sort of “give it a second chance” reading project. Wuthering Heights was going to top the list. I would say you have spared me the pain, but I may still bite the bullet.

  23. You’re too funny! But I love WH with a passion. And I don’t know if it was because I read it first at about 11 or 12 or 13, or if it has to do with my inner disposition. I just love it SO much. Though I understand it’s the most loathed Brontë novel. I just read a book on Branwell, btw, and it was a little convincing in its suggestion that Branwell might’ve written or co-written it. I saw Heathcliff in Branwell, which is probably why I felt sympathetic despite his wild and “evil” nature.

  24. Pingback: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, or: Surviving “A Perfect Misanthropist’s Heaven” | Iris on Books

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