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Not my cup of tea.
on 11 October 2009
Before I proceed to the actual review, I have to underline three significant parameters that have influenced it: one, I am a great fan of realism; two, I am not such a great fan of old English literature, perhaps as a consequence to fact number one; and three, I pay more attention to technique than to language. So, if you disagree with any of the above, this may not be the review for you.
Now, to the point. I could not give the book anything less than three stars, because a) I have read far worse novels and b)I do have a certain respect for anything that is being considered 'a classic' (and classic does not necessarily mean earth-shaking).
As many people have mentioned, Emily Bronte is good with language. If for anything else, you will enjoy her descriptions; they are so vivid, I could actually walk through the moors, in and out the rooms I could go.
But this is as fas as it went for me. I truly felt some of the time dedicated to landscapes should have been instead given to characterisation, especially since this is clearly a character-driven narrative. We know that the story is about Catherine and Heathcliff's tumultuous relationship, yet I never saw the reasons for why it was so. I would have truly appreciated a few scenes of character exposition, long before Catherine ends up wounded in the Linton house. It felt as if the sentiments were there because the author said so, than as a natural development of plot and character interrelations. There are scenes of immense emotional explosions between them two, yet I just can't see the tension being built up, merely indicated. None of my emotions went underneath the surface, I'm afraid.
I also found it very difficult to identify with either of them. It was difficult for me to understand Catherine's exasperation against Heathcliff, since her passion for him is not visible until his return- she does choose to marry someone closer to her social circumstances, without any inner struggles (her confession to Nelly seems more as if she is looking for reassurance in order to overcome her guilt). Heathcliff, on the other hand, initially the wronged hero, is developed to become the dark antagonist seeking his own catharsis, yet he is so persistently inhuman and evil, that not only you can't understand him, but you can't understand Catherine's passion for him either. There was an incident, a word, a gesture missing from the picture; something that have bonded untamed (and selfish) Catherine to dark Heathcliff.
I understand, and frankly appreciate Bronte for her intention to commend on the ethos of the time; however, her characters remained mere strangers to me until the end of the book. I failed to accept their thoughts or experience their feelings, and so the story became something I witnessed from a distance.
I can't say read it or not. It is not the ultimate torture (although this also depends on age, tastes and gender), but it's not the sort of 'Les Miserables' classic either.
I'm glad Bronte wrote it though. After all, it did inspire Kate Bush to offer us a fantastic ballad.