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Black Spring Paperback – 3 Jan 2013
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Black Spring is a powerful Gothic fantasy which can be enjoyed whether you have or haven't read Wuthering Heights...The characters are its crowning glory. * Book Angel Booktopia * Anyone who can turn my most hated read into an excellent enjoyable book is definitely an author to be explored further * Serendipity Reviews * An impressive modern retelling which captures something of the language, drama, madness, tortured love and agony of the original. Well worth reading * My Favourite Books * I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of a passionate gothic fantasy * Big Book Little Book * It is a re-imagining and, for me, a very successful one that is not only likely to encourage teen readers to investigate Wuthering Heights for themselves, but also prepares them for some of the difficulties they may face in doing so * Thoughts from the Hearthfire * A stylish, elegantly written story -- Julia Eccleshare * Lovereading4kids.co.uk * Atmospheric throughout, and gripping til the end, with a tension that never abates, Black Spring is a lyrical masterpiece; a beautiful piece of literature that evokes as many emotions as the flawed, incredibly human characters it pays homage to throughout. * ArtsHub UK * The book is a brilliant gothic fantasy all on its own but it gains in complexity and depth through its relationship to its source text * Oxford Erin * Like the story that inspired it, this is a story of passion, violence and love that destroys, not heals, but with a fantasy twist * Victoria Writes * If you enjoyed the original and like fantasy, or if you want to read a dark tale of despair, then Black Spring will be perfect * My Book Journey * It's a such a clever retelling - all the crucial basic plot elements of Wuthering Heights are here, with characters appearing in similar guises, but what I think is really amazing is the way Alison Croggon captures the atmosphere of the original book, including all the savagery and violence, and its dissection of the concept of revenge * Katy Moran * I would recommend it to all my friends, as it is flawless in style, character and plot. -- Alisa Matyunina * Teen Titles *
About the Author
Alison Croggon is the acclaimed author of the Books of Pellinor, a high fantasy quartet which consists of The Gift (9781406338768), The Riddle (9781406338751), The Crow (9781406338744) and The Singing (9781406338775). Alison is also an award-winning poet whose work has been published extensively in anthologies and magazines internationally. She has written widely for theatre, and her plays and opera libretti have been produced all around Australia. Alison is also an editor and critic. She lives in Melbourne with her husband Daniel Keene, the playwright, and their three children. www.alisoncroggon.com
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I was pleasantly surprised. On both counts. While I could recognise aspects of ‘Wuthering Heights’ in the structure of the story, and in similarity of characters and in echoes of language throughout the novel, ‘Black Spring’ has its own tale of betrayal and vengeance. Magic, rather than family, defines the world. The land that Lina and Damek inhabit is a bleak land, full of superstition, suspicion and watchfulness, ruled by wizards and the harsh, strict rules of vendetta. The narrators are Anna (Lina’s maid) and Hammel (a traveller to the magical north).
‘Vendetta is a black vine, a parasite that fruits only graves.’
Lina has the violet eyes that mark her as a witch, she is only protected from persecution by her rank. But her position is no defence against tragedy, can provide her no security against heartbreak. A tragic heroine, with some similarities to Cathy Earnshaw. And Damek? He is no Heathcliff. And yet, he is like Heathcliff in some ways.
I found that I enjoyed reading this novel better if I didn’t compare it to ‘Wuthering Heights’. The story has its own gothic, romantic, tragic trajectory.
‘I shall never complain of the tedium of the city again.’
Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When I heard that someone had decided to write a re-imaging of Wuthering Heights I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or horrified! Bronte's classic is such an iconic book it is a huge step to undertake to look at it in a fresh light. Cathy and Heathcliff have such strength of personality you wonder if anything could expand on that and their tragic, obsessive love is unique in literature. Having said all that, although I can appreciate Wuthering Heights, it is not one of my favourites so I was ready to see what someone else could do with it.
The story in Black Spring sticks pretty closely to the original, particularly in the beginning when Hammel visits the north to escape illness and a broken love affair (just as Lockwood does). He meets Damek (Heathcliff) an embittered and angry man living in an awful household and treating his young wife abominably. When Hammel returns to his rented house Anna (the maid, aka Nelly) tells him the story of Damek and his lost love Lina (Cathy).
Damek comes to live with Lina when they are both children. Until this point Anna has been Lina's closest friend despite the barrier caused by Anna being the daughter of a servant and Lina having come from the royal line. Damek and Lina spend as much time as they can together, both have a restless and wild nature and they literally run off and leave everyone else behind whenever they can. As they grow up Lina's father dies and due to the disfavour with the king his house and land is given to Maseko, an awful man who forces Damek to live as a servant and eventually causes Lina to leave when he assaults her. Damek too leaves and Lina then marries and has a daughter. Then Damek returns and the consequences for everyone are devastating.
The biggest departure from the original is the addition of the fantasy element. Lina is a witch and there are wizards who have a lot of control over the villages and land they live in. Wizards have control, witches are often executed. Then there is Vendetta. This was a really fascinating part of the story, Vendetta is mentioned a few times before it is fully explained. When it is explained you get an idea of the full horror of it and of the power of the wizards who declare it or finish it. Simply put if someone is killed in the village their honour must be avenged. This happens through the eldest male in their family killing the perpetrator of the crime. However this means that the death of the next murdered man must also be avenged and so it goes on, effectively killing off the entire male population of villages as they take vengeance on each other through the family line, cousins and so on are all included. It may sound gruesome, and in many ways it is, but there was a whole ritual behind it of doing things in a precise way at certain times. I would really have liked Alison to spend more time on this idea and in developing it, along with the whole witch and wizard scenario. Anna is affected by this as her father has to become a part of it and she subsequently loses him. Her feelings about the matter and its impact on the family are obviously enormous and yet a lot of it remained unexplored. In the end I was more interested in this than in Damek and Lina's story (possibly because I roughly knew what would happen to them!) I hope Alison will write another novel and focus more on this idea.
The novel is beautifully written. The prose is easy to read but not at all simplistic. Although much more contemporary it had a flavour of a book written longer ago with some of the language that the characters use. As the book is set in a historical time this adds to the gothic darkness that pervades it. In addition Alison captured the brutal quality of Wuthering Heights really well in this tale. The families and some of the additional characters are really barbaric at times. I felt that in this story more of the brutality came from external influences whereas Cathy and Heathcliff's obsessive love brings about much of the brutality in the original. In fact I think that this, for me, is where this story was lacking. The relationship between Damek and Lina just didn't have the impact that the original protagonists had. That is not to say that they don't have a fiery and strong bond, but the punch seemed to be missing.
Verdict: So, after all that (!), I did enjoy this book and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of a passionate gothic fantasy. However I think it is better not to think about the connection to Wuthering Heights and just read it as a novel in its own right. I think I would have enjoyed it more reading it that way, and if you want to know about Wuthering Heights just read that!
Following a supernatural experience at the house of his landlord, Oskar's housekeeper, Anna, tells him the story of the romance between Lina (the wilful daughter of the local lord who was born a witch) and Damek (a boy adopted by Lina's father). Passionate, wild and impossible their love will destroy each other and all who come near them ...
Alison Croggon's YA fantasy is a reimagining of WUTHERING HEIGHTS that takes the main elements of the original novel and reworks them to entertaining effect while staying true to the core themes.
I was apprehensive about reading this as I loathe WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but the deviations from the original kept me turning the pages. I particularly enjoyed the wizards, personified by the cruel and arrogant Ezra who wanders the countryside with a ragged mute boy, enforcing the Blood Laws against the terrified villagers. The way the vendetta destroys the affected villages, whittling away the men and forcing the payment of taxes to the king is chillingly depicted and comes with a final twist that's brilliantly revealed.
Brilliant, beautiful, wilful, selfish, arrogant and considered by all to be a witch owing to her stunning violet eyes, I liked Lina's determination not to be owned by anyone, even as I was irritated by her selfishness. By contrast, Damek is more thinly characterised with his motivations and origins unexplored and I felt that Croggon made a mistake in missing out the effect of his revenge on the next generation (not least because it robs the story of a sense of final hope) because it meant he had nowhere to go.
I enjoyed Oskar's narration and his characterisation as a self-involved fop. I also liked Anna, who develops fully as a character with her own story and whose voice of reason and propriety I enjoyed. A section that recounts Lina's diary worked less well for me, mainly because it felt too contrived.
All in all, this was a vivid, well-told book that takes elements from WUTHERING HEIGHTS but (for me) riffed on them to more entertaining effect. I look forward to reading Croggon's other books.
Review copy from publisher.