I finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this past weekend. I originally selected the book because it's a classic that I feel everyone else but me had read. I had also never read any Victorian literature, or anything by the Bronte sisters.
In case you didn't know, Wuthering Heights is a multi-generational tale of a love-square involving Cathy, Heathcliffe, Edgar and Isabella who do not get what they want while they are alive. They pass this terrible lifestyle on to their children who are also miserable for 95% of the book. It is not until the final chapter that we see a couple genuinely happy together without extenuating circumstances that pull them apart.
The story is told partially through the perspective of Mr. Lockwood, who is renting Thrushcross Grange a few miles from Wuthering Heights. The first few chapters of this book are the hilarious encounters of mis-manners between Mr. Lockwood and Heathcliffe, his landlord. The rest of the story is told through stories that Nelly, Thrushcross Grange's caretaker, relates to Mr. Lockwood. She grew up at Wuthering Heights with Cathy and Heathcliffe and had first hand experience at all of the horrible events that took place over their lifetimes.
The characters in this book are terrible for the most part. It's not really their fault - they have a lot circumstances they are unable to overcome in the very beginning of their lives - but I think that's what makes the book work so well. You feel terrible for the characters because they were molded into unpleasant people but at the same time they are so unpleasant you love to hate them. The writing was difficult to read because I was not acclimated to the Victorian writing style, but once I was able to focus and sink into the rhythm of the words it made much more sense. However, I think this is a book that needs to be read more than once to be fully understood. I struggled through the book for a while so I don't think I will be reading it again any time soon, but I am willing to look into other people's reviews and discussions to learn more about it.
While reading I highlighted two passages from the book:
Cathy to Nelly regarding Heathcliffe - "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliffe now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same;" (Chapter 9)
Heathcliffe to Nelly regarding Cathy - "If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse-trough as her whole affection be monopolised by him!" (Chatper 14)
Have you read Wuthering Heights? I've heard from some people that absolutely love it and others that hate it. I would love to know what you think!