Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Oldie maybe now a Goodie

In high school, I had to read Wuthering Heights. I hated it! I can't remember now the exact reasons for my hatred. If someone mentioned moors to me, I rolled my eyes and huffed my disdain. I couldn't even watch one production of the book. I love Jane Eyre but Catherine and Heathcliff made me cringe. Though, I love his name--there's something about the way it falls from the lips--for me it was a waste of paper.

During my weekly trip to the bookstore, I spotted the Penguin Classics editions with the illustrated covers by the artist Ruben Toledo. (The other titles are Pride & Prejudice, The Scarlett Letter) I wanted to purchase the book just for the cover. My frugal mind told me it was a waste of money since the book had me crinkling my nose in disgust. So, I stood there, studying the cover and trying to remember why I hated it. Was it youth? Maybe it was my not fully understanding the customs of 19th century England. Maybe age and understanding might change my mind. I duly purchased my copy.

As I read the beginning I felt nothing had changed.
Then as Mrs. Dean began to tell Cathy and Heathcliff's story, much like Mr. Lockwood, I was sucked in by the passion and pain that comes with love denied. A universal theme that a romantic at heart doesn't enjoy. And though, Emily Bronte might not have given Cathy and Heathcliff a happy ending, she showed us readers another side of love. With all the emotional ups and lows. As I read Emily's words, I feel them alive in me. Isn't that what every writers wants? To have the reader lost in the tale, feeling what the characters are experiencing and enduring.

Wuthering Heights will be added to my fav list. Maybe Emily's tale will make me a better writer. Is there a novel that you might give a second chance or have you all ready? Do you think your opinion will change or remain the same?


  1. i felt the exact way about wuthering heights, i was given a copy and it just did not do a thing for me. but i keep being told that it is so worth reading and i think you have inspired me...let me know what you think at the finish line!

  2. I think that WH is definitely worth another look, and I am sure my immature view of it will have changed. It has to - I've spent nearly 20 years growing up and while I shudder at the memory of my own lily-livered Lintons, life has also hurled the odd Heathcliff my way too. He and Catherine really were two tortured souls, weren't they? Incredible stuff, especially from a woman of Emily Bronte's time and circumstance.

    I had to read it in school too, not just once but twice.
    For myself at least, I had zero appreciation of this piece of literature on first reading, and even less understanding of what Emily Bronte had achieved for all women writers with the publication of Wuthering Heights. I reckon that because I was forced to read it, I didn't enjoy it half as much as I might now. And yes, I still have a battered 20 year old copy in the spare room. Time to haul WH out for a third read perhaps?

    As for other unappreciated lit - Romeo and Juliet was lost on me as a fourteen year old. Sure, we read it, we saw the play, but it was just a day off school for us. But watching it last year in Dublin's Abbey Theatre, I finally got what ole Will was on about. The waves of love and tragedy (and lets face it, some chronically bad timing!) are clearly too much for a teenager to bear (look at Juliet), so maybe it is better that we
    wait til we're older to witness life's highs and lows.

  3. Nicola, I think age and living life helps us appreciate literature that was missing as teenagers. I felt the same way about Romeo and Juliet. Will was something forced upon me but I've come to see the beauty of his words.

  4. That cool Ruben Toledo artwork definitely helps too.

    Hope the writing's going well Mageela.