This book was my White Whale.
I tried three times to read it. It bugged me that I just couldn’t seem to get even a quarter of the way through. It was on the third time that I succeeded, and I’m thrilled to have done so! Not just for the challenge, though that was definitely part of it in the beginning, but I ended up really, really enjoying this book. It took me a while, but that was because I was only listening in my car on journeys that made starting up again worth it- no long drive, no book.
I ended up reading this as an audiobook from Audible, read by B.J Harrison, whom I have come to absolutely love. What I was stumbling over the first times I read this was the Yorkish- so basically whenever Joseph opened his mouth, which was unfortunately quite frequently. Listening to this as an audiobook helped me to overcome that issue, plus make my driving time more productive, since I could read!
I won’t summarise, as I’m pretty sure everyone knows something of this novel.
I struggle to comprehend why this is seen as a romance. It isn’t a romance. Oh yes, there’s “romance” in there, but it (to me) is first and foremost a tragedy. It is horrific and brutal and most people are absolutely horrible excuses for human beings. If you want Heathcliff as your lover, especially after his treatment or Isabel, you need to stop and seriously reevaluate your life choices (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) I mean, seriously, if you think your partner digging up your corpse is romantic, then be my guest… just don’t come near me.
That isn’t to say that I don’t like Heathcliff. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that at all. I find him fascinating and terrible. He exudes a power and personality that isn’t common. I’d love to know where came from and he disappeared to that fateful night. I think I pity him- I see him as a creature made horrible by circumstance, rather than by nature. I think Bronte might disagree with that opinion completely, but I have to wonder that if his childhood had been ideal, would be have come out as monstrous as he did? But he is certainly monstrous, I don’t think there can be any denying that.
Cathy… I did not like Cathy. Not one bit did I like Cathy. What a selfish creature. I can make no excuses for her behaviour. I did like that she knew Heathcliff and accepted him for exactly what he was and wasn’t afraid to make that known… but it wasn’t enough.
Their romance was dark and hostile, but more believable than many I’ve read recently. It is utter passion put on paper. It is tragedy and it is utterly repellant. I don’t think we’re supposed to like them, but I think we’re supposed to understand that if there were two people that truly deserved and belonged to each other, it was Heathcliff and Cathy. I got very teary eyed when Cathy died and Heathcliff was suffering, even though they were both abominable… it was just so brutally human.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”
Oh come on, you can’t tell me that doesn’t move you!
The rest of the cast of characters are as interesting and revolting as the main two. Lockwood (the useless one), Linton (the wet fish), Nelly (the poor sod), Young Cathy (poor thing, spoilt thing), Young Heathcliff (Oh, how I loathe thee) and Hareton (sweet, sad boy). And Joseph, who I hated with a passion. Ohhhh, I hated him. Joseph and Young Heathcliff, I hated more than Heathcliff himself, who is basically the Devil incarnate.
I went into it this time knowing that I should hate everyone and that it isn’t the great romance that people make it out to be. I think that is why I didn’t hate it or give up again. I’m also far more used to this style now than I was last time. Plus, the audio book was amazingly well read, even though Harrison is American- he did a great job at the dialects and accents.
The structure is unorthodox and probably not the best, but it worked the way it was. It’s also what I was stumbling over the first times I tried to read it, as it takes quite a while to kick off.
I can’t believe a clergyman’s daughter wrote this… makes one wonder what on earth was going on in the Bronte household. There is forced marriage, domestic violence, animal cruelty, gambling, alcoholism and more… but it works. It works very well.
I never thought I would rate this book at 5/5 stars, but here I am. This book was fantastic. Horrible. Morbid. Passionate. Brutal. But absolutely fantastic.