Thursday, June 14, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The category Reread a Favorite Classic from the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate was definitely the hardest choice!  I rarely re-read, but if I "have" to, what book to choose from so many favorites? 

I ultimately decided to re-discover Wuthering Heights.  The first time I read this book I was 21 years old and my real inspiration to read it was the Kate Bush song (♫♯"Heathcliff, its me Cathy, I've come home, I'm so cold, let me in at your window...").  I am glad to have read the book so young and to have the opportunity to re-read it now 30 years later. The book portrays destructive and all consuming passion which I think as a young adult I could inhabit and even admire. Now in middle age, I see the tragedy and senselessness of it. I don't think that either interpretation is right or wrong; it is more a matter of age and experience playing into the reader's perception. And in my mind, that is what makes a classic "classic" in part: the ability of the work to engender different impressions or interpretations upon multiple readings. 

It is also so interesting to read this on the heels of Bel Ami since there isn't any likable character in Wuthering Heights either.  Even Nelly Dean, the servant telling the tale to Mr. Lockwood, is suspect in my mind.  First of all, we only have her word that what she is relating is how it happened and secondly, she does cause small amounts of harm when she withholds information from the other principals in parts of the story.  

I think that most people are familiar with the story of Heathcliff and Cathy who due to their upbringing and personalities can't live without each other but also can't, in the society and world they inhabit, live with each other.  The  result of their inability to be together as they wish leads to tragic misunderstandings, long memories and cold-blooded (or maybe fiery-hearted?) revenge. 

Upon re-reading I did not remember ANY of the second volume! Which makes me wonder if I did read it 30 years ago...I think I did but with little thought to what I was reading if that makes sense!

What I really enjoyed most upon re-reading (Note: I actually listened to most of this on audio, narrated by Carolyn Seymour) was the structure of the book and the way the narrative is framed.  Mr. Lockwood is renting Thrushwood Grange 20 years or so after the events of the book take place and the story is then related to him by Nelly over the course of a few nights. I just love the way the story is wrapped in a story which is wrapped in a story. 

Friday, June 1, 2018


UPDATE: Les Misérables One-Chapter-a-Day Read-along hosted by Nick over at One Catholic Life continues a pace! 

I have the second book “Cosette” of Les Misérables behind me which had TWO enormous hurdles: The first roadblock was the 19 chapters about the battle of Waterloo.  Normally I dislike abridged novels but honestly this section could have been cut without any sacrifice to the story at hand.  Although I am told it is an excellent depiction of the battle and the strategy therein, I am afraid its brilliance was lost on me. I have trouble reading action in books anyway. My ability to imagine spatial relationships is terrible. My biggest take away is that if it hadn’t rained when it did, it is possible that Napoleon would have been successful and European history might look a little different as a result.   

The second roadblock titled “Parenthesis“ was a screed on monastiscm and its applicability in (then) modern life.  Again, this could have been cut. It is very clearly a subject dear to Hugo’s heart but it is more of a newspaper editorial than a part of a novel.  It was more interesting to me than the battle of Waterloo, but Hugo also name checked quite a few philosophers and their ideas in this section which all went pretty much right over my head!

We still haven’t got to the digressions on the Paris sewer system which for some reason I think I am going to like. :)

Otherwise I am still enjoying the book when we are keeping to the actual story line. The action has finally moved to Paris and there have been two rather daring escapes which had me biting my nails! Next check in will presumably be mid-August.  A  bientôt mes amies!